Our Stories Are All Connected
By Franklin Cook, SADOD Director
My story is an old one. I have been in recovery for more than 30 years. The challenges I face because of family members’ use of alcohol and other drugs cross several generations. My father died more than 40 years ago after a lifelong struggle with alcohol. It can be difficult for me to say much in particular about any of that because ... well … because it’s an old story.
Perhaps I can make my point by telling my story without too many of the details.
The very first time I used alcohol, I would have been able to see all of the signs of being a “problem drinker” if I had any clue at all what those signs looked like. I didn’t have a clue then, and it took me almost 15 years to get a clue -- and it took me another decade to get into recovery. The most remarkable feature of intoxication to the 13-year-old boy I was at the time of my first experience still stands out in the mind of the 66-year-old man I am today: being intoxicated made me feel like everything was OK. On the surface, I suppose, that doesn’t seem at all like it should be a problem. The problem is, however, that this is what lies at the heart of addiction: being intoxicated made me feel OK in a way that I needed to feel OK worse than I needed anything else in the world.
The cross-generational part of the story goes like this: My father suffered from what my people call the disease of addiction, as did his father — as do two of my brothers and my youngest child. To that list of first-degree relatives, I can add a dozen people with whom I have had sustained familial relationships who have lived with or died from the disease. All of the brokenness in these relationships is entangled with everything else that happened in my life. Experiencing intoxication as a driving force in relationships is integral to my experience of how families function, and unfortunately, that is no way to learn how families function healthily.
Finally, the story of my father’s death. He died of suicide in 1978, and alcohol killed him just as surely as did the means he used to end his own life. There is more to say about this than I could possibly say, but the outcome of the story is that his death resulted in me making my living doing what it is I do. What I do is work through SADOD to advance the cause of peer support for people left behind when someone dies from substance use. That cause helps me to connect all of my stories together at the same time it connects the story of my father’s death to SADOD.
The stories of thousands and thousands of people who have died due to substance use are connected to SADOD. That is the point of me telling my story. SADOD’s focus on peer support is the whole point. My story and the stories of everyone who has or will walk this path created SADOD.
Peer support helped me work on healing all of the issues I allude to above, and I’ve seen it work for innumerable people since I walked into my first support group meeting in 1981. That’s 40 years ago this summer. I look back across that span of time at so much pain and suffering that it seems as if it would be beyond my capacity to bear it. But I also see the immense healing power that keeps coming out of all of that darkness, as one person after another steps into the light and turns to offer the hand of a peer helper to the next person headed this way.