March 24, 2021 – I have little doubt that the White House has seen its share of people with alcoholism up and down the chain of command; maybe a few even darkened the door of a meeting or two. But until now, the most famous recovering person in the White House was a character on “The West Wing.” In the real world, until now, no one in that upper echelon had introduced themselves to the public the way Walsh did at the 2016 Democratic National Convention: “My name is Marty Walsh, and I’m an alcoholic.”

While our culture has crept toward erasing much of the stigma around addiction, President Biden only has to look as far as headlines about his son Hunter for a reminder that the public can still be wildly judgmental and cruel about those of us forced to contend with the disease — which is chronic as well as fatal — on a national stage. When someone is lost to the disease of addiction — and there are so many ways you get lost — the thing you too often hear is, “What a waste.” When we get sober, we get to share our gifts, and we want to share them; but if we are public about our story, we’re limited by the expectations others have of someone who admits to living one day at a time. When I think of the people who have hesitated to enter politics or limited their ambitions because they know they can’t promise to be sober forever … what a waste.



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