1,000-Mile Journey to Raise Awareness for Alcoholism

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This article was written exclusively for MyAddiction.com by Jim Serger Jr., who shares how he coped with his father's addiction to alcohol and discusses his 1,000-mile cross-country bike ride to raise awareness for addiction.

For 50 years, my dad battled an addiction to alcohol. But instead of dealing with the problem head-on, our family just tried to keep it hidden. We were better than alcoholism.

We had it all growing up: private schools, a great house, a wonderful neighborhood, and a beautiful family. However, alcoholism does not pick and choose. It does not seek out the weak, the uneducated, the poor, or the less fortunate. Alcoholism will take over anyone it can, but we must remember that it can only win if we allow it to.

My Father's Battle with Alcoholism

The word "denial" plays a huge role in understanding alcoholism. For years, our family denied any association to alcoholism, yet we were all completely aware of what was going on.

In my early 20s, confronting my dad was extremely hard. His denial was more obvious than ever before — I constantly heard things like, “I have it under control,” and, "I know what I am doing.” But he didn’t have it under control.

In 1999, after sweeping his alcoholism under the rug for many years, my father hit rock bottom. His downfall affected me profoundly. My hero, my buddy, my friend, someone I loved very much, was now at the lowest point in his entire life.

But after hitting bottom, something amazing happened — he raised his hand and admitted he was an alcoholic. Over the next two years, he lived in and out of halfway houses and shelters until finally completing a stay at an all-men’s rehabilitation center. In 2001, he graduated from the program and was invited back into our lives with open arms.

This year, 2013, marks my father’s 13th year of sobriety. He is a loving father, husband, grandfather, brother, cousin and friend to so many, and I am immensely proud of him.

Going the Distance to Increase Awareness

In October of 2011, my father and I wrote a book called Go the Distance. In it, I share how my family and I went to tremendous lengths to salvage our relationship with my father and to save him from the dark depths of his addiction.

To further raise awareness about addiction and other important causes, I decided to embark on a 1,033-mile bicycle ride from my home in Indiana to Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. I started training for the ride in June of 2012, and I planned to finish the journey in October of that year.

My thousand-mile cross-country journey was, in many ways, similar to our family’s journey to battle my father’s alcoholism. When my dad was battling alcoholism, we believed we didn’t need help. We felt we could handle the situation on our own, and we refused to turn to experts for assistance and support.

When I decided to embark on my bicycle journey, I did not make the same mistake. I was about to begin training for a sport that I had no understanding of. Yet, instead of trying to do it all on my own, I resolved to ask professionals for guidance. I turned to the local bicycle shop next to my house, which provided me with the care, wisdom and leadership I needed to tackle such an obstacle.

Lifting the Burden and Inspiring Others

From my training for the bicycle ride and my experience battling my father’s alcoholism, I truly discovered that nothing can be accomplished without the support and guidance of others. When we admit we need help and finally climb out of the sinkhole of denial, people will embrace us wholeheartedly and will guide us in the right direction so that we can accomplish our goal.

Raising awareness is not a glorious task — we have to open doors that we want to remain closed. But when I finally opened these doors, a huge burden was lifted from my shoulders. But once my dad and I discussed our story, talked about our triumphs, and shared our struggle to maintain our close relationship, something truly amazing happened: Other people began to share their stories.

Through sharing our story, we created a space where others felt comfortable talking about difficult experiences. While it was extremely challenging for my father and I to reopen old wounds and share our experience, the payoff was extraordinary.

Click here to visit Jim Serger's website.

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