By Steve Diogo
Journalist and recovery advocate William Cope Moyers is best known as the author of the New York Times Bestseller, Broken, a vivid, honest and at times grueling account of his addiction and recovery. Since the book’s 2007 release, Moyers, son of acclaimed journalist Bill Moyers, has become a leading voice in the recovery movement, buoyed both by the book and by his position as Hazelden’s Vice President of Public Affairs and Community Relations.
Moyers’ second book, Now What: An Insider’s Guide to Addiction and Recovery, will be published this month by Hazelden. Unlike the deeply personal Broken, Now What is a hands-on guide to getting helpfrom addiction.
Renew Editorial Director Steve Diogocaught up with Moyers recently at his homein St. Paul, Minn., to discuss the new book and what Moyers sees as the core challenges facing the recovery movement in the United States.
Renew: Most of us know you through Broken, which was such a personal book. For me, and for a lot of other people I know, it resonated in a truly unique way. Why is that?
Moyers:Because it’s our story. The details may differ, but at its core, there is no difference among what any of us experience. I’ve been amazed by how my story has resonated and continues to resonate with people who have been sober 30 years and people who still need to find sobriety.
Watch William Cope Moyers — Broken: My Story of Addiction and… on PBS. See more from Healthy Minds.
Renew: Your new book is very different.
Moyers:It’s all based on that perplexing question we all face, which is, “Now what?” I’m standing in a crack house, I’m cooked, I’ve relapsed, my whole world is falling down around me and I’m asking myself, now what. And I can’t answer the question. Well, this book is based on the fact that that question actually has a pretty simple answer: Get help.
Renew: What was the impetus for this book?
Moyers: This is not a deep, profound book. It reads really fast. It’s not meant to be a game changer. It won’t go down as one of the greatest books ever written. The impetus is based on what has happened in my life. I am a publicly identifiable recovering person because of my work with Hazelden and because of Broken. And so I am sort of like a lint brush that picks things up as I roll through communities. Because I have this platform, I am a lightning rod for people who need help. So the book is a quick guide to what to do when you face that question, now what. It’s not “Addiction for Dummies,” but it’s not Broken. It’s just a way for me to help people who need and want help.
Renew: You refer to yourself as a publicly identifiable recovering person. In a world where the power of our stories is the greatest leverage point we have for change, do you believe it’s important for more of us to be publicly identifiable?
Moyers: Yes. That’s why the book is something any of us could write if we just sat down and wrote it. It’s a reflection of what you and I and the guy down the street know. Each of us is a resource guide. The book is just a reflection of my experience and the knowledge I’ve picked up. It’s biased toward Twelve Step programs because that’s what I experienced. That’s what worked for me. There are millions of us who can step up and answer the question, now what, if only we were willing to stand up and illustrate it. I don’t expect everyone to do it the way I do it. I have a name that attracts attention. I work for a credible organization. That gives me more opportunity than most people have to be an advocate. But all of us have the answers in us and we have the ability to share it; and we could all be resources for our communities if we took advantage of it. Here I am; what do you need? That’s where we could all be coming from.
For centuries there was no hope or help for people like us. Then along came this thing called the Twelve Steps and they became ingrained in many types of treatment for all sorts of issues, and out the other side came people like you and me. And if we are open about it in our spheres of influence, we can make a difference. We can save lives. It’s not about getting on a soapbox; it’s about being available. A long time ago I broke my anonymity, and I really believe I had no choice. When Larry King asked me in 1998, “William, how do you recover?” I said, ‘I rely on the collective wisdom of thousands of people who came before me.’ But when it came time to write Broken, when I decided to write a book that spared no detail, then I owed it to my readers to explain exactly how I recovered —that it isn’t about magic, that it isn’t a miracle, that it isn’t about just saying no— then I had to out myself as a member of a Twelve Step movement. There are other ways to do it, but I don’t have experience with them. It is possible to be advocates— whether it’s in our state houses or our book clubs—without violating anonymity.
Renew: What does your work mean for your recovery?
Moyers:I’ve always been careful not to count my work as my recovery, but to use my recovery to bolster my work. There’s always a danger when you work in the field that you stop taking care of yourself and focus on taking care of other people. When I work my own program, I don’t do it in my role at Hazelden. But my recovery does benefit because I get to help people. I always have to scratch my head and wonder how this happened. I’ve been sober for 18 years, and I’ve gone from being this hopeless, helpless lost soul—someone who really used to hurt people—to someone who gets to help people just like me. Life has this way of unfolding along with recovery, and here I am working for Hazelden, traveling the country and speaking out as an advocate for recovery and doing what I can to help people who need help. You can never imagine what it will be like one day, and then suddenly it’s “one day” and you find yourself giving back.