My salvation and my honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.
— Psalms 62:7 (NLT)
I got sober in the summer of 1983, in Anchorage. I was playing six nights a week with a rock and roll band in the lounge of one of the town’s flossiest hotels, so when I walked into my first AA meeting, everybody knew who I was. And when I stopped boozing and drugging, because I was living with the band, everybody at work knew what I had done. I was not anonymous at all.
In a way, I had hit bottom twice, separated by eight years. In 1975, my kidneys failed, probably because of drug abuse. In 1983, with a new two-year-old kidney transplant, I was getting bombed onstage every night (on beer; I had taken everything over the years but it was beer that eventually kicked my butt), so bombed that I started thinking about maybe taking a little speed to keep myself upright.
At that point, some clarity managed to poke through the dark cloud around me. “Wait a minute,” I thought. “I’ve done this before.”
So I walked into that noon meeting full of oil field roustabouts, Eskimos, barkeepers, waitresses, fisherman, and refugees from ruin in the Lower 48, and I said, “I’m Larry, and I’m an alcoholic.” And it was a tremendous relief. The jig was up. I could give up. I could start over. I began to find real friends. And I started on a rocketship trajectory of life. The acceleration built slowly at first, but then increased to the point that it would take my breath away, and I would fall to my knees and thank God that I had found the program, and found friends, and left a life of sorrow and regret and lies and hurt behind.
If I understand Rush Limbaugh’s story right, he has fallen twice, too. He got hooked on painkillers in the mid-nineties after a back operation. His increasing use of painkillers made him deaf, which should have been enough to make anybody hit bottom. But we addicts and drunks are strong folks. Stuff that would kill other people just challenges us to new heights (or depths) of self-will. Then came the National Enquirer exposé, and Rush’s public admission that he was an addict. He has just taken the first step.
The lefties may be crowing now over Rush’s “downfall,” but they don’t know that his story is the most valuable thing he owns. I have heard some of the best speakers ever in AA and NA meetings. Some were humble people you would never have known. Some were movie stars, federal judges, rock and rollers, and politicians.
Rush will find himself perfectly at home in twelve-step programs, especially in a celebrity-filled locale like Palm Beach. I myself came home from Anchorage and spent the major portion of my sobriety in West Los Angeles meetings — Pacific Palisades, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, and Bel Air. One of my best pals was an aging musical comedy ingenue with a household name. I knew the 1980s movie industry couple of the year, and joked with them that I could follow the course of their recovery on the front pages of the tabloids. I interviewed a rock star who told me, “The hell with anonymity. When I got sober, I wanted to take out a billboard on the Sunset Strip.” I met a man who would become Governor. I talked tennis with a movie star famous for his rants against Republicans. I won my second wife from a member of the cast of one of the 1980s’ best-known serial TV dramas. I worked for a movie producer who won two Grammies. I helped another producer revise a screenplay, a producer with a dark burnished brown-gold 30-year-old Oscar on his shelf.
All these people had something in common. Their lives were getting better all the time. They were achieving more in their professions, they got better at what they did, they were happier, they connected better with people. And they were sober, and they knew that counted. With few exceptions, they spoke movingly of their relationships with God. They prayed. They told frank and often hilarious stories of their falls from glory.
Many of those who gloat today over Rush’s crash have had crashes of their own, I assure you. Some have even suggested that Rush will have to “apologize” for his offenses against liberalism. It’s not my business to take anybody’s inventory (I would remind Rush’s critics). But I suggest that Rush may find other things to apologize for than the excellence of the job he has done over the years.
Because, you see, Rush will come back and do an even better job when he’s clean. Better hold your tongues, folks. One of the greatest talkers of our age is getting sober. And you ain’t heard nothing yet.
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