Alcoholism or dependence on alcohol is defined as a disease. And alcohol is one of the most commonly abused substances in America. It’s legal, it’s easy to get, and drinking is not just accepted, but often, glorified. For many it is just a part of life; a glass of wine after work, with family and friends while celebrating. That’s how Robert Sanders saw alcohol, until his dependence and disease spiraled out of control.
“Growing up, it was the Beale overpass, the people out there with the brown bags, that was the addict or the person on the street corner shooting up, that was the addict. But it wasn’t. It was person with the good job and good car and was hiding it.”
That was Sanders. Good job, good car, he went to church and he had a nice family. And a dark secret. “It probably started to be a problem before I knew it was a problem. Going to lunch and having two or three hour lunches. Every social event was around alcohol. Make sure you had wine, wine tasting.” He didn’t see it as a problem, until everything else started to collapse. The 2008 housing crisis hit his successful mortgage company hard. That crash, would soon extend to his life. “When the crash hit, we should have closed the company, but I tried to keep it open for two years. The stress got the best of me. I started drinking more. Alcohol led into other things. I lost my family and everything else.”
This isn’t the first time Sanders has been through a recovery program. But seven months sober, he says this time is different. This time he’s being honest about his problem, in front of God and everyone. “The last time in treatment I made my mind up. All the other times in treatment, I hid it. No one knew I had a problem. I took a road trip and told all my relatives, so everybody was watching me.” And something else has changed, his whole direction in life. At 53-years-old, he’s taking courses to become a drug and addiction counselor. “I think for years and years my purpose was what can I get. I had the big house, cars, we took trips, but that didn’t fill the needs of my heart. Maybe I found my calling. To spend the next 20 years and give back and help people rather than just take from society.”