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The Trials of Pat O'Brien

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By Anna David

12/26/12

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Are you in AA?

I am. I go to around five or six meetings a week. My sponsor has 28 years of recovery. I really do take care of myself—I take care of my mind, I don’t block anything out. I used to think there’s no way I could sit in a meeting and say I’m an alcoholic. Now I can’t wait to get there.

What is it you get out of meetings?

I think it’s what people want out of life—that there’s somebody like you. That’s why people fall in love, get married, why people will buy things that they see Heidi Klum wearing: it’s that you want to believe there’s someone like you. Recovery is this community where everyone is like you. It’s like walking into the family you never had and they’re all there—the drunk uncle, the little brother you never hugged, everyone. I defy anyone who’s having a bad day to come out of a meeting and think they’re worse off than someone else. That was the brilliance of the founders—to design a place where it’s like, “Let’s let these assholes see what it’s like.”

Do you think it’s important to be public about recovery?

I do. I’m not afraid of losing a viewer or a job because I’m a recovering alcoholic. That’s one of the problems I have with the anonymous part of the program—the anonymous part can be just another lie. If you go to an AA meeting and add another fear to your life—that a co-worker’s going to see you there—you’ve been fucked again. I run into people that I know from meetings somewhere and sometimes they’ll cringe if they’re with somebody. As I’m walking away, I’ll hear the person they’re with go, “How do you know Pat O’Brien?” And I feel sorry for those people because it’s just another lie. Then they have to say, “Oh, we met at the grocery store.” The only way to be actually free is to not have to lie and have a life where you don’t have secrets. Lies just create more fear. My big fear my whole life was that something would happen to me that would make me look bad. 

My big fear my whole life was that something would happen to me that would make me look bad. 

What’s the most important thing we can do to help people find recovery?

People need to find the right recovery. People who go into recovery are wounded—not just by drugs and alcohol but by a life of not looking at themselves. They’re wounded by a life of hating authority and either bad parents or too much parenting. If a wounded animal comes up to your doorstep, you don’t say, “Shut up and go make your bed.” You try to fix it first. So I think the first impression is so important. 

How has your life changed since you’ve gotten sober?

Well, before, someone once wrote about me, “He’s the kind of guy that men want to drink with and their wives want to sleep with.” Not anymore. [Laughs] Now men just want to go to AA meetings with me.

Anna David is the Executive Editor of The Fix and the author of the books Party GirlBoughtReality Matters and Falling For Me and the Kindle Single Animal Attraction. She's written about Tom Sizemore and sober fear facing, among many other topics, for The Fix.

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