A sad day in the recovery community and the entertainment world, Roger Ebert passed away yesterday after a long battle with thyroid cancer. This journalist, film writer and highly respected film critic was a Pulitzer Prize winner and a powerful supporter of Alcoholics Anonymous. 33 years sober, Mr. Ebert gave up alcohol in 1979.
Roger Ebert spoke candidly about his rehab and Alcoholics Anonymous experiences on his blog. Well written and articulate, he was an amazing and inspiring storyteller, unafraid to speak out and help alleviate the stigma surrounding alcoholism and recovery. He tells the story of how he started attending AA in a way that makes you feel it might have been you instead. He refers to his time attending AA as a “30 years’ adventure” and goes on to say:
I came to love the program and the friends I was making through meetings, some of whom are close friends to this day. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. What I hadn’t expected was that A.A. was virtually theater. As we went around the room with our comments, I was able to see into lives I had never glimpsed before.
In the same blog, he also defends AA and works hard to dispel what the critics of the program have to say. Mr Ebert goes to great lengths to create an awareness of the program for people who may be uneducated about it or simply not understand. Roger Ebert was a very outspoken atheist, and especially in this area tries to create an understanding around the intent of the program in relation to “God.”
The critics never quote the words “as we understood God.” Nobody in A.A. cares how you understand him, and would never tell you how you should understand him. I went to a few meetings of “4A” (“Alcoholics and Agnostics in A.A.”), but they spent too much time talking about God. The important thing is not how you define a Higher Power. The important thing is that you don’t consider yourself to be your own Higher Power, because your own best thinking found your bottom for you.
Roger Ebert was a true champion of recovery, a shining light for addicts everywhere and a wonderful person indeed. The recovery community and world in general will certainly miss his humor and big heart. May he rest in peace and eternal comfort.