William Cope Moyers on Addiction and Redemption
Fresh Air from WHYY, October 12, 2006 · William Cope Moyers is the son of journalist Bill Moyers. He's written a new memoir about his addiction to alcohol and crack cocaine and his recovery. He's been sober for twelve years and is the vice president for external affairs at the Hazelden Foundation in Minnesota.His new memoir is Broken: My Story of Addiction and Redemption
by William Cope Moyers and Katherine Ketcham
From the Prologue:
There was a sharp rap on the door, followed by a muffled but unmistakable command from a voice outside in the hallway.
"We want the white guy, just the white guy. We know he's in there. He comes out now and there's no trouble for anyone later."
I was the "white guy." I knew in that instant that my family's desperate search to track me down had ended at this decayed two-story apartment in a violent pocket of Atlanta's inner city. Terrified, I rushed around the room, trying to warn the other crack heads to sit still and keep quiet.
"Don't panic," I whispered. "They'll go away." But nobody was listening because everybody was as high and as scared as I was. We bumped into one another as we tried to find a way out, but there was nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. We were like wild animals trapped by a wind-whipped forest fire.
Who was out there banging on the door? Was it my father? My mother? My wife? My mind flashed back to the morning four days earlier when I left my house in suburban Atlanta. I remembered kissing four-month-old Thomas and two-year-old Henry good-bye. It was a Sunday afternoon, and I told Allison I needed to run some errands before dinner. I drove to the parking lot on the corner of Boulevard and Ponce de Leon, approached a drug dealer with a thick scar running from his left ear to the corner of his mouth, and paid him one hundred dollars for six marble-sized rocks of crack cocaine. I held them in my hand and thought, "These will keep me going for a day or two." They were gone in four hours.
The knocking became a relentless pounding that shook the door frame. I thought about escaping out the back porch door to the vacant lot and just running, running, running. But where could I go? They would find me, just like they had in Harlem and St. Paul. I'd been running for five years. Now I had run out of options.
I sat down at the old wood table in the kitchen, the place where the deals were made, the pipe was fired up, and the crack was consumed. I couldn't run anymore -- my legs felt weak and shaky. I couldn't hide -- there was no place left. I couldn't think, but I could still react, and with the instincts of the addict I did the only thing that was left to do. I reached into my sock and pulled out the cellophane cigarette wrapper with the rocks carefully stored inside like precious stones. My hands were shaking and I noticed for the first time that the tips of my fingers were scorched and blistered from lighter burns. I loaded the pipe, flicked the lighter, and inhaled deeply.
The sizzle of the crack and the euphoric rush exploding inside my head were suddenly all that mattered to me. The banging on the door was like thunder on the horizon. I heard the warning, but I didn't feel threatened anymore because I was back in my element, that faraway place where nothing on this earth could touch me. The rush hijacked my brain, and the knocking, scurrying, and fear disappeared. The memories of my wife and children were gone. I was gone.
I tried to grab on and hold tight to the high, and for a few moments time stood still. I was a Roman candle on the Fourth of July, bright colors and showers of sparks. This, I thought, is what it's all about -- stopping time, going higher and higher, explosions of light and heat, one after another after another. The rapture filled me for a minute or two, and then it began to fade, the sparks died down, the flame became a dying star far, far away.
I folded my arms over my chest, longing for comfort, for peace. I was so sick. So sick and tired of it all. In that moment I realized the hopelessness of my situation, and in a sudden, brief flash of clarity, I asked myself: Now what? I stared at the filthy wood floor littered with half-empty beer cans, cigarette butts, and used syringes. The answer wasn't here in this room anymore. It was all over. I was done.
I stood up and made my way past BJ, the Old Man, and the other addicts with whom I was living and slowly dying for the last four days. My steps were deliberate but out of my control as I walked into the hallway and out the front door, flanked by the two armed off-duty policemen who were part of the intervention team hired to get me out of the crack house and back into treatment.
A hard, steady rain was falling as we approached the gray van parked at the curb. The sliding door opened, and I collapsed into the backseat.
My father was sitting in the front passenger seat. Turning around to look at me, he saw a thirty-five-year-old crack addict who hadn't shaved, showered, or eaten in four days. A man who walked out on his wife and two young children and ditched his promising career at CNN. A broken shell of a man, a pale shadow of the human being he had raised to be honest, loving, responsible. His firstborn son.
"You're angry," I said. I didn't know what else to say.
"That's hardly the word for it." His voice was harsh and cold, like the rain outside.
"There's nothing more I can do," he said. "I'm finished."
All these years later, he tells me that's where the conversation ended. But whether I imagined it or not, I heard him say something else.
"I hate you."
And I remember looking in his eyes and speaking my deepest truth.
"I hate me, too."
Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from Broken: My Story of Addiction and Redemption by William Cope Moyers with Katherine Ketcham / Copyright © 2006 by William Cope Moyers and Katherine Ketcham