Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Ninety Days, Just Ninety Days

The new book by Bill Clegg, Ninety Days: A Memoir of Recovery,  begins where Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man ends.  Mr. Clegg, an admitted crack addict, has been released from the psych ward at Lenox Hill Hospital after a two-month bender that ended in a suicide attempt.  He has lost his business, his money, his partner, and most of his friends. 

Thus begins his journey to achieve 90 days free of alcohol and substance abuse.  He sees this as the Holy Grail of achievement, becoming the one thing that he needs to accomplish.  The magical "ninety-in-ninety" in which he goes to ninety meetings in ninety days, is seen as his ticket back to some semblance of the life that he used to have before drug addiction. 

But what happens, just short of 90 days, is he relapses.  It is one of those split second decisions that a non-addict doesn't understand.  He is alone in his own apartment when the thoughts of getting high take over.  In his words, "CALL SOMEONE! I say out loud, but even as I say the words I know it's too late. My mind whizzes with ways to get drugs."  He visits the dealer and doesn't return home for two days.  

The story of his struggle with relapsing is something that is only too familiar to those who know about addiction.  Mr. Clegg struggles to understand why his mind goes "less than a moment between fleeting thought and full-blown fantasy" about using. 

When he finally realizes that there is something beyond his own need and ability, a connection to something greater than his addiction, the reader has been on a roller coaster ride of lies, shame, relapses--the unremitting insanity of addiction.   

I think that these words in the book sum up how Mr. Clegg eventually makes the decision that he is done: "All you had to do was get honest, get sober, and offer help to a few addicts and alcoholics along the way." If you or others that you know have been affected by alcoholism or addiction, this is a book filled with hope.  And it offers a solution that the author found.  

The book is an intense and quick read.  I wanted him to achieve his goal of ninety days.  And every time he hit rock bottom, I was hoping it was the last time.  This is an honest book about addiction.  It chronicles the insanity of the disease and the landscape of recovery:  The repetition of meetings, those who cycle in and out to use again, the slogans, the sponsors, the addicts who are struggling to make their own ninety days stick and to keep going one day after another.   What it may give those of us who aren't addicts is a bit more compassion for those who are sick and suffering. 

"If you are struggling with drugs and alcohol, go to the rooms where alcoholics and addicts go to get and stay sober.  These rooms and the people in them are your best chance.  Listen to them, be honest with them.  Help them--even if you think you have nothing to offer.  Be helped by them.  Depend on them and be depended on.  And if the only thing you can do is show up, do it. Then do it again. And when it's the last thing you want to do and the last place you want to go, go.  Just go. You have no idea who you might be helping just by sitting there or who might help you." ~ Bill Clegg, Ninety Days: A Memoir of Recovery

Ninety Days: A Memoir of Recovery by Bill Clegg
Published by Little, Brown and Company 
Publishing Date: April 10, 2012 
ISBN-10: 0316122521 
ISBN-13: 978-0316122528


  1. Sounds like a book of sobering honesty.

  2. excellent syd...thank you for this one..ordering one right now for a fam i am working with...

  3. Excellent review Syd, and it sounds an interesting book too.

    Although 90 days is zilch time in recovery, I remember how thrilled I felt to reach 30 days sober. And I know how hard it is to sit in meetings and watch people keep trying and relapsing and trying again. If they stick with meetings the penny drops at some point, in my experience.

  4. This sounds like an extraordinary and powerful book, Syd. And as you say helpful for all of us, whatever position we find ourselves in. A terrific review.

  5. I don't have much time to read (apart from a few blogs) but I will order this, sounds good.
    Someone said last night at N/A I'm only on 90 days!! only??
    Thanks for the recommendation Syd.

  6. This is going to be a good read. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Being someone who relapsed after 9 1/2 years sober, I related to what you said this book is about. I know all too well that split second decision, the shame, the trap of addiction, and the struggle to come back. What he quotes is exactly true. We know that. This book sounds heart felt to me. Thanks.

  8. On his death bed among other final thoughts Siddarta (Buddha) told his adherents to "find your own path."

    That Clegg's path took him places most of us would never want to go and too many of us have been down is his memoir to the world. I can appreciate his journey though it is much different than my own. Oh those fools moments on which turn a life.

    I never minded knowing I was drunk and getting sober was never a fear of mine...I just didn't want to stop *alas sigh* being insane. Now almost 13 years later I find that my particular form of insanity is part and parcel of the whole of me. Staying sober through those fools moments is much easier because my mind soon enough wonders off to something else. Ahh sweet short attention span, forever be my friend.

  9. Learning about sign posts; and taking a fast rt and then another one- is tough. Hopefully a few full surrenders will occur from his experience, strength and hope.

  10. I'm that my first thought was: I should get a hold of these two books and send them to J.

  11. Thanks for sharing. Honesty and hope can be very healing.

  12. Very compelling stuff,staying clean is hard work at times. When life shows up.....she shows the fuck up!!!!!


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