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The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

I’m closing in on 40 years of recovery, and people ask me if I still need help —  more than ever.
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July 10, 2024
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Hunter Biden is the poster boy for crack cocaine. The bathtub shots of him smoking rock are perfect. Now, all cleaned up in tailored suits, shaven, healthy-looking, it’s hard to believe it’s the same gun-buying, hooker-loving, crack-smoking Hunter. He certainly looks different, but is he? I have no idea. Like his parents, I hope so. But you never know what’s churning inside the addict. I know because, like Hunter, I am an addict. 

Hunter and I are lucky to be alive. Seventy-four thousand plus overdose deaths from just Fentanyl in 2022. Seventy percent were male. Many were barely out of their teens. Some passed the first time they tried it. This number doesn’t include alcohol and other drugs. 

I’m closing in on 40 years of recovery, and people ask me if I still need help —  more than ever. I have so much more to lose. I didn’t have a wife and kids when I got sober. Sobriety gave me all that. When it comes to addiction, you are never safe or free. Like a rattler, it’s lurking, ready to strike and strike hard. It’s said that when you get sober, the only thing you must change is everything. I learned the disease of addiction is centered in the brain. It’s a disease that tells the person they don’t have a disease. It’s a disease that tells me it was everyone’s fault but my own. I caught some bad luck; if the cops didn’t see my busted taillight, I wouldn’t be in a jail cell sitting on a toilet with five others watching me.  

Thirty-five or so years ago, I told a guy who pulled into what I perceived as my parking space I was going to slit his tires and break his car windows if he did not pull out. I was sober for almost five years at that time. He did not pull out, and I did not slit his tires. Addicts are angry. Some even call it slowbriety. Sobriety is a slow process; it can take five years to get the cobwebs out of your brain. 

“Leave me alone” is the mantra of almost everyone with an addiction. So, for me to stay sober, I must change the way I think and react to life. I must become a part of life. Addicts must learn to pause when agitated.

“Leave me alone” is the mantra of almost everyone with an addiction. So, for me to stay sober, I must change the way I think and react to life. I must become a part of life. Addicts must learn to pause when agitated.

The most common denominator of most addicted people is a broken heart. Once the heart has been broken, the person is very fragile — many times for life. My wife or kids can say something that might hurt, sometimes on purpose, sometimes not, but I can become Humpty Dumpty and crack very quickly. Then all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t put me back together again. And if I don’t get put back together and rewire the short in my brain, I could become impossible to live with. That is a broken heart.

Hunter and I ordinarily would never mix. Politically, we’re opposed. But once I think I’m better than Hunter or some inner-city rockhead, that’s the beginning of the slide back. I was lucky I got off the elevator before it crashed into the basement and I needed to be pulled out.

So, how does one get sober and stay sober? There are many ways. Mine happens to be by going to meetings and talking to other alcoholics every day and having gratitude for the gift of sobriety. Without gratitude, every step has a fork in the road. A guide to help me navigate the rocky waters of life has saved me many times. For some, it’s a sponsor, a rabbi, a priest, or a good friend. It’s also the belief that there is a God, and He wants me to be sober so I can be of service. Must everyone who gets sober believe in God? No. But I think it helps. If I were Hunter, could I have stayed sober with all the pressure he is under? I don’t know. But if he called and asked me or any of my sober buddies for help, no matter where we stand politically, we would be there in the blink of an eye because helping others is how you get to keep your sobriety.


Mark Schiff is a comedian, actor and writer, and hosts, along with Danny Lobell, the ‘We Think It’s Funny’ podcast. His new book is “Why Not? Lessons on Comedy, Courage and Chutzpah.”

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