Two months and fifty pages later I received another phone call. This time it was a treatment center in Indianapolis that wanted me to come speak at their annual fund- raiser. I had been asked many times to do this, the offers usually coming with large sums of cash attached. I had always said no, firmly believing that my recovery was private, anonymity a preference if not an obligation. I said yes to the good people in Indianapolis not because of a conversion in my thinking but out of necessity; I would have a book to promote in a year and the sooner I was comfortable speaking publicly about my recovery the better. At six o'clock the morning of my speech, I found myself in an Indianapolis television station being interviewed by a well- meaning young news reporter who wanted to know what it was like being a heroin addict.
"Oh my God," I thought. I didn't want to be on TV talking about that.
What had I done? Why did I open my mouth? Maybe I shouldn't write a memoir after all. How the hell am I going to get out of this? These were the thoughts racing through my mind as I settled into the hot seat at my next interview in a radio station studio, facing the large picture window that looked like something on the Today show. The host of the radio program picked up where the TV reporter had left off: "Did you take LSD, Chris?"
I'm sitting there thinking "Beam me up, Scotty!" when a homeless man walks up to the window holding a sign that reads, "Can you help me get sober?" His name was Lawrence, he was fifty years old, and he'd been living drunk in a Dumpster for five years. In an instant I knew why I was on the radio and television that morning. I was there to speak to Lawrence and others like him. I haven't shut up since.
So, I told my story of recovery, and found, surprisingly, that that was the part of my life that fascinated people the most—the part that resonated more profoundly than any other. Everywhere I went on the Symptoms publicity tour, I was asked the same question: "What happened to you on the morning of February seventeenth in 1986?" I had written about that day as the moment I had the revelation that resulted in my continuing sobriety and people wanted to hear more. In fact, they asked me about that moment with a need to know bordering on desperation. It seemed like they were dying for me to share the secret that allowed me to change from hopeless addict to someone who had stayed sober for twenty years, lived a productive life, and written a book about it all. Everywhere I visited, I ran into folks thirsting for some reassurance that change might be possible. It was clear there was a powerful need for a message of hope and inspiration.