You’ll Get There: A Letter From Dustin Dean

Dear Lewis,

I’m Dustin, one of your mom and pop’s friends.

Now, I don’t know if I’ll be around one way or the other to get to know the amazing young man I have no doubt you’ll become, but I’ve had the pleasure of being your dad’s friend for some time now, as well as your mom’s, and Uncle Nik’s. I even flew back to Kansas City and St. Louis to meet your Nani and Papa once upon a time.

Today is the party celebrating your first birthday, and also the first time I’ll have the pleasure of meeting you. I asked your old man what you might need, or what he might like to see you get.

Now, I asked him to keep in mind who was asking. Mostly because I’m almost always broke – and left to my own devices I might have gotten myself in trouble.

Long story short, I’m kind of a jackass.

Your dad on the other hand is an amazing man, one that I am constantly in awe of, both in his daily happenings and many talents. But he is also, for one reason or another, someone that sees something in me that not many others do, including myself.

I say all this because his answer to my query knocked the wind out of me. I don’t cry much if at all. I cried when my kids were born, I cry when any Boston team wins a championship, when I put my dog to sleep, and when I found out Steve Irwin died. But the other thing your old man’s answer did was get me all chocked up (that’s an understatement, I bawled). He said:

“I want you to give him one of your sobriety chips. I want you to tell Lewis that anything is possible, as long as he has the strength to face difficult things. That’s the one thing you can give him that he won’t outgrow in 3 months.”

So here I am. But I should probably explain.

I am an alcoholic.

And I don’t mean an alcoholic in the sense that I get drunk every weekend and party or even a few times a week. I’m an alcoholic in the sense that I can’t have “a drink.” I can’t drink and be social and just have fun. I have to get wasted and ruin the show. I can’t stop when I start.

But today, on the day of your birthday party, I’m 110 days sober. I’m also 120 days clean. I add that because I’m also an addict. I’ll let your dad explain that one to you. (You’re welcome, Paulie!)

Why is all this important? Because I just turned 32 and have been in some sense drunk, high, hung over, or coming down since I was 16 years old. Until 110 days ago.

Most people, again including myself, came to terms with this and took it for what it was. Who I am. “Oh, it’s just Dustin.”

No one ever expected any level of sobriety out of me, and I was good with that. But the day came where I wasn’t. I wasn’t okay anymore.

I had gotten past funny or acceptable. I got past the point I or anyone else could just write it off. It became an illness, an affliction, an allergy. I shook when I didn’t drink and I only went without before and during work. I obsessed about it, made it the reason I worked, woke up, or bothered to eat.

Up until the night before I quit and went to my first AA meeting I could remember just 7 complete days without alcohol, and I only remember them because it’s all I wanted.

Why would any of this mean anything to you? Because your dad asked me to tell you anything is possible if you’re willing to face the difficulties. 112 days ago sitting here counting what I’ve accomplished didn’t seem possible and wouldn’t have been if I wasn’t willing to put in the work, wasn’t willing to face the difficult times. And it has been difficult!

Some days it’s a minor difficulty, like the frustration in listening to someone justify their drinking because they are uncomfortable with the fact I don’t. Other days I spend hours grinding my teeth, clenching my jaw and wanting to destroy anything and everything in my path because I’m craving drugs and alcohol, or even harder still, the mental and emotional difficulties.

My faculties have taken a serious hit due to my use and abuse. I was once a challenging and interesting person to talk to. I loved deep conversations and arguing topics for hours. Now it’s a struggle to write this letter.

But I’m getting there. Slowly but surely.

The emotional is what kills me. My 10- and 8-year-old son and daughter are more emotionally well equipped to handle day-to-day life than I am. It’s something that has been stunted if not completely retarded from my abuse. People I’ve known for years, people I’ve considered close friends and even family, while happy that I’m sober, can’t be bothered to hang out with me because it’s odd or strange to them or it’s not as much fun.

It hurts. All of it. But it’s worth it to be here. To be present and coherent. To think and feel clearly. To be a participant in my own life.

Things are going to suck, Lewis. Things are going to hurt, and fall apart. The outlook will sometimes look bleak. That finish line is going to seem impossible to cross.

But hurting is temporary. Things that fall apart can be rebuilt. And knowing your dad, your Papa, and their Father there will always be a shining light to help see past that bleak outlook.

That finish line never moves any further away. If you work past all that other crap, you’ll get there.

– Dustin

Is there an action, attitude or addiction that has come to define you? What steps do you need to take to redefine who you are?

Have you surrounded yourself with people that will help and encourage you as you struggle toward your goal?

Is there a Dustin Dean in your life, someone you have written off? Please, don’t.

Share your story and encourage others by leaving a comment below, or by joining the conversation on Facebook.

Want to read more letters like this one? Check out the suggested letters below.

10 Comments

  1. David Godbout   •  

    I am proud to say that I know Dustin Dean….always have been, always will.

  2. Dustin   •  

    David, the pleasure is all mine.

  3. Warhia   •  

    Dustin,

    Thanks for sharing your story. I turn 30 in two months time and I am afraid, I have nothing to bring to it.
    this is not addressed to me and I am no addict to alcohol. I am addicted to a different kind of vice: sadness. Given a choice to be happy or sad, I would choose sadness over happiness, any day. I feel as though I function better in pain. This is because as soon as I see everything looking up, something bad goes south and I get dragged back to square one. After a series of successive bad times in a span of four years I sort of resigned that happiness, is probably not meant for me. I am however, albeit slowly, learning how to choose and space my battles while living one day at a time. Most of all, I am learning that I cannot appreciate one aspect of life without appreciating all seasons it has. I am learning, that I need to be okay with that.

    Again, thank you for sharing your story. You are more than an just alcoholic; you are a RECOVERING alcoholic :).

  4. dana   •  

    I love this. And relate to all of it. being sober is so freaking hard. but being a drunk? i am so grateful that God helped me see that that was harder. Thank you for posting.

  5. David Mike   •  

    I have been clean since 1990. Anything is possible with God! I am now telling my story of how Army prison gave me a chance to listen to God and his plan for my future. You can do this!

  6. Shawna   •  

    This is a great young man with a lot of potential. Dustin is my son and it was so hard to watch what he was doing to himself. I prayed for Dustin and was fearful for him, I worried that he would hurt himself or that someone else would get fed up with him and hurt him. I still worry about Dustin but in a different way. Moms always worry about there children and for Dustin I was scared. I am proud of Dustin he has come along way in the last few months, and has a long way to go. This is a disease he will have to fight every day of his life and he has accepted this challenge. I hope dear Lewis will read this one day and travel down a different road. I Love Dustin with all my heart and it has been broken a time or two by him but I stood by him because I new he had a lot to give. If you know of someone that is going through this it is hard but don’t give up, there is a real person in there somewhere. Thank you Dustin for sharing and helping others.

  7. Dustin   •  

    I meant and still mean to write Lewis and paulie an update letter to follow up the original. As of today I am 1 yr 2 months, and 20 days sober and not only that but, after smoking an average of a pack a day for 16 years, I’m also 8 days without a cigarette. I’m healthy and happy, and while life still sucks and hurts at times, I’ve finally climbed to a spot in my day to day where those moments are ew and far between.

    • Paulie Godbout Paulie Godbout   •     Author

      Lewis’s 2nd birthday is coming up soon. Sounds like perfect timing for another letter.

      • Dustin   •  

        I’m a little late on another letter, but I will most definitely get on that!

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