A Punch in the Heart: For Every Golden Voiced Ted Williams There Are a Million Peggys

Like everyone I too was moved when just this afternoon I saw for the first time the video of former addict Ted Williams that went viral in a matter of days topping more than 6 million views and counting.  It is a story of redemption and hope and the promise that it is never too late to start again.

However, and in a somewhat ironic twist, the Williams story took on an added dimension shortly after I watched the roadside video in which I realized that for every Ted Williams, there are millions more who are struggling with addiction in relative obscurity.  Like a punch in the heart, I saw a picture of a former friend from high school that resonated within me in ways I had never imagined possible.

Don’t get me wrong, I have as a radio host and writer come across many upsetting and tragic stories such as the William Melchert-Dinkel case, who is scheduled to stand trial for pursuing in “thrill of the chase” fashion, those most vulnerable in society and convincing them to commit suicide while asking if he could watch them take their lives via his webcam.  He even talked a minor into cutting herself on-line.

The difference is that unlike the Melchert-Dinkel case I do not often have the benefit of a before story (or picture) as a means of providing a point of reference to just how dramatic a fall to which a person may have succumbed.

Nor is this one of those anecdotal exercises in which we somehow give ourselves the power to changes lives if only we had known . . . if only we had somehow gotten involved.  We in and of ourselves cannot change lives, nor in the majority of instances can we prevent someone from doing something over which they themselves have no control.

What this is, and why I feel so compelled to write is as always due to circumstances that seem to converge and inspire.  Think about it for a moment, if I hadn’t seen the Williams video this afternoon, then the picture of Peggy might not have hit home to the same degree.

While I would have most certainly been moved, it would have been a private revelation in which my thoughts and feelings would have been confined to a close circle of friends and familiar bygone acquaintances versus being a written oratory of a life wasted, or perhaps wasting away.

 

Peggy (on the left)

I remember Peggy well, in fact I think we may even have dated for a week or two – if you could call it that at 15, as a pretty, bright-eyed and energetic young woman who always seemed to wear a smile that could light up a room.

When I first saw the above picture my initial thought was that this must be Barb’s mom sitting with her on the couch.  Then I read the caption . . . and what followed was the inevitable disconnect between what I was reading and what I was seeing.  In a disbelieving frenetic toggle I repeatedly shifted my eyes from caption to picture as I tried to reconcile that which was irreconcilable.

I then immediately sent Barb a note asking her in as delicate and proper a manner as I could “what happened to Peggy.”  Although I would then write almost apologetically, that even though “she does not look well,” I could still see “the old Peggy smile and twinkle in her eyes.”

Barb, who herself has always been a warm and considerate person, then told me how Peggy (who looks 20 years older than she actually is), has battled with alcoholism for some time and that as a result her health is quickly deteriorating beyond the point of return.  Barb then indicated that she has always tried to stay in touch with Peggy whenever she returned home, encouraging her to turn things around . . . unfortunately to no avail.

With her mom’s passing a year ago however, Peggy’s situation has become worse, exacerbated by the fact that she is in a very dysfunctional relationship with her dad’s best friend (who is also an alcoholic).  That’s right, her Dad’s best friend.

According to Barb, Peggy does call her from time to time, mostly out of loneliness and a concern for Barb, another irony that is not lost on her friend who believes that Peggy cares more about her, than she does for herself.  This isn’t surprising, as Peggy has always had as Barb put it (and as I remember) a good heart.  In these fleeting moments of honest lucidity when Barb asks her if she loves herself and is willing to change, Peggy breaks down in tears and then almost as quickly moves on to another less painful topic.

Like most of us, Peggy does not possess the awe-inspiring gift of a Ted Williams (after many years of unemployment, she is now working in a shoe store at a local shopping mall selling shoes, something she has done off and on since her early twenties).  So while I am happy for Mr. Williams and wish him only the very best, I cannot help but wonder if our attention and interest in those that struggle with addiction is limited to individuals with an unused or undiscovered talent?

Think about it for a moment . . . what happens to the Peggy’s of this world?  Maybe that is the greater message of the Ted Williams story – that through his special gift he gives us all pause for thought and a time to reflect on those of us who are for whatever reason wounded and most vulnerable.  Maybe just maybe, we can can turn the good feelings of a Golden Radio Voice into a universal message of hope and a better tomorrow for everyone.

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Comments
4 Responses to “A Punch in the Heart: For Every Golden Voiced Ted Williams There Are a Million Peggys”
  1. jimbouchard says:

    Jon- your story has touched me as I my life story could easily have been closer to Peggy’s and Ted’s than what it is today.

    As you know, as do people who have listened to our shows, attended our events or read either of my books- in my twenties I was well on my way to a “point of no return.” A casual use of drugs quickly grew to an addiction that masked much of what I did not know how to cope with in my personal life. As my addiction became stronger, I made decisions that at the time drove me to a period of material poverty; this despite having a job throughout the episode. On at least two occasions I was on the brink of taking my own life and on a couple of others my actions put me in a position where I nearly lost my life anyway- with or without my conscious participation.

    Why was I able to turn all this around and how can you help people like Peggy and Ted do the same?

    First, they must be willing. If you want to be a junkie or an alcoholic you will achieve that goal. For those who have never had the experience the thought of someone wanting to live that way is surely alien- trust me; it’s a very real perspective. When you’re living that way there is some kind of comfort in the sense that change, which often means facing some painful realities is extremely frightening. Even when surrounded by “dysfunctional” relationships, you likely fear losing those relationships and they may be all you have.

    If you are willing- then the first step is to seek help from legitimate friends and supporters. I pick the word legitimate carefully- friends who enable, assist or even profit by your life as a drunk or drug addict are not your friends- leave them behind. I had several wonderful and supportive people in my life that were tremendously helpful, especially during those times when I was in danger of slipping back into the lifestyle.

    You must get busy living- or get busy dying. That means finding meaningful, fulfilling things to occupy your time. Find something and get busy- for me this is where martial arts started to fill such a wonderful need.

    If you know someone who is addicted and wants to stop- be supportive, not judgmental. Believe me, nobody gets up one day and sets up a vision board with the hope of becoming a junkie. The last thing that person needs is people telling them, however well-intended, what a loser he or she is. Most of the time one knows already- and it’s part of the problem.

    A person trying to quit needs support, positive reinforcement and most of all, encouragement should there be a slip-up.

    If recovery is not possible or desired at this time do not feel guilty yourself. Stay vigilant, strong and intervene when and where you can. Remember always that the addict must CHOOSE recovery- you cannot really force anyone through it with any degree of lasting success. Love unconditionally, support consistently and be ready when the time is right to do more.

    I sincerely hope my experience and thoughts are helpful to some of you and I offer my Best Thoughts to Jon’s friend Peggy and to Ted for a full and lasting recovery and a satisfying, productive and happy life.

    Best!
    Jim

    • Thank you for sharing your story Jim. It is through this kind of open awareness that people can find hope . . . can discover that they can live a life by choice versus by chance and circumstances!

  2. Tam I Am says:

    Jon~
    There are more Peggy’s in the world than we know of. Maine has the highest rate of addiction in the nation, with central Maine leading the pack of towns in trouble. This story and those like it brings me to my knees. I am relative to an immediate family member in the throes of substance abuse.

    I honor every word Jim speaks about the support needed in healing the addict. Through prayer, counsel and positive personal and medical support we are muddling our way through this journey. One week up, another day down, it’s all good and it’s all okay. One day at a time toward the rest of his beautiful life.

    From the perspective of the ones watching I recommend some kind of counsel or therapy so that you can bettter understand the disease of addiction for what it is: a disease, not a malfunctioning human being, it’s a disease. Learn all you can about the physical and mental ramifacations of the specific abuse and understand it thoroughly. Each time I bring *him* to rehab I learn more about what he dealing with, it empowers us both.

    For us, we are almost through to the other side. I see the door closing and again am brought to my knees, this time in joy.

    My prayer is that the Peggy’s and the Ted’s of this world have the support necessary to pull through to the other side.

    Jon, thank you for an article that touched me exactly where I was centered today.

    • Thank you randomTAM for sharing your story because that is the bigger part of all of this . . . that people are not alone and that there are choices and a way to redemptive joy and peace.

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