Andrew Gillum, others who struggle with alcoholism need support, not judgment | Opinion
Like many of you, I am sitting in my kitchen, writing a letter during this “shelter-in place.” This letter is to Andrew.
I don’t know Andrew, but I know his story. Plain and simple, I just want to say to people like Andrew, or those out there suffering: You are not alone in this fight.
Who is Andrew? The Andrew I am writing to is someone you know — Andrew Gillum. A former elected official from Florida, Andrew took the national stage as a young firebrand.
Andrew is the former mayor of Tallahassee, who lost a race to be the governor of Florida back in 2018, in one of the closest races in Florida history.
In March, Andrew was found drunk in a Miami Beach hotel room. When I first heard the news of his incident, I wanted to judge Andrew — as most people on social media do — but I could not.
Why? Because horrid memories raced through my head of the times I woke up exactly like Andrew. Many alcoholics have woken up like that too many times — the many of us who deal with substance abuse and depression.
After waking up, I was usually thinking: Where am I? How did I get here? What did we drink or what did we use to get high? Was I roofied? Will I catch something? My heart would race with anxiety.
Andrew stated that he was self-medicating his depression with alcohol. It’s time we as a society embrace this problem — and help further its full treatment, rather than stigmatize it.
Our alcoholism took us to places we would never go when sober, and do things we would normally never do. It truly is “cruise control” in dangerous conditions.
It’s good to hear that Andrew has checked into rehab and is stepping back from public life in order to work on himself and be there for his beautiful family.
Although the media and internet may be willing to write off the former mayor as having hit rock bottom, one of the most important first steps in dealing with alcoholism is admitting you have a problem.
It will not be easy, but he needs all the support he can get right now. Now is not the time to abandon him or declare anything about his career.
Rebuilding a life can take years — I know. I am proud of my recovery of three years. Not a day goes by that I am not fighting for my sobriety, but I am so proud of my journey and would not change a thing.
This COVID-19 pandemic, when many counties have a “stay-at-home” order, has brought many additional hardships to the recovery community. For many addicts, we must remain connected to our community to fight this disease.
When addicts isolate, depression, anxiety and other nightmarish thoughts race through our minds. Isolation can lead to picking up again, using or drinking. And if you’re not connected, it can be a life-or-death situation. But rebuilding and working your “12 Steps” does not have to be hampered by the pandemic.
Our Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are available on Zoom all across the USA. When I need a meeting, I log onto aasanjose.org. If you are connected, all you do is text your friends in recovery and have a quick unofficial meeting! It works.
Andrew Gillum is not alone as he works to rebuild. Andrew, like many others who suffer from this disease, needs our support.
I am with you, Andrew. We are all with you.
Omar Torres is a community relations director to Council Member Magdalena Carrasco, in San José, California. He also serves as the California Democratic Party regional director for Northern California. He has no personal connection to Andrew Gillum, and knows him only through reading about him.
For local help
For information on AA meetings in the North Florida area, visit intergroup5.org or call the 24-hour Intergroup 5 Hotline at 850-224-1818.
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