Haunting and poignant; a compelling guide to recovery and healing.
deSpoelberch chronicles his recovery from multiple addictions in this intimate memoir. Growing up, deSpoelberch was surrounded by massive wealth, but the relentless physical and mental abuse at his alcoholic father’s hands led him on to a path of alcohol and marijuana addiction. Between ages twelve and sixteen, the drug use overtook every part of deSpoelberch’s life. At sixteen, his parents sent him to a therapeutic boarding school in Massachusetts. Sobriety returned. He started college with plans to remain sober and major in poetry. But his difficulty in socializing created a level of tension that pushed him to alcohol again. Still, he finished college and began working as a mental health worker at Four Winds Psychiatric Hospital in Katonah, New York. During his time as a guidance counselor at the Regis High School, he continued to have problems with drinking with periods of abstinence in between. But it was after he started as the dean at school, the actual descent began. The job responsibility increased his dependence on benzodiazepines and opioid medications: “Not only was the pressure too much for me, but Xanax as a sedative was no longer sufficient. Oxycodone and Vicodin became my drugs of choice. The psychological pain of that double life and the physical cravings and withdrawal that become constant companions forced me on a hellish rollercoaster loop.” In July 2013, he unwillingly checked himself in a detoxing facility after a police run-in. With unsettling perception, deSpoelberch captures the painful reacquaintance with human sensation that occur in detox: “It felt like having my skin ripped off, this slow, deep ache in my bones and my mind screaming for the substances it depended on for normalcy.” One day after spending twenty minutes on the phone with his mother “trying to record a phone number of a man in AA,” he realized he had to confront the demons that compelled him towards epic drug abuse. The July episode though costed him his job and reputation, he was determined to get better. Explaining that recovery is not a straight line or a single moment but a slow process, he writes: “you want something different, take the first step and hold onto your conviction that things must be different for you.” Stressing on the significance of the uncountable sources of spiritual, medical, and psychiatric influence behind the creation of the familiar 12-step program of AA, he finds strength in the principles of service and the unflinching support of family. deSpoelberch’s prose conveys urgency and resilient spirit with a sympathetic, understanding tone. Startling and ultimately remarkable.
A Second Act in Life
ND Counseling for hope and growth
Pub date February 24, 2023
Price $32.99 (USD) Hardcover, $8.49 Kindle edition