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Astronaut in outer space with planet earth as backdrop. Elements of this image furnished by NASA.

A Lunar Recovery Hero

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 landing. Back on July 16, 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin successfully touched down on the surface of the moon. All three became historical icons, but one in particular became an icon in another field as well. In the years since that legendary journey, Buzz Aldrin fought and successfully beat addiction; becoming a national recovery hero.

Of course the moon landing story trending this week, but so is the recovery message carried forth by Aldrin. He is a shining example of someone who appeared to have it all, yet still suffered from the same demons as many Americans.

In his inspirational memoir, Return To Earth, Aldrin described his slow descent into alcoholism and depression, as well as his treatment philosophies. In many ways, Aldrin was a trailblazer in the recovery world; becoming one of the first celebrities to publicly call out his addictions back in the 1970s.

As Aldrin put it, the symptoms of the disease began showing themselves shortly after he returned to Earth.

“When I returned to Earth I became a celebrity, a hero, with ticker tape parades and speeches,” he explained in an interview with National Geographic. “But that’s not really what I looked for or desired. That brought me to consuming alcohol more and more and, of course, you can’t straighten out something in your head unless you have a clear mind.”

Aldrin’s alcohol issues cost him his marriage and nearly his freedom. During one drunken rage, the legendary astronaut was arrested for breaking down the door of his girlfriend’s home.

Sobriety finally occurred in 1978 and, as Aldrin puts it, he has not touched the bottle since. 40 years on, he continues to go on publicity circuits; touting the importance of sobriety and working with other alcoholics in need of treatment.

Aldrin has supported Alcoholics Anonymous for decades, giving them credit for his continued sobriety. Now at age 89, he is one of the last surviving members of the original Apollo 11 team.

So as we make a point to acknowledge that historic achievement this month, it is also worth noting that the individuals behind the journey made great strides in the decades since. Buzz, in particular, continues to inspire millions for his advocacy and bravery (on more than one front).