Mental Illness, A Coke and a Twinkie

On July 6th, 1993…I hit bottom.

There’s a saying in addiction that one of two things will happen to the addicted as long as they keep using: death or jail.

I was pretty close to both.

The following day, everything changed.

I got help.

Two years later, I gave birth to Hank, three years later, Girls on the Run and then a couple more and my precious Helen came into the world.

I never felt shame about my addiction. My mom got sober when I was in fourth grade. She went through an outpatient program and would take me with her. I would sit in the lobby and do homework, while she did “whatever it is she did” back with all the other folks trying to get clean.

The security guard at the Randolph Clinic, Sergeant Hinson and I became friends. A country man he spoke with a thick Southern Accent. He was a big, burly man with a twinkle in his eye.

“It’s you again, Molly. Come on over here. I got your coke and your Twinkie. Let’s get to work on that vocabulary list.”

Twice a week, Mom would go to treatment and twice a week I would have a coke with Sergeant Hinson. I loved going to the Randolph Clinic with my mom. Sergeant Hinson was the light of my life then…a safe person to talk to about what was going on. He spoke of addiction and life and hard times and love, as he would quiz me on spelling and vocabulary and history facts.

He and the many others I came to know once my mom got sober carried no judgment or taboo about addiction. None at all. As a matter of fact, the people there, both on the treatment side and the recovery side were some of the coolest human beings I had ever known. Even as a fifth and sixth grader, I could tell there was something unique about these people.

They were Real. Broken. Honest. Vulnerable. Love.

So when it came my turn to get sober, it wasn’t easy by any means…but there was hope. There were role models. There were people ahead of me I had seen transform, change, grow, evolve…live again. These people held no shame about their addiction, but spoke of it as part of their story, their journey, their joy.

It’s what made them real.

I gave a TEDx talk a couple of years ago and spoke of my addiction. Afterwards a woman came up to me and said that she had suffered from depression for many years and had been afraid to speak of it with her friends…even her family. She had applauded me for sharing my journey…my mental illness with her and others.

WHAT? WHAT? WHAT DID SHE SAY?

My mental illness! Did she say mental illness?

I wasn’t mentally ill. I was just addicted.

Whoa….what’s happening here? Yuck. What’s THAT feeing?

Hello Shame. Hello Taboo. Hello “I don’t want to talk about THAT!”

Later than night…I did a little research and I’ll be damned. Addiction is considered a form of mental illness.

It’s taken some time to speak of addiction in this way and if I’m completely honest I still feel a fearful rumbling in my gut when I do. Hell, I feel it now as I write to you.

And yet on the other hand, I can’t help but also feel humored by how ridiculous it seems that a couple of words can create such a varied response, even within myself.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about mental illness…the taboos, the fear…the violence as a result of it going untreated, unnoticed, shunned even.

I think about the people I know who are mentally ill…people I work with, people I love with, people I run with. I think about how real they are…beautiful really…open and broken and honest.

I think about Sergeant Hinson…his smile, his welcoming spirit…the coke and the Twinkies we shared as he called out vocabulary words and I gave him their definition.

Sergeant Hinson: “So Molly. Give me the definition of Mental Illness.”

Molly: A wondrous and life-changing condition that inspires me to be real, vital, hopeful, vulnerable, honest, loving, open, accepting, available and truthful. Mental Illness.

normal as a setting

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3 Responses to Mental Illness, A Coke and a Twinkie

  1. “Came to believe there is a power greater than ourselves that could restore us to sanity”. When I really read this, sat with it awhile I said to Mom: so this would suggest we are insane. She smiled a knowing smile: yep.

  2. Jolie says:

    “I can’t help but also feel humored by how ridiculous it seems that a couple of words can create such a varied response, even within myself.” This. I’ve waited to decide how I will eventually approach the variety pack of mental issues in my own family, but I know it will include humor. Once you can laugh about a thing, it’s power over you is gone. Nothing is funny about hitting bottom but the real, honest, vulnerable human that comes out the other side holds something the world needs. Authenticity.

  3. Molly you are such an inspiration for me and countless others! I too grew up with the Big Book of AA proudly displayed on our coffee table at home. My mom died 34 yrs. sober!😇 she started trying to get me to pick up a white chip when I was in college. I grew up going to meetings and our home became a sort of half way house. Even though I rebelled and denied my disease for many yrs. , I always felt at home inside those meetings! I knew I was different. I couldn’t find my comfort zone in life. It wasn’t until I moved to San Francisco in 1985 that I hit bottom emotionally and spiritually. I truly surrendered to Win! My first AA mtg For Me ( not my mom) was a true spiritual experience. I Finally found a place where I Fit In and could be Real and honest about all my secrets. What a relief it was!!
    There are so many out there suffering in silence. My heart is heavy for each soul that’s afraid to Let Go and Let God Heal them.
    Today I wear my sobriety as a badge of honor. Totally open with anyone God puts in front of me. I suffered with anger-Rage,depression and anxiety and low self esteem for far too long!! Today I know the true joy that comes with sharing my Truth with others unabashedly!! The world needs help. Mental illness runs rampant. And we are as sick as our secrets! So I applaud u for stepping out of the shadows of shame and helping others battle their demons. I Stand Strong beside you …willing to carry the message of Freedom from Bondage. Life is Love!! Love truly Heals all of life’s negative experiences. I pray more people will step out in Faith and ask for help! We have an important message to spread… And God has given You the platform to do so. You’re such a gift…a light shining brightly in this sometime very dark world! Keep on keeping on!! You rock Molly!!😎😘❤️

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