Alan Bishop, owner of Mr. Alan’s Shoes, has struggled with addiction throughout his life. Along the way, he met the love of his life, got married, had kids and built a business. During it all, he says, he felt “less-than” and used alcohol to make him feel more comfortable around others. With the help of his wife, he was able to stop. But after his eventual divorce, he started drinking again. “I enjoyed it for many years until I picked up a bad illness.”
About 12 years ago, Bishop learned he had tinnitus, and the pain drove him mad. His doctor prescribed Xanax. “I asked if I would get addicted. He said, ‘Absolutely, but don’t worry, I’ll supply you forever.’”
The Xanax helped, and Bishop’s life improved greatly for many years; all the while he also drank. “It got to the point where I always made sure I had enough Xanax; I would get the shakes if I didn’t have it. I had them in my coat, in my car, everywhere.”
About five years ago, the siren in his head from tinnitus came back and the pain was worse than ever. He went to a facility in California where he found strength to get clean and carry on. There, he started to go to 12-step meetings. “I started hearing others’ stories and realized my story was just the same. I was no different than them.”
Slowly but surely, he got better. “I went home and was scared out of my mind to be part of the community again and embarrassed to have an addiction, embarrassed that I had gone to rehab, and I didn’t want to leave my house.”
He was told for the best chance at recovery he should attend 90 meetings in 90 days, so he did. “I picked the best sponsor, a Jewish doctor, a little tough on me but nice at the time. He got me through the steps.”
Bishop still has tinnitus, but he’s learned tools in AA to help with the pain. “I live a completely normal life with it. I meditate, pray, read and refocus myself from the noise.”
Bishop has been sober for five years and, during that time, he’s helped 10 mostly Jewish men with their sobriety and he’s also seen a lot of people die. “I see a young person die once a month from heroin and that’s horrific. My goal is to help other people. That’s why I’m talking in the Jewish News. Addiction is not an exclusive disease. It can attack every family.” He invited anyone to reach out to him at email@example.com if they want to talk.
Robert Rotenberg, 63, secretary-treasurer at General Mill Supply Company, has been sober since June 10, 2014. He’d been drinking heavily since he was a teenager and tried a “little bit of everything except heroin.”
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His addiction didn’t begin controlling his life until he was in his 50s. “I knew I was doing things that were not OK, like drinking late at night, early in the morning and anytime else. I would say I forgot something, so I could go take a couple of gulps from a bottle.”
As his addiction progressed, he began breaking promises to his family and to himself. “I would wake up thinking how long could I go without drinking. It was 7 a.m.”
He was miserable and lost. Four years ago, he walked into an AA meeting where he saw Alan Bishop, someone he had known since Hebrew school. “I said, ‘You, too?’ He said, ‘Me, too,’ and we hugged,” Rotenberg says. “I went to meetings for a while but still had not surrendered.”
Eventually, he became more and more disgusted with how alcohol had taken over his life and checked into an inpatient recovery center. It changed his life. “I accepted that I was an alcoholic and would be until I take my last breath. I became comfortable sharing my story with family and friends who’ve always been very supportive. I have no interest in living a lie.”
By sharing his story, he hopes to help young people dealing with addiction and sharing that there is a way out. “Like Alan, I want to help. I’ve seen too many young people die since I started going to meetings,” he says.
He says if he could, he would tell his teenage self to do a reality check. “Denial is a formidable enemy. I was trapped in it for many years. Most of us were unable to see how obsessed we were becoming,” he says. “Addiction can happen quickly. Try to notice the signs.”
He says that if young people don’t want to talk to him, he knows people in their 20s he can connect them with. “When all you really want to do is use or only want to be with people who want to use, you’re going down a dangerous road,” he says. “It’s a living hell. There is a way out. But you have to want the way out, which is being ready to surrender.”
You can reach out to Robert at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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