Clean and Sober

I’m sitting in the van at 1:30 am, frankly a little pissed off. The rain had promised to start, but it hasn’t. It keeps shifting an hour later, an hour later. I’m glaring like a frontman in a band waiting for the rhythm section to get its shit together. I don’t care that I’ve complained about the impending storm, I need it. But the storm cares even less than I do.

Holly and I were recently in Chicago to see Drew and Natalie and Tate, our baby grandson. Adrienne flew out to join us, and to see Tate for the first time. This wouldn’t have happened without my own sobriety, and without the sobriety of so many I love. I sat down to write today seeking gravity (pro tip: don’t), when really what I need is weightlessness. The force that lets go of things so they can float about untethered and free to be themselves. We took a family photo in Chicago. The pressure was on to perform and really crush the picture. We all felt it, except Tate of course. That’s a lesson for another day. The picture came out great, just because it did. My sobriety placed me on the steps of my daughter’s house, on good terms with all present, ready to receive the gift of their love. The sobriety of others – and the knowing of those who didn’t find it, or haven’t yet – is a gift I still teach myself to accept.

Back row: Holly, Adrienne, Joe;Front row: Natalie, Drew;Front FRONT row: Tate
Adrienne and Tate

Adrienne’s sobriety was one year old on October 25. Her strength astounds me as she checks off one thing after another. The pride and I love that I feel for her can’t be written because it’s too big. But her sobriety put her on her sister’s steps in Chicago, and put baby Tate in Auntie Adrienne’s arms. We had a dinner to celebrate Adrienne at Grandma Carole’s house in CT. Phil and Nancy, and Bob and Jeanne were there to celebrate with us. Phil and Nancy are pillars in my life, and in the life of my family. They have been major supports in Adrienne’s journey and that gift is humbling to accept. Nancy reminded Adrienne that she has given, not just of her time and love, but literally of her blood, to help Adrienne be in that house on that night. When Holly was pregnant with Adrienne, Holly needed blood transfusions. Nancy gave twice, assuring that Holly and Adrienne would both be OK. When Nancy shared that, a wave crashed and receded, reminding us of those we have lost and those who are with us. Adrienne has a driving test today. I hope she passes so she can drive herself to join us on Thanksgiving.

Adrienne and Tate

The rain has started, so I need to write faster.

On October 19, a dear friend, Tom, died. He was just a cyclone of cool shit. We worked in the graphics trade together for a time. I was always in awe of him professionally, on mountain bike trails, basically in just being amazing. Later, I would be in awe of his sobriety. He expressed that in joy and hard work and dance. That dude could dance. He was a sharp-dressed sweaty mess on the dance floor, and West Coast Swing consumed him, and he it. One night Holly and I joined him for a night of dance. When I saw Holly in his arms on the dance floor, my jaw dropped. I thought: that chick can dance. He was like that, sharing his good vibe. My friend Bob was very close with Tom. Bob is very close with many people. His love is a gift I learn from daily. I was and a jealous of them because I could never ride like them, and now that I’m old, that I can’t fish like them. It’s OK, another wave crashing and receding.

Tom and Bob

On our way out of Connecticut, we visited Holly’s uncle and aunt – Bart and Linda – in NJ. We had the good fortune to have dinner with their son Bartlett and his partner Casey. I’ve written about how family visits for us are different as we travel. We get to see family and friends as they live, not how they appear at big gatherings. Sitting in Bart and Linda’s kitchen hearing Linda’s tapestry of stories, how she can with words draw the arc of family over the generations. We heard – for the first time, really – Bart tell about being a kid in Highlands, digging in the dunes on Sandy Hook for spent Army rounds. Bartlett grilled us some fine steaks for dinner. I know Bartlett less well than I do others, but do know that he expresses his sobriety as an artist and in his lifting. His photography is astounding. I get lost in his images of abandoned spaces. They find this truth about impermanence and how the earth will reclaim us – my interpretation, not his. Plus he’s strong as hell. The night after steaks, he did a personal best deadlift of 500 pounds, second in his class in competition. I’m glad we braved the Garden State Parkway to get over to Jersey. 

Bart and Linda

I’m at present on a barrier island on the Maryland shore, stalked by ungodly horses, of all things. The rain has backed off, making it hard to keep a groove. I think it was John Mayall who said that his guitarists could come and go, but that a band was in trouble when it lost the bass player. I can see that.

In a few days, we’ll be seeing Kelley and Yvonne in Virginia as they continue their nomadic journey. Holly and I are so happy seeing them pursue and enjoy health and make the most of it. I remember meeting Yvonne when she owned an art gallery. I had put a giant osprey painting of Holly’s in my Fiat and was shopping it around. I brought it to Yvonne’s gallery, and the rest as they say . . . Yvonne’s sobriety is a gift that I won’t explain. She does that with majesty in her own way through art and healing. For me, it shows itself as friendship and acceptance and a boost to my own family. Seeing Yvonne adapt – as I have – to nomadic living has been a joy. She continues to give voice to astounding images with whatever she can keep on hand. Her journey gives mine a great push now and then, and I appreciate that.

Kelley and Yvonne

This feels like a roster, and that’s not what I meant. I can only tell my own business, but I can’t do that without acknowledging others. None of this exists without my own sobriety. Of course recovery isn’t linear. For some it doesn’t come. For today, I have it, though, and that will do just fine.

8 thoughts on “Clean and Sober

  1. Joe, this was a really good read but then again I haven’t read anything bad from you at all. I just love the way incorporate your families, people you run into along the way.
    I love the way you open, your heart, your soul and your mind to everything you write.

  2. Awesome blog! It’s not just sight seeing. It’s personal growth and blessing others . Thank you for your visit

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