Champions of the World


I’ve been privileged to meet what I call ‘World Champions’, people who have overcome addictions, and their family members who support them. Many of these I met in Cape Town and was asked by some parents to write a special message for their son or daughter. Many I met through getting into random conversations with strangers, amazing people who shared their story with me.

I’ve attended an AA meeting overseas as a supporter. Awesome? Yes! Humbled? Yes! To hear the story and struggle of recovering addicts is beyond my comprehension and I’m amazed at their strength. I apologize for using the word ‘addict’ as it somehow depersonalizes the real person behind the label and in no way is indicative of their daily journey, a journey that demands strength and courage. They have battled with demons and emerged victorious.

Yet, they know that it’s not over. Every minute of every day is counted, adding up to an hour, a day, a week or more, of sobriety. Forevermore they must remain conscious of their addiction and avoid the pitfalls. It’s often a lonely journey, but without a doubt support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, and all the other Support Groups available are saving lives on a daily basis, saving families.


No-one knows. Addicts are not always lying emaciated in the gutter or rolling drunkenly down the street. Many addicts lead normal fully-functioning lives. We may be unaware and surprised at the people in our lives who suffer from an addiction. We may deny it, somehow feeling ashamed. We may even enable them, unwittingly. Knowledge is power and we must ensure we educate our children and ourselves. There is no shame in admitting one has an addiction. Quite the opposite. There is power in admitting it.

A few years ago, I got into conversation in Galway city with one of the many street fund raisers. He was a young man who was in recovery. He spoke to me about the high level of alcoholism in Ireland and how it wasn’t acknowledged. His viewpoint and one I agree with was the dangers of pub culture and acceptance of ‘going on the lash,’ or boasting of having a hangover. It’s expected that you’ll go through a ‘drinking phase’, but no one knows when they take that first sip whether or not it will lead to addiction.

Alcohol is often perceived as a medical aid, treatment for shock, or necessary after a stressful event in their lives. ‘Have a drink. It’ll make you feel better’. You’re considered a party pooper if you don’t join in and it takes enormous strength of character to refuse. Having your soft drink spiked with alcohol by an adult, someone who knows you don’t drink is beyond my understanding. I’ve been known to water many a plant. Knowing you’re recovering from surgery and on strong medication and still spiking your drink, ended years of friendship for me.


God grant me the serenity

To accept the things, I cannot change;

Courage to change the things I can;

And wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;

Enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

Taking, as He did, this sinful world

As it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things right

If I surrender to His Will;

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life

And supremely happy with Him

Forever and ever in the next.


(attributed to Reinhold Neibuhr, 1892-1971)


olympicsHave you ever watched the Special Olympics? To see the physical and mental strength of people with disabilities as they perform is utterly amazing. Five million participants worldwide compete in every kind of sport, training with total focus and determination. It’s a daily reminder to me not to complain. The human spirit can and does achieve optimum growth and power. The human body will respond magnificently to the positive power of the mind. But it’s up to us to go that extra mile.

How many people do you know who have recovered from cancer or other serious illnesses? So many have undergone multiple surgeries, painful treatments, and yet keep on smiling, determined to fight, and win the battle. They refuse to give up and somehow manage to support their families with sheer optimism. There is always a possibility that this illness may return, but they celebrate every year of good health, happy to be told they are out of the ‘red zone’.

How many people have you met and not known the torture and abuse, physical and mental, they are experiencing daily? Clothing covers the bruises. A smile covers the pain, but their eyes cannot lie. Tied by fear and low self-esteem, threats, poverty: they struggle on until a cathartic moment forces them to seek help.

They too are champions, surviving, often protecting their children, their loved ones. Gaining that first foothold on the road to freedom and accepting the helping hands reaching out to them. Let us always be aware and acknowledge life’s traumas. Do not turn away. Today might be your opportunity to help someone. To feed the poor of spirit, mind, and body.


Accepting human frailties, be they in ourselves or others is no easy task. We prefer to close our eyes to what is in front of us, allowing pride and ego to guide us onto paths of destruction. That may sound dramatic, but it’s a fact of life. Acceptance is the first step. Acknowledging our weakness, then doing something about it. Faith and self-belief will motivate us to act and move forward and walk down the right street.

Portia Nelson says it all in this poem, from The Romance of Self Discovery.


“I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes me a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in. It’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault. I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down another street.”

©Portia Nelson

Portia Nelson, There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery

I have written two novels available on Amazon

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