Joan Dentler: A Championship Ring for Recovery

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Joan Dentler and her son, Quinn.

There will be no World Series for the Giants this year. But Joan Dentler says that when the Giants won it all a decade ago, her biggest winner wasn't even wearing a uniform.

Ten years ago this October, the San Francisco Giants made their second run in three years to a World Series title. And ten years ago this October, my son found his way to recovery after years of addiction to drugs and alcohol. During the years of his using, Giants baseball was the one thing that kept us connected—somehow despite his circumstances, he managed to follow the Giants—and text messages about a playoff win or a Lincecum strikeout became a lifeline for our family.

In October of 2012, I watched and cheered as Pablo Sandoval hit three home runs in Game 1 of the Series. My son cheered too—listening to the game from under a bridge on a transistor radio stolen from Rite Aid.

During game three of that series, I got the call—“Mom, I’m ready.”

“Okay," I said. “What do you need to do?”

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“I need to detox for 72 hours before I can move into sober living.”

We’d been down this road before, and every loved one of an substance abuser knows the cruel cycle of recovery and relapse. So why would this time be any different? You just turn the ball over to the experts, and let someone else pinch hit for the families who have learned to detach with love.

Like baseball, recovery is a team effort. Yes, the substance abuser has to initiate the process by declaring his or her willingness to surrender to the disease and seek help, but after that, it’s the fellowship of counselors, clinicians and friends in the recovery community who help increase the odds of winning against the opponent of addiction. And like baseball, recovery—for both the addict and the family—is about experience, strength, and hope.

Here we are 10 years later. The Giants held a reunion of that 2012 World Series team in August, and in November, my son will get his 10-year chip from Alcoholics Anonymous. A season of baseball, like the 12 steps of recovery, can be a slog: you win some, you lose some and some are rained out, but you dress for all three. And if you’re lucky enough to make it to the playoffs and then the World Series, you might just win a ring, or a 10 year chip.

With a Perspective, I’m Joan Dentler.

Joan Dentler is a former journalist and works for the State of California. She lives in Belmont.