90 days of sobriety, as of today. On the one hand, hey! 90 days. Way to go, me. On the other, I’ve been here before, so … you know, there’s that.

I’ve slogged my way through anhedonia, a seemingly endless swamp of shame and self-loathing, and a months-long sugar binge. Triggers were intense at first but have receded. I feel a bit more settled in my skin, able to walk with my head up.

I completed outpatient treatment yesterday and will move on to a less-intensive recovery support group. It is the outpatient ritual to coin a person out on their last day, meaning a graduation coin gets passed around the room and each person says a few words and puts something — strength, hope, resilience, that kind of thing — in the coin. It’s an extremely nice gesture but it’s the nature of the process that by the time you graduate, the group members you’ve been with for weeks have moved on, and new people have taken their place. There’s a lot of “Um, I’ve only known you for two hours, but …”

Awkward, but fitting. ALL of this is awkward. Talking about feelings is awkward. Sitting in a room with strangers is awkward. Being open about being an addict is awkward. Doing things sober when you used to do them not-sober is awkward. Having certain people say, “So how are you doing?” and there’s all kinds of awkwardness in what’s unsaid in that question, which is awkward.

The terrain is uncomfortable but familiar; I’ve spent most of my life feeling awkward. Man, I’ve hated that about myself for so long. Somewhere along the line I decided awkwardness was a terrible character flaw, something to be medicated into oblivion. I lost sight of the fact that everyone struggles with feeling out of place and vulnerable.

So here I am, 90 days out: messy, awkward, uncertain. Naked and weird and a thousand miles south of perfect. In other words, human.


When the boys were very young we used to take them to a nearby community college during evenings and weekends. It was one of those Just Get Out of the House outings, less about the activity itself and more about, well, getting out of the damn house. The grounds were overrun with small brown rabbits; we’d try and make a game out of spotting them. When they were a bit older the boys teetered along on bikes, or maybe it was just Riley with his training wheels and Dylan still Godzilla-toddling around.

I can remember sitting in one of the courtyards while the kids played. I would stretch out on a picnic table and feel the sun on my face. The birds wheeling and calling overhead, the high-pitched laughter of my children.

Then maybe there was a lot of crying because someone fell and scraped a knee, or a frustrated, defeated retreat to the truck because someone else became inexplicably enraged about, say, the alignment of the planets. The great hassle of trying to get bikes or strollers put away, flailing children stuffed into carseats. Oh, it could all feel so exhausting and grim, back then.

I remember, quite well, how hard it was. But that’s not what my mind lingers on, when I think of those particular outings. I think of my kids running through an empty campus, thrilled with the exotic landscape of steps to be jumped and railings to be climbed. Their wide-open faces, the starfish-clutch of a small hand. The sun, the birds, the little rabbits that let you get so close.

I wish I’d known, during those sometimes-grueling early years, that it was perfectly okay not to enjoy every moment. That it wasn’t true that someday I would give anything to turn back the clock. That even the toughest days would be sent across the years like letters in a bottle, and when I opened them, I could read and re-read the very best parts.


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