O Captain, My Captain
You know those fun little hypothetical ‘what if’ questions? If you won the lottery…. If you could go anywhere…. If you only had one day to live…. Over the years, my answers to all of those questions has changed numerous times. All but one, that is. If you could have dinner with any one person, alive or dead, who would it be? And until today, I always held out hope that it might one day happen. I’d still be hungry by the end of the meal, though, because he would’ve had me laughing my head off the whole time.
I don’t know why his death affects me so much, but I don’t think I’ve ever cried as much over the death of someone I never even met. His career stretched the entirety of my life up ’til now. I watched him evolve as an actor. He made me laugh; he made me cry. He was everything I always wanted my father to be. I read articles about him and watched everything he came out in. I got all giddy when I found out his mother had my same name, and when I did my celebrity alcoholic searching in early sobriety, I smiled to find his name on the list. I promise I didn’t become an Episcopalian because of him, but afterwards I did laugh to find one more thing we had in common. I’ve never known a world without Robin Williams and I’ve never wanted to.
We talked about his death at the meeting tonight. I believe it’s heavy on the hearts of most Americans, but especially those of us in recovery. He was very outspoken about his addiction to alcohol and cocaine and publicly admitted to relapse after his long term sobriety. He admitted to struggling emotionally following the cancellation of his comeback TV program, “The Crazy Ones,” and stated that he planned to throw himself all the harder into his recovery program. And alcoholics and addicts everywhere said a little prayer for him because we know the pain and temptation that comes during trying times – especially those times when we put ourselves out there and fail. When we are rejected, we don’t know how to shrug it off. It feels like confirmation of what that little voice of the addict says constantly: “You’re worthless. No one really likes you. You are a fake and a loser.” But once our little prayer is said, we move on in full faith that “this, too, shall pass.”
Just like with so many things, we become complacent. We have had difficult experiences in sobriety, but we’ve always pulled through. We have full faith in our recovery… and that is not a bad thing at all, don’t get me wrong! But we don’t stay sober today on yesterday’s work. I don’t know any details whatsoever about Robin Williams’ program. He could’ve been working his ass off all this time for all I know, so don’t think I am trying to say he failed because he didn’t do what he needed to do. His death reminds me, though, of places where I am letting up a bit too much. Where am I trying to stay sober on yesterday’s work? or work from a week or a month ago? Am I still doing the things I did to get sober or do I think I’m “cured” now?
Unfortunately, people every day die from this dreadful disease. And often they are the most brilliant, amazing people who ever lived. Robin Williams was a comic genius and a phenomenal actor. The stage character and the tortured soul inside are apparent throughout his many roles. So often known for his comedy roles, I loved the darker, more poignant and touching roles like in The Fisher King and Jakob the Liar. He so well embodied the roles which portrayed the duality of torment and humor like in Good Morning, Vietnam or struggling to find the proper place in the world of grown-ups like in Hook. But, of course, my all time favorite is one that makes me cry every time… and even more so now:
And thank you, Mr. Keating, O Captain, my Captain. Thank you for all you’ve shared with us through your phenomenal life and your tragic death. Thank you for reminding me that this disease should never be taken lightly. It is oh, so much more than simply drinking too much or playing around with illegal substances. This disease is “The Nothing” from The Neverending Story. It is an ever-widening void inside me that will destroy me and everything I love. It is a cavern of emptiness and despair that I will attempt to fill with any sort of food, drink, pill, powder, person, or behavior I can get my hands on. I have to stay vigilant. I have to continue filling this void with the good things of life – with gratitude, love, fellowship and faith.