They say never judge a book by its cover.
I recently wrote a story for the Chicago Tribune about a group of four young men from the far northwest suburbs, in their early twenties, who had already gone through enough chaos and self-destruction in their lives to last a lifetime.
They each, at one point or another, were addicted to alcohol, prescription drugs and heroine. They'd each spent time in jail and took part in various recovery programs.
One of the men, who today is 22, had overdosed from heroine three times. On the last overdose, which he says he did on purpose, he laid on the hospital bed and told his family to just let him die. He was just 18 then.
This young man had begun down his path to near complete self-ruin when he was just 14, drinking alcohol after school with his buddies from the local hockey team. He recalled after that first drink, there was just no turning back. He liked the way it made him feel. He liked the confidence and elation he felt. He especially liked the confidence it gave him to talk to girls, he said.
His road became darker and more tumultuous as the drugs varied and increased.
Many, including his own family, likely thought oft-times he would soon die or just sort of go off on his own and self-destruct.
Today, these four young men have found their sobriety, and they work hard for it every day. They work their recovery meetings and stick with sober friends.
When I met and interviewed them, I felt like I was meeting the most genuine young men. The most caring people. They were just so excited to be alive and well. They are now committed to helping others find and keep their sobriety and they are so excited to talk about it.
When they were drugging these were young men we'd typically walk the other way from, I'm sure. But today, and at such a young age, these are young men whom I can say I'd trust and back up to anyone as good, kind human beings.
During our interviews these guys did not lie one bit, or minimize just how bad they were when they were in their addictions. They told me about stealing, lying, being in jail, treating their families badly. They told me how awful it is to go through a heroine withdrawal, "It's like having the worst flu of your life and being hit by a truck at the same time," one told me.
They were and are completely open and willing to use their stories to help keep others healthy and clean from drugs and alcohol.
The media is making such a huge deal of Lance Armstrong coming forward to Oprah with his story of steroid usage. I cannot pat good old Lance on the back, nor do I hold him in the same esteem as these young, these ordinary guys from the northwest suburbs of Chicago.
Lance has fame, money, and resources that these boys will likely never know, or maybe they will. I read that the only reason Lance Armstrong is coming clean now about his drug usage is so he can compete again or something. He is getting something out of this so-called confession to Oprah. Where is his truth?
These four young men I wrote about are not Olympians, they are not privileged, they are not rich and famous, they were never married to a beautiful celebrity (Sheryl Crow) like Lance Armstrong. He is a spoiled man who abused his blessings. And now we are supposed to be so impressed because he came clean about using performance enhancing drugs? No, I don't think so.
I don't think Lance Armstrong could hold a candle to these young men I met. I do not believe he is as trustworthy as they are today. I don't think he is anywhere near as credible or selfless as they are. I am no where near as impressed with Lance Armstrong as I am with these young men.
I hope these young men keep their sobriety and I pray I meet more people like them in this world. They are willing to share their ugly truths, their dark and scary tales of their greatest mistakes and regrets to help others. These young men are true and honest examples of humanity. I am truly blessed to have met them.
Oprah does not know their names, nor is it likely she will interview them on her show. But she is missing out. And Lance Armstrong, well he will never know true, selfless honesty as these young men do.
I definitely got the better interview this time Oprah!
Until next time, love each other.