“That craving, once it begins, is almost impossible to reverse... It's like Bruce Banner as he's turning into the Incredible Hulk. Once his muscles begin to strain against his clothes and his skin goes green, he has no choice but to let the monster spring from him and unleash its inevitable damage.”
"Whatever you know about addictions, NINETY DAYS will broaden your knowledge and understanding. There are no excuses or minimizing of the problems; Clegg opens himself up as is necessary for long-term recovery."
This is one of the many insights into the disease of addiction that Bill Clegg reveals to his readers as he describes the arduous journey he took to achieve his first 90 days of sobriety. Anyone not familiar with the phenomenon of substance abuse and its ramifications would find it difficult to understand how a person who has literally lost everything of value could even think of using again. In NINETY DAYS, Clegg candidly shares how and why such a relapse occurs, often more than once, even when the decision to remain sober has been made.
After more than three months in rehab, Clegg returns to New York where he plans to live in his brother’s office during non-business hours. The rest of his time will be spent going to Twelve-Step meetings, working with the tools for living that he had been given in treatment, and trying to figure out how to salvage something from the wreckage that had become his life. He quickly learns that those folks he meets in the program, those "counting days," are sincerely eager to help newcomers, and he soon finds himself among sober friends. This is a new experience, the first among many to follow.
Despite acquiring a sponsor, a mentor who will help guide him on his journey, and despite some close friends he makes, the temptation to use is always lurking in the background. Jack, his sponsor, warns him to stay away from people, places and things that might trigger a relapse. These include areas of the city where he used to meet his dealers, streets that led to certain bars, boredom that would allow his mind to meander to those places, and the times of using that he remembers fondly.
Clegg's first relapse occurs when he is only 16 days away from his goal of 90. Anyone who is in recovery will have no problem understanding how an addict makes stupid choices. Those who have never been in recovery will either develop some sympathy or just want to slap the addict silly. In either case, the relapse occurs, followed by more problems and debts being added to the already impossibly high mountain. Then it’s back to meetings, feeling like a fool joining the newbies, and once again accepting a 24-hour chip.
Clegg develops his own character as he recounts the stories of others in his new circle of friends, those who have been successful at achieving sobriety and those who, like him, are caught up in the cycle of relapse and recovery. He learns to be more honest with himself and his motives, and finds that things actually do work out better when faced rather than avoided or covered up. Still, he cannot shake a common feeling among those in recovery: that of being an outsider, an alien among people who belong and who know what to do and how to behave appropriately. "I look around from sober face to sober face and wonder again how these people found their way. How will I?"
Whatever you know about addictions, NINETY DAYS will broaden your knowledge and understanding. There are no excuses or minimizing of the problems; Clegg opens himself up as is necessary for long-term recovery. There is only one caveat regarding this book. I would probably not recommend it to anyone in early recovery because those very triggers that caused Clegg to relapse several times may tend to affect them as well.
Reviewed by Maggie Harding on May 4, 2012
Ninety Days: A Memoir of Recovery