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