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YOUR SIDE: The readers take over

My name is Todd, and I'm ...

To the editor:

My name is Todd. And I’m an alcoholic.

There, I said it. Out loud. Publicly. For everyone to hear. All of you. I’ve been waiting nine years to do that. It feels great!

Some of you already knew, because we’ve talked about it. Others know, but we’ve never discussed it. Many more of you didn’t know. Now you do.

I’m tired of keeping it hidden. I’m done being anonymous. And I’m sick of the stigma of shame that, for too long, has prevented people who need help from seeking it. That stigma is as deadly as the disease itself. I can’t sit and watch those things kill people while I’m silent about my own recovery for fear of what others might think of me.

That stigma. To hell with it! I hear the whispers. I see the stares. I feel the abandonment.

Many people can’t even begin to comprehend alcoholism and addiction. They can’t quite grasp what it does to a person. They don’t understand how it happens. Why it happens. So, I can see why they’re uncomfortable dealing with it. But that’s the stigma. Right there! They don’t know, and they’re mostly uneasy about discussing it. So they don’t.

I’m not afraid to talk about it. And from now on, I will. This disease. The stigma. The contrived shame. They’re not going to beat me. And I’ll do what I can to help others overcome. I’m not going to apologize for saving my life. I’m no longer going to recover quietly.

I used alcohol inappropriately. I didn’t realize it, but I was running from demons deep inside me. Over time, alcohol simply quit working for me the way I needed it to. In fact, it tried to kill me. It began to use me the same way I used it. It was destroying my body, mind, and most especially my soul.

I fought. I fought hard.

Today I have no desire whatsoever to drink. I don’t need it. For fun. Or to escape. I won’t waste one miraculous moment trying to dodge the reality that is my wonderful life. The good. The bad. All of it. I need it all. It all shapes me. I willingly accept it. I am fully aware. Fully me.

Addiction killed one of my best friends. It’s also taken some of my family members from this earth. I’ve seen the wreckage. I’ve seen people try to battle, and fail, and die. I’ve hugged people in recovery meetings one day, and grieved them at their funeral the next week. I’ve also seen people win. They thrive in ways they never dreamed of.

Don’t feel sorry for me because I’m an alcoholic. Don’t you dare! Don’t shy away from approaching me and asking me about my alcoholism, either. Bring it. I’m happy to tell my story. I’d be thrilled to tell you how I saved my life. I’m certain you’ll be surprised to hear why I’m so much happier today in recovery than I ever was when I drank.

That’s right. I’m happy. Really full of joy. I’ve found my soul. And I love it.

I recently committed to running the Columbus Marathon. In doing so, I’m raising money for The Herren Project, a group of selfless people who bring assistance programs to those suffering from substance abuse and mental health issues. I’ve trained my tail off for the past four months. I’ve gained a new appreciation for runners, and I’ve found a great love for the sport. This is my first Marathon. Tomorrow is the big day. It could be my only race. We’ll see.

I’ll run in memory of my dear friend, Patrick Plant. Addiction killed Patrick. I wish I could have saved him. My God, I wish. But I was fighting my own demons at the time and wasn’t capable of helping him. So tomorrow I will honor his life and I’ll run for him. I love you, my brother. I miss you.

I’ll also run for another friend, Bob Flajnik, whose life ended far too soon for reasons that will remain a mystery to us. Bob was an avid runner. A world-class Marathoner. I’m sure he’ll be watching over me as I take on the 26.2 miles that he tackled so many times. Give me a push, Bob.

Lastly, I’ll run for myself. If I didn’t fight and seek treatment for this ugly disease, I’d be dead today. I have no doubt. It’s chronic, progressive, and often fatal. So I’ll celebrate my life and my nine years of sobriety by running this Marathon. I’ll run and I will crush the stigma – one step at a time. For The Herren Project. For Patrick. For Bob. For me.

I’m a winner. I won’t forget it. Don’t you, either.

If you see me running, either tomorrow in the Marathon or any other day, think about what I’ve explained here. Think about those who suffer from substance abuse. Think about addicts and alcoholics. Be aware of the devastation that addiction causes. Be aware of the stigma we battle.

Then, think about my recovery. Notice my smile. Feel my peace. Celebrate my victory with me. See for yourself how free I am. Ask me about it. I’d love to tell you.

My name is Todd. Yes, I’m an alcoholic.

But I’m much so more …

Editor’s note: Todd McCollough is a former area resident and former Salem News reporter. He now resides and works as a marketing director in Columbus, where he completed the Columbus Marathon (his first) on Oct. 16. In the 50-54 male age group, he placed 92nd among 203 runners, with a time of 4:23.04 — averaging 10:02 per mile. Overall, there were 3,930 participants in the 26.2-mile challenge. He is an active advocate for recovery and is involved with The Herren Project (www.TheHerrenProject.org) and its outreach activities.

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