The great legacy left to me by my parents was the gift of sobriety. Today I try to share that legacy with others because, like my mom and dad, it helps me to stay sober myself.
I grew up in an alcoholic home. My dad, a prominent physician, and my mom, a nurse, were both addicted to drugs and alcohol. One would think that growing up in an atmosphere of fear, uncertainty and drunken brawls that drinking and drugging would be the last thing I would want to do. But I, too, went down that same path. That`s why they call alcoholism and drug addiction a powerful and baffling disease.
When things would get really bad at home, my two brothers and I would stay with our grandparents or close friends. They all tried to protect us by getting us out of these often frightening situations. However, even though my parents were experts at putting on a veil of normalcy, I always had a sense that I was growing up in a pretty crazy home.
I was nine when my dad was sent to prison on drug felony charges. He had been writing illegal prescriptions for narcotics for himself. My mother began having electric shock therapy for what she called "nervous spells".
It was in prison that my dad finally found the recovery program of Alcoholics Anonymous. When he came home, he helped my mother also find recovery in AA. I remember one night he gathered us all together and explained that he had been a very sick man from the alcohol and drugs. He talked to us about God and that God was in each of us, always trying to help us. And that`s when things began to change at home "really change.
Realizing that in order to stay sober themselves they had to help others, they began bringing sick alcoholics into our home. Soon our house on Lee Street was filled with more than 25 addicts my parents were helping to recover from their disease.
I can remember people having convulsions on the kitchen floor or trying to run away when they were so sick and my mother having to tackle them. Even though I witnessed the disease of alcoholism and drug addiction up front and in person with all these people, I still went on to become one of them myself.
It was a six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer that started me on my downward spiral at the age of 15. Drinking changed my whole attitude, my whole life "the way I thought, the way I acted. And I loved the way it made me feel "bullet-proof. It progressed in high school to every weekend. From the beginning I was drinking alcoholically and having blackouts and passing out. I could never predict how much I would drink once I started. And when I wasn`t drinking, I was thinking about it.
When drugs came on the scene, I jumped right in. Marijuana, speed, crystal meth, LSD along with alcohol brought me to new highs "and new lows. My whole life revolved around alcohol and drugs. I lost jobs, my ambition and my first marriage because of my disease. By now, our home on Lee Street was bursting at the seams. That`s when, as my dad would say, God stepped in to help. Through the support and generosity of people in the Statesboro, Georgia business community, my parents were able to open one of the first hospitals dedicated solely to the treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction. They called it "Willingway." I needed to be there myself, but I was too proud to seek their help.
By 1985 I was a burned out hippie with a beard down to my chest. I rode a motorcycle because I had burned up my truck because I was high. I was sick, unemployable, alone and filled with fear. It was June and I had just turned 25. I had finally reached that place that all alcoholics and drug addicts must reach in order to make a decision to live or to die. It`s called the bottom. I reached out and asked for God to help me. He did, and I`ve been sober for the past 28 years.
Like my parents, I learned that my recovery depends upon working with other alcoholics. I do that now in both my personal life and in my work. At my parents` invitation, I became involved with Willingway, working in various positions there. Today I serve as Chairman of the Board and feel deeply privileged to be able to play a role in continuing what my parents started. I have a spiritual program in my life, one that I live by on a daily basis.
Mr. Jimmy Mooney is the recipient of the 2012 Georgia Hospital Association Lifetime Achievement award and the 2010 Dean Day Smith Service to Mankind award. A business graduate of Georgia Southern University, he has served as President of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Bulloch County, Georgia. He is the middle son of Dr. John and Dot Mooney, the subject of the new book by Emmy-nominated writer Bill Borchert called "When Two Loves Collide". The book is available on Willingway.com, Amazon.com, Itasca books.com and in most major book stores.