Unblinded is the true story of Kevin Coughlin who became suddenly blind due to a rare genetic disorder known as Leber’s. Twenty years later, without medical intervention or explanation, his sight miraculously began to return.
But that’s not the full story. At the lowest point of his life—blind, jobless and broke, Kevin decided to fight for his sobriety. Too poor to afford medical intervention, Kevin endured the painful process alone, curled into a fetal position on the floor of his New York City studio apartment.
Excerpt from Unblinded:
Kevin arrived at the location on Little West 12th Street twenty minutes early. He parked himself in front of the entrance, despite the cold. He was shaking and sweating even though it was January. He contemplated returning to his apartment when he heard a cheerful voice call out.
“Hi, I’m Bob. Are you looking for the meeting?”
“Yes, I am. I’m Kevin, and this is my guide dog, Ruger.”
“Great, come on in,” Bob said with a kind and reassuring voice. Ruger, always a good judge of character, seemed to take an instant liking to Bob.
Bob introduced Kevin to the other early arrivals in the room. Dave arrived a few minutes later. Everyone was warm and gracious. They all spoke the same word—welcome.
Once the meeting got started, the speaker was introduced and greeted by applause. She told her story of being raised by Norwegian immigrant parents in a rural farming community in upstate New York. She described the trauma of losing her mother at a young age and how that had shaped her.
Though Kevin couldn’t relate to any of the specifics of her life, he nonetheless felt a deep association with her pain. The details of their respective upbringings could not have been more different, and yet he had experienced the same underlying feelings she powerfully described—never fitting in, constantly feeling different and out of place but not knowing why. She explained that at first she drank to be more social and fit in; later she used drinking to numb feelings of loss or pain. His drinking history was identical.
Kevin knew that this group was just what he needed. Kevin had always experienced low self-esteem coupled with grandiosity and a huge sense of entitlement. Kevin heard person after person share the same dichotomous feelings. One speaker summed it up best. “I felt like the biggest piece of dog poop that the entire universe revolved around.”
Up until then, Kevin had never thought of himself as an alcoholic. He knew he drank too much, and at times had lost his dignity as a result, but he still felt his behavior fell into the “normal drinking range.” To him, an alcoholic was someone who had lost everything and was living on Skid Row in Los Angeles or the Bowery in New York City. But one story forever changed Kevin’s view of what it meant to be an alcoholic.
One night, a serene man with thirty years of sobriety spoke of having once been a naval officer. He’d not only thrown away a promising military career, but also found himself living on the Bowery.
He recounted living on the street panhandling to get his next fix of wine or malt liquor. With great emotion, he explained how his journey of recovery had begun when a sober friend found him on the street and brought him to his first meeting. Kevin was stunned into silence, but another group member spoke up.
“I may have had a problem with alcohol, but at least I was never living on the Bowery.” The ex-naval officer was polite but direct.
“My dear, the Bowery is not a place, it is a state of mind. Whenever and wherever an alcoholic experiences the demoralizing shame of not remembering what had happened the night before, they are experiencing their own personal bowery.”
Kevin left that afternoon a changed man and could not wait to attend the next meeting. For the first time in his life, he felt that he belonged in a group. The new group gave him renewed hope. Each story of triumph over adversity bolstered his confidence that he too would succeed in becoming and remaining sober.
Blind, broke, jobless, and frustrated, Kevin found it difficult to get through the next few months. But he had one big thing going for him.
He was sober. It was a new beginning.
Traci is the author of Unblinded (Morgan James Publishing, April 2018) and Inflection Point: War and Sacrifice in Corporate America (Pegasus Books, 2016). She is also an attorney with a practice in intellectual property litigation in NY City. Traci can be reached at www.tracimedfordrosow.com.