Extended transcript: Interview with Dwight Gooden

Once I divorced my family, I said, 'This is rock bottom. I'm sittin' here in an apartment. Nobody's around. I'm gettin' high with people I don't know.' Missing the parade could have been rock bottom. Going to prison. There's so many different things. There's been a lot of bottoms.

I think it had to be something that sets the light off, you just get to a point where you say, 'Hey, I can't live like this no more.'

Miller: What was that that set the light off?

Gooden: What set the light off was actually in 2010 being in a hotel room, the Comfort Inn on Route 17. I'll never forget it. I was going through a divorce again, my second wife. Got right back into my addiction, because with the disease of alcohol, drugs, no matter how much time you have off, once you pick up again, you don't start over -- you start from where you left off. Started back using.

I was stuck in a hotel room for three months, you know? I was just gettin' high. Isolated from my family, my friends, my fans. And it's funny, I had the radio on this one morning in the hotel room. And I'm getting goosebumps now just thinking about it. The song come on, the artist is Marvin Sapp. He's a gospel singer.

Out of the blue, I don't even know if it was a Sunday, but this song comes on: 'I Never Would Have Made It Without You': 'Now I'm better. Now I'm getting stronger.' And it just hit me. So that let me know that it was a power greater than myself ready to pull me out of this mess, if I'm willing to do the work.

Miller: You say you're still here for a reason. How long have you been sober?

Gooden: Two years, March made two years.

Miller: Don't most addicts say the day, the time?

Gooden: Yes, most addicts will tell you the day, the time, and the hours. I've gotten in trouble with that throughout my recovery, where I try: 'Monday'll be two months, Tuesday'll be three days and this . . . ' When I start doing that, I'm forgetting I have a life to live. So I just put the focus on today. 'Cause if I get caught up in days, times, it just kind of sets me back, and I get thrown away from, you know, living life in reality.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, that works for some people. Some people have a meeting every day, some people every week. Me, I have to go three or four times a week. That's just the way it is, whether I want to go, I don't want to go. I have to take an hour out just for myself to do that.

The best way of explaining that, if it's a cancer patient and they going for the chemo, me going to my meetings, me talking to my sponsor daily, me checking in with my support group, that's my chemo. That's just something that I have to accept. And I'm at a point now where I look forward to doing that.

Miller: What do you need from your sponsor? I don't want to [ask] what do you talk about, but what gets you through?

Gooden: What gets me through is his voice. It's like checking in. For instance, maybe [in this] interview, I touch back on my sister, or missing my daughter's school events. I have to talk to him and let him know how it's been, so these things don't build up to a trigger. 'Cause a lot of times the relapse comes before you pick up.

I'll call him every day. He don't go for the text messaging. So I call him, 'Hey, what's going on? What did you do today?' 'I did an interview.' 'What did you talk about?' So he's just making sure you hit everything. And you just want to make sure that you don't miss anything.

Miller: So your reality is talking to me, writing the book, those could possibly be triggers for you?

Gooden: Yes, because I'm reliving some of those moments. Like, for instance, what I witnessed with my sister [who was shot when Dwight was five years old]. Once I start talking about it now, I can relive that moment. That don't necessarily mean I'm gonna go out and use. But I want to make sure those things don't happen. Because it could be something that builds up. So I just kind of check in with my sponsor. And he may be able to pull something out of it.

Miller: So why do it? Why open it up? Why talk about it?

Gooden: This is part of my therapy. Actually, I mean, it's good for me. I'm helping others by sharing my story. But also you guys being here today is helping me talk about it. Because those things, you want to remember, but you don't want to dwell on it. It just lets you know that if I was to go back and use, these are the things that can happen if you're lucky. The next things that could happen that I haven't experienced yet is death. I've been to prison. I've been to jail. I've been to institutions. I've been to rehab. So the cemetery's waiting right there if I was to pick up. And I'm aware of that today.

Miller: You look great, by the way.

Gooden: Thank you.

Miller: I mean, you look like you could be a teenager.

Gooden: Wow, thank you. That's a great compliment. I'll be 50 next year.

Miller: Well, I think of what you've done to your body.

Gooden: Oh yeah. Yeah, that's true. I mean, that's definitely a blessing. But thank you. And this is part of what keep me going. And like I say, unveiling my story was a big whale for me as well. You know, I don't have to carry that secret anymore.

I'm just taking it day by day. And it's different, because I've given up everything. You have to give up everything to stay clean and sober. I mean, you give up things. You may get by for a couple of days or a month. But you have to let it all go. You have to change your lifestyle. And you have to be committed.