Martha Randolph Carr Martha Randolph Carr, 6/5/2008 [Archive]

Life in the Second Act

Life in the Second Act

By Martha Randolph Carr

An old rule of journalism worth noting is: avoid leaking your own life into a story. That would be blogging. Old school says that there is supposed to be a firewall between the rest of the world we write about and what's going on with us from day to day. We may tell a small anecdote to illustrate a point but we aren't the story.

But occasionally something happens, usually over time, which is so life-changing that a writer feels compelled to step over the wall and shed some light on a rare event. In those moments the reporter becomes an accidental witness from the inside. It is a rare gift earned through some arduous journey that was so consuming it became something that the body and soul didn't live through, but survived.

Mine is that my young son, Louie, has been sober for one year today. There is so much portent in that statement and it encompasses so much anguish, danger, confusion, lost chances, and violence that can be imagined. He called me tonight just after midnight at my home in New York City, from his in Chicago, to mark the occasion and he asked if we could tell the world.

His voice alternated between wonder and choked-back tears that he had made it a full year without taking a drink. It is the first year since he became a teenager that he has spent sober. The months leading up to when he began to get sober were full of darkness, included an arrest, flunking out of college and driving everyone who loved him away. I had come to believe that the child I had known was gone for good.

But I was wrong and it was a small moment that turned things around. That's what we want everyone who is struggling with addiction right now from either side of the table to know. Sometimes what we think is the worst day of our lives, turns out to be the best.

At the place where everything unraveled and Louie had used up almost every chance, he tried again. That was the turning point; his willingness to try just one more time. He entered another rehabilitation program and found what it was he needed to break his life down into living just one day at a time and let all the rest go. It sounds stupidly simple but is profound in how it can change a life. Louie brought to the table all of his fear and uncertainty, anger and pain and became willing to try again and each day he has made the same choice again. It isn't a choice you can make in advance for the rest of your life and by learning that lesson it is how to change a life into anything that is imagined.

Today, Louie is back in school and doing well and is spending the summer at a paid internship in social work. He has found it challenging with long hours and loves every minute of it. Within the one year that has passed are struggles, joy and triumph in equal measure to the darkness of years past. The best part is Louie has a life that makes him happy and was built by the choices he has made.

We both have learned that there is no problem so great that it can't be made better. In that idea is so much possibility if we can only give in to it each and every day.

Watching Louie at such a young age surrender who he was to become somebody else has left me with a sense of grace that I call upon now whenever I wonder if something I am fretting over will work out alright. In that moment I remember to ask myself if I have done all I can in this one day that I have been given and then I brush my teeth and go to bed. From those small steps, great things are accomplished. More adventures to follow.

© 2008 Martha Randolph Carr. Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate. For info call Sales at (805) 969-2829 or email

Martha Randolph Carr's latest book, A Place to Call Home is available wherever books are sold. If you'd like Martha to come and speak to your group: Author's email:

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