Richard Withers

Richard’s friendly, eloquent demeanor is that of someone who has a story to tell. Originally from the East Coast, he and his wife moved to Hood River, OR from Wisconsin 3 years ago in order to be closer to their grandson. Richard started drinking as a teenager, and was a “high-functioning” alcoholic for 40 years. Every day for four decades, he lived with hiding a habit that he thought he could control on his own, but turned out to be controlling him.

Richard studied law and struggled with ADD. At age 30, he recognized that alcohol was a problem but continued self-medicating with the bottle for another 30 years. Hiding his problem became very painful because he felt that, “No one would love me anymore if they knew,” Richard recalls. With the same stigma as others have about mental health and addiction, he was too ashamed and frightened to reach out for help.

Finally at the age of 60, after some serious medical issues, he participated in a detox program.

If you cultivate compassion within yourself then you find compassion for others.

After detox, he learned that hearing from other people who were like him really helped. In a mindfulness meditation recovery group, he found people like himself who were struggling, but who were coming together to help each other survive. “We were saving each other’s lives,” he says. Richard, now 9 years sober, has found a strong recovery community in the Gorge – people with similar interests and backgrounds, all working hard to make sure that they stay clean and sober.

Now Richard and his wife participate in meditation together. He also shares meditation and mindfulness programs at correctional facilities. He proclaims, “We do believe that it is in helping others that we really help ourselves.” Richard would share that there is help all around for those who reach out. And for those who want to help others, it begins with the simple act of listening.

Let’s Talk. Let’s Listen. Let’s Cultivate Compassion.

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Jerry was born and raised in the Gorge. His journey with substance abuse started at 18, soon after losing a good friend, when he began self-medicating with alcohol to numb the pain. He reminds us of the power that community has in our healing.