I shall take the heart…

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“I shall take the heart,” returned the Tin Woodsman; “for brains do not make one happy, and happiness is the best thing in the world.” ― L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz


Growing up in a theatrical and artistic household once a year that we would all sit down and watch the classic 1939 film, THE WIZARD OF OZ. Little did I realize during all of those endless viewings just how closely my own story would mirror that of the classic tale I was forced to watch.  My life as I knew it then was in sepia, just like the beginning of the movie. A colorless brown hued story. Also, as in the movie, a storm was brewing, I couldn’t help but watch, as it inched closer and closer. I remember running back into my house desperately looking for comfort, everything around me in dull hues, especially my senses. The gloomy room was comforting but for how long?  My life, like Dorothy Gales’ house, began to shake, unable to withstand the reality of the twister that was now my life. As many times as before I wake up in disarray, I see all my empty liquor and wine bottles around me; I must have gotten knocked out. I do a check, everything is still a hue of black and white just as it always has been. I don’t hear or feel the storm anymore and wonder if I’m safe. Like Dorothy, I slowly open the door and find myself surrounded by an array of vivid colors.


My interventionist, turns out she is the good witch, tells me things are about to change walking with me hand in a hand like a guardian angel, I didn’t like it but it felt right. My storm and journey had landed me in the world of the Jaywalker Lodge. This new land had many characters and bright vivid color, and just like Dorothy I had a feeling that “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore”.  Boy oh boy, was I correct and my work had just begun. It started with my courage, just as the cowardly lion. I have had a hard time with this my whole life, and asking for help was not easy due to being a southern stubborn man. I learned along the way that having the courage to ask for help made you strong instead of weak, powerful and not complacent. I would be lying if I said this was an easy task but somewhere along my journey I gained my courage, asked for help and conquered one of my flying monkeys. The next task was gaining my heart back; it had been years since I had truly loved myself, something which my counselors pointed out to me. I had no idea where to begin with this, but I had guidance from the program and my peer group, just like Dorothy had her friends to keep her on the yellow brick road. I began to feel more comfortable and much more natural in the land of Jaywalker.


I noticed around five months of looking into this how truly in love and happy with myself I had grown to be. I knew I had more work to do but seeing how much progress I had made showed me the possibilities of more growth. The last obstacle was to reprogram my brain to make good choices. This would be my hardest task! One which takes time, patience, tenacity, and applying the tools I had been gaining in this colorful new world. There was about a month in the beginning where it was hard to think properly. My mind would always push me to do what I knew I shouldn’t; it was like the black and white world needed me and I needed it. I fought hard and applied every tool I had to fend it off in that rough couple of months until the black and white faded. The brain I finally gained back made me feel like a kid again, smarter, quicker and more lively than I had felt in years! These things I gained are not a given and I still must work hard to maintain them on a daily basis.


I know with the tools given to me at Jaywalker, the bubble of close friends, courage, heart and brain I am good and feel better than ever about where I am currently in my life. This is all thanks to my family in Florida and the one I have gained in Carbondale, Colorado that keeps me trucking forward and looking toward another colorful year of sobriety!
At the end of THE WIZARD OF OZ , Dorothy asks Glinda the Good witch “ why didn’t you just send me home?”  Her reply is “ you’ve always had the power,  but you had to learn it yourself.” Four years of sobriety has helped me learn my power.

We all truly do have the power to feel, become, and overcome all of the obstacles put before us.  We just need to find our own personal yellow brick road to get to our destination.

(As a side note, I hated that movie as a kid. Who knew it would make sense all these years later as an allegory to my sobriety?)


Daniel F.

author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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