by Dave Rogers
As many of you may know, some years ago I stopped drinking. The initial catalyst to my recovery was a trip to rehab at a wonderful place called Gosnold in Falmouth which helped saved my life.
Near the end of my time there I had a conversation with one of the counselors and he asked where I was from.
“Newport” I replied.
He looked at me with wide eyed concern and quickly said “well, you have to move… you know that right?”
I didn’t move. I stayed.
On the ride home, my very very good friend who found it for me and brought me there in the first place, and who in this context prefers anonymity, informed me that despite his best efforts of keeping my ‘new situation’ a secret, it had gotten out among a few of our actually rather large circle of friends in town… that I was in rehab.
As any Newporter knows, secrets have the lifespan of a gnat in our little town and if a few knew, everyone did.
I was really disturbed by this on that ride back south. While I knew that I was at the beginning of a necessary journey for me, I was ashamed.
I had failed. At life, at being a man, at being a father, at being a friend.
In my mind I was the sort of person that gets talked about rather than spoken to. I was the walking cautionary tale. I couldn’t handle freedom to make my own choices responsibly and needed to have a privilege of adulthood taken away from me.
When I arrived back home I started what I thought was a solitary journey and felt judgement all around me. If you saw me in those initial days, chances are I averted my gaze and kept walking.
I was alone.
But as it turns out, I wasn’t.
Not even close.
I’d really like to remember the first person who changed my mind about this, the first conversation of support, but I can’t.
What I can say is this. You surprised the hell out of me. Newport was perfect, to me.
I say ‘Newport’ as if it is a person because collectively we are, a fact that I learned as friend after friend that I have encountered over the many years since those first days has expressed to me sincerest support and admiration for my decision and change, and done so in such a way that it could not be construed as false praise, but rather a precious example when a friend drops the veil of detached banter and shows you who they really are.
We are a town that enjoys a drink. This is no secret.
I am a man who was elevated by those who live there for stepping away from the bar, but remaining at the party.
My counselor thought I needed to ‘move away’ from Newport for my recovery.
Newport, and those very many of you who I have the honor of calling my friends… you *were* my recovery. You gave me strength, validated my journey and inspired me to see myself through new eyes.
And you still are, if perhaps from a bit farther away.
Almost exactly two months ago, on St.Patricks Day, I finally took that counselors advice and quietly moved away. The reasons of course were different than what he had meant.
While the support of so many of you was instrumental in helping me to begin this new chapter in my life, I needed to re-learn who I really am.
Outside of the context of the infectious banter of bars, parties and any other gathering that would have me (something I was relieved to find out that I could still engage in without crutches) I didn’t know who remained. Who was I in an empty room?
Throughout my life and at great cost, I had come to define myself very much through the eyes of other people. I wanted so desperately to be liked and to be admired that I had lost sight of any true sense of self. This point was driven home to me by a wonderful woman named ‘Pat’ at Gosnold who after listening to me tell stories for an hour summed me up in one phrase which stuck me like a dagger at the time.
“Some people need to learn how to be alone Dave”.
So I have been learning, and little by little I had withdrawn from the fellowship of my hometown over the past few years and have now embarked on a new chapter.
Somewhere ‘where no one knows my name’.
… well, almost no one.
If I counted myself rich for the number of friends I have ‘at home’, I have recently learned that even just one can be far far more than I could have hoped for. I am in very, very good hands.
If you’ve made it through my stream of consciousness ramble this far then you passed the test. You are either my friend, or I owe you money, or both.
So I am happy to share with you that today is my ten year anniversary of my new life.
I am ten years sober today.
I’m writing this to thank you. I started my journey very worried about failure and judgement.
What I found, what you gave me was acceptance, love, support and the renewed confidence I have needed to begin my journey to my truest self.
As it turns out, he’s an ok guy. I like him.
So I want to thank you all, the collective funny, crazy cohort that together is and always will be my home. You have elevated me to a place where I can begin to see the horizon.
The view is really good.
Dave Rogers is a father of two young men, a former U.S. Navy SEAL and a two time candidate for US Congress.
Read about Dave’s experience at Hell week on his way to become a US Navy SEAL