Reprinted from the Spring 2016 issue of Caron’s Chatter newsletter.
In April 2002, an overwhelming realization of how physically, psychologically and spiritually beaten down I had become came over me as I looked at my reflection in the mirror. I tried hard to avoid and deny it, but there was compelling evidence that alcoholism was tearing my life apart - it had such a powerful grip on me and life was unmanageable. Living alone, apart from my little boy and estranged from my family. Multiple DWIs. Fired from two jobs. My hands shook. What little sleep I had was interrupted by waking up in a pool of sweat. To have any physical relief meant that my body required alcohol in it. Life had become joyless and agonizing. There was little doubt that I would soon be dead and in my darkest moments that seemed like a decent option – at least the suffering would be over.
Dinner with my parents one evening provided a rare moment of honesty when I shared the idea of getting help by trying another outpatient program. I had incredible shame around what I then considered my weakness which made the idea of inpatient treatment (rehab) and being labeled an alcoholic a huge barrier to my getting help. But that’s exactly the experience and treatment required to battle my disease – to be separated from my environment so that I could have a chance to work on healing my mind, my body, and my spirit. Gratefully, my family provided me the courage and the path by intervening on me and my disease.
Arriving at my parents’ home Sunday morning to pick up my father to play tennis, I walked in to find my entire family sitting there along with some guy I didn’t know – the interventionist. Everyone read their letter explaining how much they loved me, how my alcoholism had affected them and our relationship and their encouragement for me to get help – treatment at Caron. I remember offering up a few objections – some vague commitments the following week. I finally relented, agreed to go and was up at Caron a few hours later. I was extremely scared. But I also felt as if a huge burden had been lifted from me – the secret I had been trying to keep for so long.
A few days at Caron and I started to feel better physically. I was sleeping. Eating. I started to laugh again. Life was gradually coming back into focus. A breakthrough moment during treatment was when my counselor said, “Mark – you’re not a bad person who needs to become good. You’re a sick person that needs to get well.” I’ve heard this said many times since that moment and I repeat it often to others. Caron loved me until I was able to love myself and provided me with tools to live life on life’s terms.
Recovery isn’t easy, but it’s also not particularly complicated - I just need to keep following the good advice I’m given and focus on what’s right in front of me. Being involved with Caron and connected to the people impacted by its work is a significant part of my recovery and today I have the honor to volunteer on both a local and national basis.
So far my story is one of a successful recovery, but I’m writing these words the morning after news that a friend’s nephew, who had been treated at Caron, died from this disease. He had been doing well for a period after treatment, but his addiction got ahold of him and this time it wouldn’t let go. He didn’t get another chance and serves as a tragic reminder to me that there is still much work to be done to help others suffering.
I’m incredibly fortunate to have had access to treatment at Caron and while I celebrate the gift of recovery, I invite you to consider supporting Caron and the lifesaving work they do. There are plenty of ways to make a difference and not all involve a financial commitment. Whether you are a former patient or the family member of someone who has been treated at Caron, please consider volunteering your time by being an alumni contact. Or spread the word by posting on social media about the life changing treatment Caron provides. Of course, if you’re in a position to make a financial contribution, I can guarantee that your donation will be efficiently and effectively deployed in this battle.
Mark Skibbie was selected as the Outstanding Alumni Award winner for 2016 in acknowledgement of his years of dedication and service to the Caron community.
- Corporate Board – Executive Committee; Marketing Committee, Chair; Planned Giving Council; DC Advisory Board - Co-founder, Former Chair; National Alumni Leadership Council
- Lifetime Giving Club – Chairman’s Society and Chit Chat Society Member
- Established the Miller-Skibbie Family Endowed Scholarship Fund for Treatment