By Kristen Browning-Blas
The Denver Post
The name might sound familiar: Moyers. Maybe you've heard of William C. Moyers, author of "Broken," a memoir of addiction. Or you know his dad, Bill, from his long career as a journalist and his current PBS program, "Bill Moyers Journal."
The family went public with Moyers' crack addiction and recovery in 1998 with a five-part PBS series, "Moyers on Addiction: Close to Home." "Broken" came out in 2006.
After a 15-year career in journalism and four stints in rehab, including time at the Hazelden treatment center in Minnesota, Moyers is now executive director of its Center for Public Advocacy. Moyers has three children — Henry, 16, Thomas, 15, and Nancy, 12 — and lives in in St. Paul, Minn.
Thursday evening, he will emcee an event with singer Judy Collins, celebrating the 25th anniversary of Peer Assistance Services, a Denver nonprofit dedicated to substance-abuse prevention and intervention.
The folk singer has struggled with depression, alcoholism and the suicide of her only son, Clark Taylor, who crossed recovery paths with Moyers in St. Paul before he died in 1992.
Because April is Alcohol Awareness Month, we spoke to Moyers about his journey through addiction and into recovery.
Q: If you think you might drink too much, does that mean you are an alcoholic?
A: It doesn't mean you're an alcoholic, but it means you are pondering issues that most people don't ponder.
Q: Are drugs different than alcohol?
A: No, I think a drug is a drug is a drug. The only difference is alcohol is legal.
Q:There's some debate about whether alcoholism is a disease or a "condition." What do you think?
A: It is a disease that has a volitional component to it. Nobody made me smoke marijuana, but I did not will myself into addiction. I believe I was set up to become an addict long before I did those things, and they turned on a light switch in my brain.
Q: There's so much alcohol in pop culture. How do you fight that influence?
A: We fight Madison Avenue with honest and accurate information. The way we answer the beer man is by explaining to the next generation that alcohol is a drug that, when used responsibly, can enhance a setting. There's nothing wrong with responsible drinking as long as you're 21 or over. But, it is a drug that changes the mood and the mind.
Q:You published a journal and DVD, "A New Day, A New Life," for people in early recovery. How has writing in a journal helped you?
A: Journaling can be very therapeutic. Addiction is fundamentally an illness of the brain, but it's also a disease of the body and the spirit. I think of it as a hole in the soul. You have to address those things that ail your spirit.
Q: What advice do you have for parents with teens who are struggling with addiction? And what do you say to parents who wonder if they should be honest about their own past?
A: Hate the illness but love your child. Tell your children the truth. And tell them the longer you can wait before you experiment the better chance you have to grow up to be a resilient person.
Q: How do you talk to your own children about your addiction?
A: Because they are the product of two alcoholics, they are 10 to 20 times more likely to become alcoholic themselves. But no matter what I do there's nothing I can do that can ultimately stop them from experimenting. I've talked to my children about my own experiences as a way to warn them if they choose to use, they might not be able to choose the outcome. I tell them if that outcome is not good, it is OK to ask for help.
Q: As you speak around the country, do you hear a lot of confessions?
A: Every single day. I've had judges and lawyers and doctors and police officers and Joe Blows come up to me and whisper, "I'm also in recovery." I'm still addicted — I just happen to be in remission. I have to continue to take my "insulin" by recovering, going to meetings, praying to God. Who could ever imagine that I could go from a crack house in Atlanta to working for a renowned treatment center? I'm still on the journey, and it's happening despite me, despite my best-laid plans.
Kristen Browning-Blas: 303-954-1440 or firstname.lastname@example.org