To me, recovery means stability; having a family; having a career and living a successful life. Without recovery and sobriety, I would not be able to boast of any of those things. I made a decision on my own almost 20 years ago, just before becoming an elected official and just after getting married, to end a life of irresponsibility and begin a life without the burdens that come with addiction and alcoholism.
My "MO" wasn't one where frequency was the problem, but when I drank, I didn't stop. I didn't have bottles hidden in my desk drawer or in my car, but when I got started, I went to the bell and beyond. These actions began to clearly interfere with my professional life and my responsibilities as a community member and husband.
I would "go big" once a week, but when one night turned into two in a row, my wife asked a simple but powerful question, "What's going on?" That was all I had to hear to know and admit to having a problem. I haven't had a drink since then. I used a Twelve Step program for assistance and support in staying sober and through that program have learned the incredible value of "I am not alone; there are so many others out there just like me."
I met dozens, scores, hundreds of people from all different backgrounds and inevitably there was always someone I felt comfortable leaning on. The program's meetings also offered me an opportunity to transfer a social life that included weekly trips to the bar, to a group of people that didn't need alcohol to be "fun" or interesting. In those groups, I met individuals in recovery with whom I have established lifelong friendships.
Choosing sobriety was the smartest thing I ever did. It has allowed me to be a successful public official, father, husband, and community leader. If I were still in the habit, none of those would be true. When I became an elected official, the first committee assignment I was given by Speaker Silver was to Chair the Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. I was nine or 10 years sober and people in Buffalo knew it because I'd stand up in crowded church basements and acknowledge, "My name is Sam Hoyt and I am an alcoholic."
As Chair, many of the local community leaders came to me and said, "Sam, we are glad someone who truly understands addiction is in this position - would you consider speaking publicly about your recovery?" At first, I was a little bit uncomfortable about going public, but they promised that my story could help reduce the stigma of addiction and perhaps encourage others to seek out the help they needed. The stereotype is that it's the homeless person pushing the shopping cart, but addiction affects all people, even those that have gone on to be very successful in their chosen fields.
I received so many positive e-mails and phone calls after sharing my story publicly that I took comfort in knowing my decision to not only put down the bottle, but to tell my story of recovery had been well worth it. I bring that same feeling of hope with me to the Your Story Matters campaign. There is no survival in addiction, but there can be an immeasurable existence in recovery. If I inspire just one person to give recovery a try, then I have done my job.
My name is Sam, and my story is about survival. What's Your Story?