Five years ago, I couldn’t have ever conceived that I’d be in the place where I am today. I was deep in my addiction and my depression was deep into me. I had been through two inpatient treatments and both times were unsuccessful, mostly because I didn’t want them to work. I was living in western North Dakota, which although when I first moved there was an adventure, had become a drag. The place was not healthy for me, because I was not healthy. What made it all the worse was I didn’t want to be doing what I was doing anymore, both with my addiction and also with my career. But here was the thing — I didn’t think I could stop either.
My addiction decided for me. I hit my bottom.
One day, after I had already been arrested for a DUI only a month earlier, I drank a bunch and also dropped a load of benzos. It was instant blackout, as anyone who knows what this mix can do. Along with the blackout came the brilliant ideas. I decided that it would be a good idea to go walk into other people’s homes and look for more pills. Eventually, I was arrested for trespassing. I thought my life was over. I thought that my story was finished. What made it worse was what I was pretending to be in my everyday role. I was an ordained Lutheran pastor.
It was incredibly embarrassing and astonishingly exactly what I needed to fail miserably and go down in flames. I needed to get to that level to recognize where I needed to be. I needed my bottom to show me what Step One was all about. And I needed that gift of desperation to allow the rest of the Steps to work in my life, as I worked them. I went to Hazelden in Center City, Minnesota and stayed for three full months, a rarity nowadays … at least with full medical insurance coverage. After that, I took all the advice I could find. I stayed for an additional nine months in a sober living environment. I finally got it, because I wanted it and recovery wanted me.
When I was still in treatment, my father gave me a book. It was a graphic novel, which is a big, fat comic book. After I read it, I thought to myself what it would be like to have a resource that could teach recovery in an entertaining, but with the informative and simple format of comics. The seed of an idea was born.
After a year of working jobs to build my humility, I pitched the idea to Hazelden Publishing. It took a while for the potential to be fully realized, but eventually the publisher agreed that the format would be one-of-a-kind and the first of its kind.
Sobriety: A Graphic Novel is at its roots a story. It’s the story of five different people with different backgrounds and different narratives sharing and learning what the Twelve Steps are all about. Larry is the “old-timer.” I thought it was especially important to include his story since so many entering recovery, and eventually going into “the rooms” will meet people like him. His story might be generations away from those younger members entering recovery today, but one fact is clear: the human condition is the same, no matter what generation people come from.
Alex, Matt, Hannah, and Debby are all in their late teens or early twenties. Their stories also couldn’t be more different from each other’s! Still, they search and share, and eventually find that they are more the same than they are different — much like many addicts or alcoholics do.
The response to this book has been overwhelming, not only from the standpoint that people have really responded positively to the exciting format, but also from my identity as a person of long-term recovery living an alcohol- and drug-free life. I have found a new purpose and meaning to my life: to share the story and pass it on. And I’m very grateful for that.
Daniel D. Maurer is a freelance writer. He makes a mean latté and can play the bagpipes. (But not at the same time.) He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota with his family. He keeps a blog of stories of transformational power at: Transformation-is-Real.com. He’s also on Twitter as @danthestoryman.