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Cecil’s story offers hope for those hitting rock bottom

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on Nov. 21, 2011 at 6:19 pm with 1 Comment »
November 21, 2011 5:24 pm

Cecil Leading Horse

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

Ten years ago, News Tribune readers knew Nicholas Cecil Leading Horse as the poster boy for the price society pays for street drunks and addicts. In his case, it was an estimated $2.4 million.

His story was a revolving door of dysfunction. He’d get drunk on cheap alcohol and pass out. Someone would find him and call the fire department, which would respond and transport him to a local hospital emergency room for treatment. He’d go into detox or rehab, get out, start drinking and the cycle would begin all over again.

Leading Horse’s craggy face was all too familiar to firefighters and ER personnel, and his care was a costly drain on public and hospital resources.
But in September 2008, he almost died when his alcohol-ravaged esophagus ruptured. And that’s when he decided to live. He checked into rehab, and this time it took.

Today, sober at 64, Leading Horse is a poster boy of a different sort: for what can be accomplished when someone decides not to give in to the booze – and when support is in place to help with that decision.

Ironically, Leading Horse’s story played a big part in creating that support. It helped galvanize creation of the Sobering Center of Tacoma, a round-the-clock facility that provides a safe place for homeless people to sober up – and have access to the kind of services and transitional housing that could lead to long-term sobriety.

His story also was a factor in creation of Tacoma’s Alcohol Impact Areas – where sales of cheap, high-octane booze are forbidden – and restrictions on panhandling, which is how street inebriates often pay for their habit.

During this Thanksgiving week, when we look for things for which to be thankful, we don’t have to look very far.

We can be thankful that there are people who care about society’s outcasts and created ways to help them. In doing so, they have saved lives and improved the quality of life for the community at large.

And we can be thankful that Cecil Leading Horse chose to be the only one of the six children in his family not to die drunk. This man, who almost died from alcohol abuse, now leads Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. If this most hard-core of drinkers can turn his life around, there is surely hope for others.

Leave a comment Comments → 1
  1. Pierce County and Tacoma should be proud that as a community we created a solution to assist our fellow residents and our families whose members have chemical dependency or mental health issues. By working together business, political, and non-profit leaders and health care providers we were able to create a solution that saved lives, reduced costs and improved the safety on our streets. As we struggle in difficult times with budget cuts, increased use of opiates particularly by our young members and more families in distress that we can by working together, everyone contributing a little including their expertise, we can continue to save lives, reduce costs and solve problems. If each of us does a little bit, we can create a loving, safe and generous community that is measured not by how comfortable the riches or more privileged live by how the poorest of us live. Cecil is one story amoung thousands of how we have done better and we can continue as a team doing more, even during times of less. I thank each person in Pierce County who has contributed to the success of Cecil and others with mental health or chemical denpendecy issues. I am honored to live and work among you.

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