When Texas State Rep. Dan Huberty appeared on the House floor to apologize to everyone for driving drunk, he began with what are perhaps the most powerful words in recovery: “My name is Dan and I’m an alcoholic.”
Yes, as each recovering addict knows, those are the words that kickstart every Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. They're also the words that kickoff every speaker appearance and in-meeting share. Now we don't know if anyone knows whether those words were used when Bill W. got with Bob Smith back in Akron when AA was founded. But we're pretty sure that if the two didn't use the words in 1935, they most certainly came up sometime soon after. Because they've been veritably embedded in each and every AA meeting ever since.
Do you have any idea how many times that adds up to? Neither do we. But we're betting it's over a million a year. Way, way over a million a year.
That incredible longevity is undoubtedly why Representative Huberty used those words on the House floor. It's also undoubtedly why they produced such a supportive reaction. Those words pack some real power. Furthermore, they almost always preface the most brutal bout of honesty a person can muster.
That's how it was with Representative Huberty anyway. And if the ace reporting of Shawn Mulcahy at the excellent Texas Tribune is any indication, the subsequent standing ovation means the honesty was given more than its due. The same is being said by the ever revered Dallas Morning News, whose Editorial Board rightfully applauded the lawmaker's candor.
And well they both should too. Standing up before the world and uttering those words takes no small amount of courage. Then again, not uttering them is pretty much tantamount to cowardice. It can also prove fatal.
Huberty knows that. He must. After all, Houston's representative says he's "been sober for 23 of the last 30 years." He also knows what the alternative might provoke. What's odd is just how closely he's been allied against that alternative. See, Huberty's spent much of the last two decades working closely with both Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Students Against Drunk Driving (now Students Against Destructive Decisions). And if anybody traffics in fatal facts, it's MADD and SADD.
In fact, The Morning News made a point of pointing out just that. "MADD estimates that more than 300,000 incidents of drinking and driving occur every day in the United States," went the editorial. "Some drivers escape a bad outcome, but many don’t. Experts estimate that between 25% and 50% of traffic fatalities involve alcohol use, resulting in billions of dollars in property damage, medical costs, lost income and legal expenses."
Yet despite knowing this -- and, one imagines, bandying about this knowledge -- Huberty still drove drunk. No, nobody was seriously injured. But that could very easily not have been the case. Especially considering when Montgomery County District 4 constables rolled up they found Huberty and his Corvette essentially "parked under a minivan."
An Opportunity for Redemption
The Morning News also said Huberty's very public apology gives him "an opportunity for redemption." That's true, of course, too. Just as it would be true for any alcoholic. The paper was also right to applaud the fact that Huberty stood up and took what was coming, rather than trying to mitigate his actions. Then again, taking responsibility happens to be one of the most basic tenets of AA.
In fact, Huberty had no choice but to be forthright. Not if he wanted to salvage his career anyway. And not if he wanted to save his life either. Neither redemption nor recovery can come about without full accountability. And full accountability only occurs when one stands up and faces the ol' que sera.
But that's another magical, mystical thing about AA. Its members are absolutely fine with whatever will be. Because no matter what happens as a result of being completely truthful, it will never be as bad as the inevitable garroting one gets from a knot of lies.
Nevertheless, Huberty's outright candor shouldn't be dismissed as mere damage control, let alone a simple AA fait accompli. Facing a field of combatants takes a bit of Rambo regardless of ulterior motive. So does facing one's own demons.
The saddest part of this story is that a man with decades of sobriety was too "embarrassed to ask" for help. In fact, Huberty said it had gotten so he didn't even "know how to get help.” [emphasis added] And it took being caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place before he was able to secure the help he so desperately needed.
Should Huberty have even been behind the wheel? Emphatically not. But that's another issue. And another story. This issue -- and this story -- is about why Huberty was behind the bottle not the wheel. Or, for that matter, why anyone ends up behind the blasted bottle. Shakespeare called it the fault in our stars. We simply say it's being human.
Heralding the Alcoholic
Recovery Boot Camp applauds The Dallas Morning News editorial board for heralding Representative Huberty's candor and courage, as well as for recognizing that he should be forgiven his flaws -- or at least given the chance to address them. We also applaud the fact that the editors didn't allow politics to enter into the picture. Granted, that's to be expected from fair-minded editors. But with fair-mindedness in such short supply these days, especially with regards to politics, any evidence of its continued existence should be applauded. Above all though, we herald Representative Huberty for so courageously stepping up, admitting his condition and seeking help. Such courage isn't easy for anyone; it's got to be a whole lot less easy for someone in the public eye.
How 'bout you? Have you admitted you're an addict or alcoholic? Have you sought help? Do you need some help? It's out there, you know. In many shapes and sizes. All you've got to do is call. So how 'bout it? Are you ready to save your own life?