It was midday and 12-year old Ted Deinard sat at the bar with his father trying to stifle his hiccups. The bar was quiet given the time of day – Ted’s hiccups were not.
“I’ve got a sure-fire remedy to cure those hiccups if you want to try,” the bartender said.
Ted nodded his head yes, and leaned over the shiny bar counter to watch the bartender work. He squeezed half a lemon into a glass, added four tablespoons of salt, and ground in a pimento-filled olive. He added he added a shot of vodka, a shot of brandy, Coca-Cola from the soda gun, and a maraschino cherry.
Then a tablespoon of honey, two tablespoons of confectioner’s sugar, a dollop of sour cream, some grenadine, then ice. He mixed this concoction up in a cocktail shaker, poured it into a glass, and lifted it up for inspection.
As Ted reached out to grab the glass, the bartender looked him square in the eye and waited for a quick moment before asking, “Are your hiccups gone?”
They were, in fact, gone.
Ted didn’t want his time with his father to be cut short. The moments he had with him were so precious that he’d do anything just to be near the man he rarely saw yet idolized. If that meant sitting with him in a half-empty bar, so be it.
Ted’s father died of alcoholism a few years later.
There was a time when his father had the world at his fingertips. He was good-looking and well-liked, a fighter pilot the in the Navy, and a Harvard Law School graduate. He had a beautiful wife and children.
But alcoholism is a fickle thief that steals these things away – leaving isolation and a spiral of shame where there was once a vibrant life.
Today, Ted is the Chairman of the Board of Recovery Community Development (RCD), an organization for men that helps break the cycle of isolation stemming from addiction. Their mission is to bridge the gap between becoming sober and lasting sobriety by providing safe, affordable housing, a community of support, and an opportunity to find full-time work: tangible tools and solutions to rebuild their lives.
“When you come out of treatment you need to be surrounded by a community that understands you, offers support, and knows what you need,” says Tony Kiniry, Executive Director, Westport resident, and sober for 25 years. “Giving others the time and ability to get back on their feet, to walk before they run, is very unique in what we do at RCD.”
Sadly, the need for RCD has never been greater, given the epidemic of addiction clutching almost all of our families in some way. Currently, there are two at-capacity sober living houses in Norwalk and Bridgeport, and another one scheduled to open soon.
“As a community, we’re looking out for each other,” says RCD House Manager Dan Chilvers, who grew up in Fairfield. “But when someone calls and asks if there’s a bed available and I have to say ‘no’ because we’re at capacity, it affects me in a way that I can’t even put words to...all I can think is where’s he going to go?”
Dan knows how vital it is to have people who support you and hold you accountable. Not only is he in recovery, but he has helped countless others go from believing their lives were over to thriving in a way they thought was no longer possible.
James Wheeler has been in and out of rehab programs six times over the years. Each stint in rehab got him sober, but as soon as he came back to his “real” life he quickly relapsed. Even though he was surrounded by a loving and caring family, he didn't have the scaffolding to manage the chronic and progressive nature of the disease.
He felt alone and hopeless, desperate for relief from the crippling feeling of wanting to escape from himself.
Thankfully for James, the last time he came out of rehab he found RCD, and the community enabled him to finally get back what he had lost.
“I owe my life to this community. I live in a place where I am surrounded by support, I have a job and work that I love, and I have the tools and resources to pull myself back up when I need to,” says James.
Today, James, a master carpenter, is an integral part of RCD as the Renovation Manager for its fully licensed construction arm. In this role, he not only oversees the work, but he helps train residents who wish to gain new skills for employment in construction.
“I know it’s [RCD] the only thing keeping me sober,” shares James. “Know how to ask for help and rely on other people, that’s the key to success.”
Addiction would like us to believe that we are alone; that no one else can relate to what we are going through, and there is nothing we can do for ourselves or our loved ones to loosen its destructive grip. RCD shines a light onto this falsity, leaving in its place connection. It’s here where community is built, hope is restored, and lives are put back together.