Guinevere Gets Sober

Recovery news, reviews and stories, by Jennifer Matesa.

Tag: Abraham Twerski

Addiction and Recovery Stories Out The Wazoo

So a couple weeks ago I got a comment from someone who called this site “egotistical” (though to be fair, the person also said they’d gotten help from reading here while in early sobriety). Which made me think about the site’s recent content. I suppose it could be seen as more self-referential than it used to be when I started writing two years ago. Back then I was reviewing books and interpreting medical studies and conducting interviews with interesting people.

In fact I have a bunch of interesting people that I want to interview for this site. Including, for example, Dr. Abraham Twerski, founder of internationally recognized Gateway Rehab and author of a gabillion bestselling books. He has recovery stories out the wazoo. Catching up with this rabbi and addictions-specialist later today. … I have more books to review than I know what to do with. But most of the reviews, interviews, and feature stories now go into other publications that have a wider readership than this blog (plus, they pay).

For example my interview with Marianne Warnes, the mother of Carrie John, a University of Maryland Ph.D. addictions researcher whose boyfriend and lab partner helped her shoot some drugs he’d bought from an online pharmacy—and who subsequently died of anaphylactic shock, because the drugs weren’t actually drugs but a contaminant. New York Times writer David Carr (author of a memoir of addiction/recovery, The Night of the Gun) liked that story:


Also my review of Kaylie Jones’s helpful and eloquent book about her recovery from alcoholism, Lies My Mother Never Told Me, which appeared last week in Renew Magazine. My Q&A with Kaylie is online, but to read the review you have to buy the print edition (which rocks, by the way. Please subscribe. Next issue: Bill Clegg).

I get lots of mail from readers these days, too. An interventionist recently wrote me asking what I thought about this idea:

I am passionate about my intervention work, and I stumbled upon the following recently re: “eIntervention.”

He provided a bunch of links to studies about getting sober online that I haven’t yet looked at, but this is an interesting phenomenon—the fact that more and more people are getting sober, or at least beginning their journeys toward sobriety, via the Internet. I did the same, which is how I became Guinevere.

More stories: I’m in the process of putting faces to the avatars/usernames I’ve known for four years. I met up with one woman last month in New York; in a few days I’m meeting up with another guy who’s moving from the Rocky Mountains back to the East Coast. This summer I hope to connect with one or two more of these amazing, open, dedicated, sober people with whom I’ve been “eRecovering” for four years. It’s interesting to feel so close to people you’ve never met. Until this year I’d never met any of them, but I’d trust each one of these folks with the keys to my house.

Plus I have non-addiction stories coming out my ears. I have ideas for paintings (as well as commissions) lined up like a row of beans to be picked. I just gotta get in there and pick them. I also have to get used to planting seeds in the next bed over while the current bed is bearing.

As always, trying to take life and its opportunities and challenges one day at a time. Until last week I’d spent five weeks losing blood. Seriously anemic. Hard to do much without enough hemoglobin, you know? Tough to get oxygen. But yesterday I went running for the first time in maybe three weeks. Can I tell you how good that felt?—I could feel my lungs expanding, I could feel my muscles stretching and powering me over the hills, I felt the medicine. Drugs always worked for me (until, as they say, they didn’t anymore). And exercise works for me, too. I sometimes wonder when or if it might stop working.

If you have thoughts about beginning your journey to sobriety online, or if you have an interesting addiction/recovery story of your own, please comment below or email me at guinevere (at) guineveregetssober (dot) com.

Don’t Hold My Sobriety Against Me.

Dr. Abraham Twerski, about 10 years ago. Photo via Post-Gazette / Bob Donaldson.

This is what Dr. Abraham Twerski said yesterday at a talk to some of the people who have been helped by Gateway Rehabilitation Centers, the rehab he founded. 

I’ve been hearing about Abe Twerski since I came back here to go to grad school in 1988. A good friend at the time was doing a long-form nonfiction story on the Hasidic Jewish community here, and I remember her mentioning his name.

The first thing I noticed: Abe Twerski’s voice sounded different than I expected it to sound. I expected low-pitched, hoarse, somber. He’s been a rabbi since the 1950s. I heard a tenor voice, clear, energetic, engaged, humorous. I knew he was in his 80s, but he didn’t seem in the least frail. He was dressed in the orthodox manner: long gray coat, black trousers, black velvet yarmulke, and a long white beard that grew into two points.

(“That’s so cool,” my 14-year-old skinny-jeans-clad son said when I told him about it last night at dinner.)

Twerski said he has been going to AA meetings since 1960. “I haven’t been drunk, and I haven’t used drugs, but I go to meetings regularly,” he said. “I tell people, ‘Don’t hold my sobriety against me.’ I need these meetings as much as any of you do.”

We weren’t at a meeting. It wasn’t a couple dozen folks in a church basement. He was standing in front of more than 500 people. The room was silent. Twerski was obviously comfortable with this scene. At the same time, he was spontaneous and fresh, telling 50-year-old stories as if they had just come to his mind for the first time. The middle-aged call-girl-turned-street-hooker and low-bottom drunk, who had detoxed 69 times at his hospital, 23 times at St. John’s, and god only knew how many times at Allegheny General and McKeesport—he couldn’t get the records from those places. So she’d detoxed more than 100 times—medically detoxed. Who knew how many times she’d tried to quit on her own? 

I thought of people I’ve known who have despaired of getting sober, who have quit maybe eight or 10 times. I thought of myself, detoxed just three years ago, outpatient, with the help of a doctor referred to me by Gateway’s people. (When I needed an outpatient detox doctor, I called the best in the city. I called Gateway. When my PCP recommended the same doctor, I knew I had the guy who would help me.) I thought of my parents, who tried many times to quit times and never could.

The big dude sitting next to me, 50-something guy with tattoos and tight faded jeans, wiped his eyes now and then. I thought he had something stuck in one of them, but no.

I was sitting at a table right next to Twerski’s. After the talk I shook his hand and asked if I could speak with him sometime. He smiled and waved at the mob crowding around him. “Yeah, give your number to my people out there,” he said and trudged through the crowd.

So I’ll be running an interview at some point with this very cool physician and rabbi who knows how to talk about God without freaking people out. I have questions lined up. Anything you want me to ask him, let me know.

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