Most people recovering from an addiction to alcohol can stay anonymous. Tom Letson can't.
The state representative for Ohio's 64th House district, by nature of his position, is in the public eye, making it nearly impossible to maintain anonymity.
Letson, a Democrat from Warren, has spoken publicly once to the best knowledge of this writer, at the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board awareness breakfast this month.
May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, which was the reason for the breakfast, held to raise awareness about mental illness and addiction with the hope of reducing the stigma that surrounds these highly sensitive issues.
Letson gets being a politician means headlines and maybe, hopefully, he can use his standing to advocate for addiction issues.
He admits that his ego led him to alcoholism and realizes that his ego and staying away from alcohol will help him stay sober and healthy.
He admits he spent three weeks in January at a rehabilitation center in Ashtabula receiving medical treatment for alcohol addiction and ''coming to grips my heart, my liver were probably adversely affected by alcohol,'' he said, quipping as he added, ''probably, well, definitely adversely affected by alcohol.''
He knows he can't change people, places or things, but what he can change is his actions.
And knows he can't hide from the problem.
''First, we all have problems that affect ourselves and others and the best thing to do to solve these problems is to try to honestly face them,'' Letson said after speaking to the breakfast group. ''Honesty is one of the toughest things. It starts with being honest with yourself.''
Letson should know his holding public office means his falling off the radar for three weeks this year and why it shouldn't have been kept secret.
Those people he represents in the 64th District - Howland, Warren, Warren Township, Southington, Champion, Farmington, Bristol, Mecca, Johnston, Vernon, Cortland and parts of Fowler and Bazetta - rightfully needed to know that for a period, albeit brief, they didn't really have a voice in Columbus (aside from staff trying to fill his role).
That's why the Tribune Chronicle, after confirming with Letson's family, went with a story about his public absence and treatment.
When Letson left treatment, he released an emailed media statement, apologizing for the pain and disappointment his drinking caused his family, friends and associates.
Treatment for alcohol abuse is a ''disease that requires a lifetime of commitment'' to overcome, he said in the email, adding that he plans to make use of groups that help with recovery and offer his help to those groups.
Speaking before the breakfast group about his addiction and continuing recovery, he did exactly that.