Real Conversations with Alumni
At Caron, being Real About Recovery means sharing real stories of real alumni to help other people who need to hear it and find comfort in connecting.
Here's a glimpse of Dan's journey in an honest and insightful Q&A.
What was your life like before coming to Caron?
It was decades of alcohol abuse and self-inflicted damage. I've referred to it as suicide by a million drinks. In 2015, I got very ill and all of my internal organs shut down. I was in the hospital for a very long time. That wasn't enough to wake me up. I did quit drinking, but I didn't do anything to address the disease that I have.
When I started back in my active addiction, it was an acceleration like no other. In February of 2019, I ended up flat lined on a hospital operating table. Somehow the surgeons brought me back to life. I had something called esophageal varices, which means that basically my insides exploded as a result of the alcohol abuse. I was in a coma for a long time and in the hospital even longer. Ultimately, I ended up at Caron. But frankly, even then, I wasn't prepared to deal with my disease.
How did the people in your life contribute to your decision to go into recovery?
I have a very strong family. I'm number eight of nine children. Neither of my parents were alcoholics. None of my siblings are alcoholics or addicts. I had to work pretty hard at my addiction for it to get to where it did. Even so, I managed to get through college and law school and graduate at the top of my law school class. I opened my own law firm. To others, I looked like a successful attorney leading a growing law firm, but I knew I was a heavy drinker, that I could not imagine my life without alcohol. Even so, I didn't recognize what the people closest to me could see: alcohol controlled my life.
Finally, after years of entreaties from the friends closest to me, my family asked me to get some help. They told me I had to seek treatment.
What experiences at Caron helped you understand the nature of your addiction?
My first glimpse of surrender was when I sat with the men that I was in treatment with. In that room is where recovery began as we got real with each other. We introduced ourselves as our substances of choice. We talked about things like gratitude, learning, openness, and work. It was terrifying for me, but something inside me said that I needed to do this.
I sobbed like a child when I declared myself to be an alcoholic. It was the first time that I said out loud that I was an alcoholic. Just using the word “alcoholic” released a lot of fear, shame, and guilt. That was the start of my recovery journey.
I learned it was a disease, not a moral shortcoming, not a lack of willpower or something inexplicably weak about me.
What skills did you learn while taking part in Caron’s Legal Professionals Program?
Talking to other lawyers whose stories were so similar to mine helped me understand that I can be a professional, do everything I need to do, and live a recovered life.
It was revelatory to me because I've been around drinkers all of my professional life. One of the things that we all talked about was, well, how do we handle that? After I got sober in 2015, my first drink was because a client asked me have an after-dinner drink with him. It's not the client's fault, it’s that I have a sneaky Pete on my shoulder all of the time urging me to give in. Addiction is like a professional fighter who is ready to come in and kick my ass at any time, and that’s what happened then.
The Legal Professionals Program gave me a blueprint and design for living my professional life that I certainly wouldn't have had without going to Caron.
How did your time in treatment at Caron help you reconnect with your family?
I did not meet my daughter, Lane, until I went to Caron. Lane’s birth happened as the result of a very brief relationship that I had 25 years ago. Because of my selfishness, which was exacerbated by my active addiction, I didn’t meet Lane when I first had the opportunity to do so. I had all sorts of justifications for why I didn’t, including that I paid child support. After I came to Caron and was in recovery, she emailed me from Spain, asking me to get in contact with her. She was a senior in college then and was studying abroad for the semester. I did. It was scary. One of the justifications that I had for not having any contact with Lane was that I was actually protecting her. We emailed back and forth and agreed to meet when she got back.
By the summer of that year, our relationship had grown so much that she moved in with me. Her capacity for forgiveness and love is incredible. We've had to deal with the hard truth that I abandoned her. One of the gifts I've been given is an understanding that I can't do anything about unwinding where I was and what I did, but every single day I try to be the best dad I can possibly be to her and make sure that she knows that she's never going to have to worry about being alone.
She refers to me as her best friend, this child, this undeserved blessing and grace that she is in my life. She is a gift that I would have never gotten without Caron and without being in recovery.
It's the greatest thing that's ever happened to me.
Looking back, how do you view your time at Caron?
I never got the sense that Caron was there for any reason other than to treat me as a human being. I wasn't a number. I wasn't a statistic on a spreadsheet. The people at Caron saw me as someone who needed care, who needed to get well.
I pray for them all the time because they were that important to me. I pray for the staff members who were closest to me, for my spiritual advisor who made me laugh and taught me so much, for my counselor who is a very special human being. Every single one of the professionals at Caron was there to help me recover. And one of the beautiful things about it is that a lot of them were in recovery themselves.
Caron offered me extended care and the ability to stay connected to the other patients. That support and connection are immeasurable benefits.
What would you tell someone thinking about seeking recovery?
Before treatment, I viewed alcoholism as something that other people had, not me. The reality is this disease takes no prisoners and it doesn't care where you grew up, how you grew up. It doesn't matter what color you are. It doesn't matter what religion you are. It doesn't matter how much money you have. When you get right down to it, there is no difference between any of us.
This disease does not discriminate and it will kill you if you let it.