“I don't believe I'm an alcoholic first,” says Fine. “I'm a person first and an alcoholic second. I can't make my addiction my identity.”
So even though much of Fine's work since finding recovery via the 12 Steps in 1977 has been situated in addiction treatment and human services, he says he always insisted on venturing away from time to time just to avoid burnout. On one of those journeys in the early 1990s in South Florida, after reading favorite author Emmet Fox's essay “Your Heart's Desire” while lying in a hammock (the Jimmy Buffett part), he would decide to start a newsletter for individuals in recovery.
“South Florida was becoming the treatment center capital of America,” Fine says. The Solution News would be born, with the first eight-page issue published in 1992 thanks to support from a handful of friends whose ads weren't all that related to treatment or recovery.
“I got enough money for a quickie print job, and I cut and pasted the ads,” Fine says.
Later, the treatment and recovery communities would begin to notice Fine's effort; he says support at the time from the organization then known as Hanley-Hazelden proved to be a critical turning point. This eventually led to Fine's decision to make the publication his main work, converting it to a full color newspaper that is published bimonthly.
Today, numerous individuals are launching publications directly targeted to the burgeoning recovery community, but Fine stands out as having long-standing credibility in the community-first acquired in South Florida and then spreading beyond the region. Now thanks to the Internet, he can boast of readers from as far as Iraq and Italy.
Fine likes presenting what he considers a middle ground between the more professionally targeted publications and the louder voices that seem to focus mainly on landing the hottest celebrity-in-recovery story.
“I think there's a place for everything,” Fine says. “I'm a little uncomfortable with what I'd say is the sensationalism out there,” citing television programming such as “Intervention” and “Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew.” Yet he adds, “If someone sees that and they have a problem and they do something as a result, I know that God works in many ways.”
He adds, “I believe people recover because they get a connection to another human being. I don't really care how it's done.”
Fine grew up in Massachusetts and started college in the 1960s (the Boston Common hippie part). The failure of his marriage after six years led to a severe decline, but he would find recovery in his early 30s.
Much as he has come to accept the role of the more headline-seeking voices out there, he has also come to realize the many paths to recovery that differ from his own. “There is a world of addiction recovery resources that is so broad and wonderful,” he says. “Ten years ago I would have thought that 12-Step was the only approach.”
Fine therefore tries to present in his newspaper the full variety of possibilities for people seeking recovery, calling the purpose of his venture “love and service through recovery and community.” The publication is available at no cost; the tagline Fine uses for the newspaper is “Happy, Joyous, and Always Free.”
Back to his roots
In another sign of the changing times in media, Fine now communicates with his core South Florida audience from afar. He relocated to New England last year, having met and married another native New Englander in Florida. He and his wife, an artist, live in New Hampshire.
And Fine remains involved in direct human-services work, serving in a mentoring role at the New Hampshire addiction and mental health services organization WestBridge. Still, he is living his dream by being self-employed in the areas he enjoys most: writing, photography and music.
Writing runs deep in his psyche. He recalls his first venture in that area, responsible for creating a newsletter for executives in the electronics company where he worked, distilling information for the board of directors. “I had to learn a lot to do a publication,” he says.
Fine remains active in both his work and his recovery, although he still finds time for simpler pleasures such as hiking and fishing as well. “It's very, very important for all people who work in this area to do that,” he says. “You need to step out of this whole arena from time to time.”
Addiction Professional 2010 May-June;8(3):48