Survivor – Mar 2013
Amy J. Born
The road to recovery
In the summer of 1992, Bill and Sandy Fifield made their way from Conifer to Allen’s Park for a late afternoon party hosted by a friend from Minnesota. At least that’s the reason Sandy gave Bill for going. Looking forward to the chance to drink openly with friends, Bill was anxious to get there. Sandy, knowing they were not expected until four o’clock, delayed their arrival with stops at a Black Hawk casino and several liquor stores along the way.
When the couple finally arrived at the cabin, there were no other cars visible. Bill began to get suspicious, repeatedly asking, “Where’s the party?” Then, their friend emerged from the woods and invited them into the cabin, where they were greeted by six friends – the only ones left who would still speak to them – and one stranger.
The stranger got quickly to the point. Looking directly at Bill, he said, “These family and friends are scared to death that you are about to kill yourself or somebody else with your drinking. They want to know if you would be willing to go into treatment today for addiction.”
To everyone’s great surprise, Bill simply said, “Okay.” One of the stunned participants jumped up saying that they’d all been terrified for months in anticipation of his reaction, and Bill needed to sit and listen to the letters they’d written to persuade him to go, even though he’d already agreed. For over an hour, they read their letters while Bill listened quietly. He got shaky and sweaty and the stranger asked if he wanted another drink before they drove to the treatment center in Estes Park. Bill said, “No, I’m done.”
This story is at the beginning of Bill and Sandy’s book, Dig Deep In One Place – A Couple’s Journey to a Spiritual Life [Balboa Press]. That intervention, and subsequent treatment, marks a pivotal moment in their journey together, which began decades earlier.
Sandy saw Bill for the first time within moments of arriving at Colorado State University in the mid-1960s. He was tall and handsome (“a god walking toward me” she writes in the book). For her, it was love at first sight. Later, they talked at the freshman mixer. She was intrigued by the fact that he was an artist. Before long, though, Bill dropped out school following a clash with an instructor, but by then they were a couple. Bill encouraged Sandy’s own artistic talent, which she hadn’t even realized she had.
“It was an environment of exciting artistic promise that slowly degenerated into negativity and fear fueled by addiction to drugs and alcohol,” Sandy explains. Sandy was hopelessly dependent on Bill. Bill was dependent on drugs and alcohol and Sandy followed him willingly down that road. Sandy finished out the school year, but after all their housemates were arrested in a drug bust, they abandoned Fort Collins and moved to Denver.
For years, they survived as artists and by doing any job available. They moved to Georgetown for a time and worked in a restaurant and then at a motor inn in exchange for a room, food and powerful psychedelic drugs which they both consumed and helped distribute. After wearing out their welcome in Georgetown, they moved back to Denver.
This existence was so normal for them that it took many years for them to see the disaster they were heading for – and even then, it took an intervention for them to begin the process of changing.
Throughout their years of dangerous behavior, they always managed to get by. They always found work. They always found a place to live. It wasn’t always perfect, sometimes far from it, but they had each other. They had no understanding of the concept of addiction, and similarly, no understanding of how far they had fallen into that hole.
Bill went through treatment totally accepting of the process. He discovered humility and the rewards of doing something for someone else with no strings attached. He learned about fear, and how everyone is affected by it unless they have learned another way. While at the facility, he was introduced to the Twelve Steps, and met his first sponsor. He writes in Dig Deep in One Place, “I remember my first call to Sandy. ‘I’m going to do this, damn it! I can’t believe there’s a way out.”
During this time, both Sandy and Bill were convinced that he was the one with the problem. Although Sandy had consumed her share of drugs and alcohol, she didn’t believe she was addicted. It wasn’t until she arrived for family week and sat in on her first group session that she was confronted with the idea that she had her own addiction problem. When Bill returned home, she attended fellowship meetings with him – one per week for three months, per the agreement she’d made at the treatment center. By the end of that time, she began to see a new possibility for herself, “I could have a drink or I could have the world. What is my choice to be?” She wanted the peace, sense of belonging, and freedom from fear that she had begun to experience more than she wanted a drink. For the first time she said at a meeting, “I’m Sandy, and I have an addiction.”
Bill and Sandy continue to embrace the Twelve Steps as guiding principles for their lives and have mentored countless others in these teachings. They don’t claim to have all the answers, but they are happy to share the ones they have and help people along their own journeys. Sandy signs her emails, “Remember, this is the great adventureIn the years since that intervention, they have accomplished some amazing goals.
They’ve built a thriving art studio called fifield’s, The Studio where they produce spectacular one-of-a-kind, one-at-a-time works, mainly on commission. They love a creative challenge. Bill is a master woodworker. He creates exquisite, unique furniture and has recently delved into wood carving, sculpting pieces as stand-alone creations or as part of architectural woodworking. Sandy creates intricate designs in glass, using the painstaking copper foil method of stained glass construction, exquisite beveling, and stunning fused glass.
With their book, Dig Deep in One Place, the Fifields became authors. The book chronicles their journey into addiction and their subsequent recovery. Their story, beautifully told in each of their voices, is an introduction to the process of recovery, and is relevant to anyone seeking a life of greater spiritual fulfillment. “We all have our own addictions –drugs and alcohol, food, shopping, exercise or anything outside ourselves that we grasp at in an effort to feel better about ourselves,” says Sandy. “Sharing the Twelve Step process, and in doing so showing others a better way, is our passion.”
Bill and Sandy regularly speak to businesses and community groups. Their story resonates with anyone concerned about addiction and those seeking to ignite that creative spark in whatever it is they are called to do.