Tales from Rehab: The Coach

I feel very conflicted writing about this, but it’s weighing on my mind, and I figure that if I change all of the relevant details it will be ethical to post, and not violate the man’s privacy….?

You all know that I attend an alcohol rehab support group twice a week.

Well, there is a man in the group named “Henry.”  Henry is a middle-aged white guy who teaches physical education at a local community college.  He really loves sports, and coaches baseball and basketball.

He is also an alcoholic.

When I first met him and learned that he coached these sports, I recoiled.  He must be a total meathead!  I thought.  Ugh, what a jerk; I’ve taught these guys (players of the Big Three: baseball, football, and basketball) and they are generally GROSS.

Henry is not gross.  I was wrong about Henry; I was prematurely judgmental.

Henry seems fundamentally self-aware and has a sense of decency and he truly enjoys coaching and being around young people (but not in a creepy way, at all).  He identifies with his students.  I can tell that he is probably a good coach, because he is skilled, and he cares.  And he has passion.  He loves what he does.

Well, his wife left him because of the drinking (and, presumably, the host of issues that go along with it).

He went to 60-day inpatient rehab and ended up in my support group.

Henry has adolescent children.   Only a few years younger than the young adults he coaches.

I want to shake him and say, Don’t you understand that they will still forgive you…?  There is still time.  What they want, more than anything, is to believe their father loved them more than drinking.  If you can turn a corner on this, you will be a hero to them.  They will forgive your previous selfishness and addiction, because they need you and they still need to believe in your love.  

If you don’t, in ten years they will hate your guts. 

You will lose your career, because, eventually, you’ll miscalculate your inebriation and be drunk at work around your students.  Almost every alcoholic I know, despite their best efforts, has been drunk when they didn’t mean to be drunk.  And when you are drunk around your students, the parents are going to flip and you are going to be canned.  

How is the job market looking for 55-year-old baseball coaches…?   

You also went to rehab during the school year on your insurance’s dime.  That means that people are watching you now.

You can still pull out of it and save your life and your relationships with the people who love you.  Maybe even your wife back.   I know she still hasn’t completely written you off because she is willing to do marriage counseling if you stay sober, so at least she’s willing to listen. 

It hurts me–which is, admittedly, entirely my own issue–because I see what this man has to lose, and I am rooting for him so hard, and I don’t want him to end up estranged.  It hurts me to see other addicts standing on the precipice.

If I ever had a child, I’d like to think that I’d do anything, including fighting against myself at the most primordial level, to give them the love and leadership they need and deserve.  This is not a slight against Henry.  It is about what my concern provokes within me; this is partially honest concern for him and partially my projection issues.  I sit there with this man twice a week, and I want him to succeed and fight so much.  Neither of my parents resisted themselves.

I don’t know what else to say.

5 thoughts on “Tales from Rehab: The Coach”

  1. Wise words.

    The tragedy of wisdom is that it can be applied so much more easily to other people’s problems than our own because they don’t inhabit us the way our own demons do.

    The demons that inhabit us are nasty, conniving, disruptive, manipulative little critturs. They hate wisdom, do everything they can to undermine it, and thrive on the chaos they create within.

  2. So did you actually attend rehab yourself Margo? I ask because I’m curious why you aren’t going to regular plain old AA meetings like you used to. Why twice a week, have you relapsed relatively recently, or are your cravings more intense of late, or what?

    1. In NYC, I mostly went to Agnostic/Atheist AA. This is not an option here, and I do not feel that I am a good fit in this town’s AA. I have been to many meetings and couldn’t find a ‘home group.’

      The rehab is a professional therapy support group led by a shrink who specializes in addiction medicine. I have to pay to attend, but I think that I get more out of it. I go twice a week in order to maintain my sobriety. Maintenance takes constant effort, at least until the sober addict goes through “the change.” That usually takes at least two years.

      Also: while the rehab is affordable (I pay $40/session if I’m doing well financially and $40 for the week if money is tight), the monetary investment makes it more serious for me.

      I am on the drug Naltrexone, which is an opioid antagonist (no, I never used, or even enjoyed opioids) commonly prescribed to alcoholics in Europe. They are starting to use it here. I started it because I couldn’t take the antabuse anymore, because of the neuropathy side effect. Anyway, I’ve had excellent results with this drug and I highly recommend it–you can look of the patient reviews on WebMD. The side effects were gnarly the first week, but they went away and it’s been smooth sailing ever since.

      Hope this answer is satisfactory.


  3. I went to a sleep away camp when I was a kid. My father and all his friends were highly educated professional men — and each and everyone of them an alcoholic asshole. But the men who worked at the camp — and I spent 8 weeks at this place every summer — were good men. They were all high school or college coaches making a little extra money in the summer. Some had even been champion athletes in their prime. They all cared about the kids and wanted us to do well. Whenever I have to push myself now, I imagine the way they used to talk to me and try to talk to myself that way, and not use the inner-Nazi voice I got from my father and his bombastic, drunken cronies.

    It’s tough to care about people, but it’s good that you do. Who knows, maybe at some point in the group you will be able to say something that will help him. Maybe I am too fatalistic, but I think it’s is rare for someone to be open to hearing a hard truth, or a kind word, or words of encouragement and really take it in. I try to be aware of those moments so I can play a positive role in someone’s life but they are few and far between. And even if it happens, you might never know the effect you had. Lord knows, when I think back on the people who helped me, some of them had no idea I would remember the odd remark years later, but I do.

    The wonderful man at that summer camp who stood with me when I was ten and kept telling me I could throw a ball harder until I finally did throw it harder does not know that his kindness is as alive to me today as it was 50 years ago. I think of myself as a scavenger. I find useful stuff wherever I can and then store it away in my heart of hearts.


    1. A wonderful, thoughtful comment, John. Thank you for taking the time to send it.

      The people who changed my life (for the better) were all teachers. It was acts of unexpected generosity, and expressions of faith in my intellectual talents, that have stayed with me. Even something like writing sincere approving feedback on a paper, or recommending me for a scholarship. Like you, I did not get emotional nurturing at home.

      I always try to let people know when they’ve made a positive impression on me, or when I’m impressed with their work or performance. I think it’s important.

      Thanks for reading (and for writing).


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