Darin Barry: Hi, I’m Darin and I’m an alcoholic | TheUnion.com

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Darin Barry: Hi, I’m Darin and I’m an alcoholic

Today, I have 30 days of sobriety. I just returned from alcohol rehab at Pathways in Marysville. I have a shiny new coin with Pathways logo on it, and the serenity prayer on the reverse.

Pathways give these coins to clients on successful completion of the program. It's a little thing, but it means a lot to me.

I met some of the finest people I have ever met in my life down there — people who ordinarily would not mix but share one thing in common: we are all alcoholics. I lived with my peers in alcoholism for 24 hours a day over 21 days. All of them, 10 in all, have become some of the finest friends I've ever had. It was hard to fight back tears for everyone involved in my exit ceremony. It was a hug-fest.

One of my peers who was of the greatest inspiration for me was an ex-con, who, for purposes of anonymity, I will call James. Under the three strikes law years ago, James was sentenced to life in prison for stealing two cartons of cigarettes. Then California passed a proposition overturning three strikes and James was set free.

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Meanwhile, 22 years went by.

Yeah, this guy spent 22 years in upper levels prisons for stealing two cartons of cigarettes. James had racked up over 10 years of sobriety being in prison where one can still get jail-made liquor and drugs from the outside. When he was released, he went immediately to rehab to reinforce his abstinence so he would never be sent back to prison for parole violation for drinking or drugging. Today he is 56.

I was afraid of him at first. He's full of muscles and covered with prison tattoos. But he quickly showed his vulnerable side and was always smiling and joking with me. He is not an angry person, but a grateful person. We would go outside under the sun and lift weights in our spare time. He was determined to make a muscle man out of me. He was determined to stay sober. He didn't read all that well, so I helped him study the Big Book of a 12-step program. We picked each other up often.

But it wasn't just the love of my peers at Pathways that kept me going. It takes a village sometimes, and man do we have a village.

I was informed that throngs of support came my way via Facebook's Nevada County Peeps group while I was in rehab. When I opened my account up, it was filled with hundreds of kind-hearted messages from Nevada County residents, most I don't know. Some amazing strangers showed up to support and encourage while I was in the hospital detoxing at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital as well. They knew me only from my posts on Facebook.

This speaks volumes for our spirit in the Gold Country.

Darin Barry is a writer, a musician, a political activist and a mental health advocate. His work has appeared on Rachel Maddow, CNN, Time, Newsweek, The Denver Post and numerous media mentions. He likes to hear from fellow bipolar sufferers, alcoholics and their families. He can be reached at pdxblackcat@gmail.com. He lives in Nevada City.