Step 11: This Too Is Prayer

Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

“Seriously? We haven’t talked about God for a while so we better bring Him back into the picture.” This was how I felt when I looked at Step 11 for a long time. The only saving grace for me was that the payer recommended in the Twelve and Twelve was the Prayer of Saint Francis, which despite being a Catholic prayer, has always been a personal favorite and that peculiar word “meditation” in the step.

I really couldn’t imagine myself praying. Certainly not to an omniscient, interventionist deity who had fixed me and now had a plan for me. I struggled with this step. As a way to make this work, I tried to get comfortable with ignoring all the theistic overtones and focusing on meditation.

I’ll be honest, my success with meditation has been less than stellar. I have tried doing it in my own. I’ve tried to do it with the help of apps. I’ve read about it to the point of recognizing that reading about it isn’t actually doing it.

Where I struggle with meditation is making it a ritual. I’m just not a very ritualistic person. The only ritual that I adhere to is the ritual of making coffee in the morning. That happens every day, right after getting up.

But when I do make time to meditate, something happens to my monkey mind that is hard to explain. It never stops. The thoughts keep coming. But I’ve learned that this is not actually the point of meditation. By recognizing the thoughts, noting the thinking and not judging it, over and over and over again, I come to a more peaceful state of mind.

I do a fair amount of walking, running, and in the past cycling. I’ve always found that cycling by myself is meditative, and the same is true of walking and running. It’s time for me to slow down the thoughts, focus on one thing, get moving, and just be in a state of flow. Time passes effortlessly.

Still, I wondered if I was doin this step wrong since I was so adverse to praying. I worried that I needed to actually be praying — on my knees, hands folded, eyes closed, saying some rote words to a deity that I knew in my bones does not exist. And so I did a lot of reading. One book that really helped me is Waiting: A Nonbeliever’s Higher Power, by Marya Hornbacher.

In the chapter on Step 11, I came across some words that would totally change my perception of prayer on page 114:

“November morning. The sky turning from indigo to violet blue, the curly oak sketched in black on the sky. Steam rising off the lake. I sat in absolute stillness, absolute peace.

This, too, is prayer.”

These words encapsulate what I’d sensed all along in my life every time I’d stood in awe of the natural world. The sense of finiteness in the infinite that I feel when I’m alone on the beach looking at the ocean. The feeling that everything would be okay when I’d hike up to the top of the ridge at Shingletown Gap and look down in the campus of Penn State when things felt overwhelming. The sense of peace that comes when I can no longer hear the sounds of cars as I walk down a trail in the woods.

Those words also showed me that prayer need not be directed to a specific deity. That you could simply send prayers out to the great mysterious universe. My uncle gave us a small Buddhist prayer bowl for Christmas. The bowl came with the instructions to write our prayers on a small piece of paper, to put them in the bowl, and to set it near a window. When the suns rays hit the papers the prayers are carried out to the universe. This gift reinforced the notion that prayers need not be directed to a specific deity.

Today I think of many things as prayer. My silent walks in the woods can be prayerful. My time writing these words can be prayerful. Simply closing my eyes and noticing the breath is prayer. There is something centering about prayer. Something contemplative. Something quieting.

It all comes down to intentionally making time to refocus, to find a small amount of peace in an otherwise chaotic world.

That’s what prayer is for me.

Step 4: Honestly Recognizing Our Own Humanity

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

This step scares most people. The language feels foreboding, heavy, daunting. It sounds really hard. And for many people it is really hard.

This step is all about getting honest with ourselves. Some of us have suffered grave consequences and some of us have not. But we all know in our hearts that our addiction has caused harm. And so we must get honest about what we’ve done in our lives. Honest about how we’ve hurt ourselves and others. Honest about how our addiction affected others in our lives.

If you read the big book, there is a description of how to approach this step. For many the book is the only source they need. Others find the book’s recommendations problematic for a variety of reasons. I didn’t know it at the time but there are many ways to do the fourth step. One can find several guides online.

Step 4 was scary for me because I felt that I had to get it right. I thought that this was a one shot deal and that I had to make sure I got into all the things that I’d ever done wrong in my life. If I stole a 5¢ candy from the corner store when I was 10, it better be in the inventory along side my admission that I had punched a boy in my class in eighth grade. I felt that I had to do it exactly as it was described in the book and I was terrified.

Additionally, I could see no reason why I needed to include a sex inventory in my fourth step. What I did in the privacy of my own bedroom with other consenting adults was (and is) my business. Bill Wilson, who wrote the chapters that describe the steps, had a problem with infidelity. It made sense that he would include a sex inventory in his fourth step. I have always been monogamous and so it made no sense to include this.

And so, I wrote the list and sat on it. And I’d pull it out and look at it, decide that there was nothing more to add but that sometime something would come to me, and put it away. I did this for eight months. My sponsor was going through some heavy life changes at the time and so he didn’t pester me about it. And so I kept it to myself.

I was firmly convinced that I would never get it done perfectly, and thus could never progress. Luckily, about a month before my first anniversary I opened up to a friend that I was struggling and that I’d been carrying around this step for months. I told him that I was nervous because I really wanted to ask another man to be my sponsor but I was afraid of hurting my current sponsor’s feelings. My friend told me that I shouldn’t worry about that, that it would be okay, and that I should ask the other man and move as quickly as possible to step 5 with him so I could get the weight off my shoulders.

And that’s what I did. When it came time to talk through step 4 we spent an afternoon at his house talking through it. And not only did we talk about all the bad things but we identified some assets as well. My sponsor shared some things that he’d done in his past and I saw that we are both human beings — neither innately good nor innately evil.

It was really valuable to me to look not only at my defects but also at my assets. I think this is something that is often overlooked in 12 Step rooms. We have a tendency toward self flagellation. We are quick to identify how we fail, but often slow to identify our successes. Part of this may be related to the sense that we need to keep our ego in check. But there’s a difference between grandiosity and acknowledging that we aren’t entirely rotten to the core.

Really, we are all human beings. People with addiction issues may make more mistakes that are driven by their addictions but the final analysis we are human. Humans make mistakes. We have moral and ethical lapses. It’s part of the human condition.

In my mind this is what step four is all about — Getting honest and recognize our own humanity.

Step 3: This is Going To Require Some Help

Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

I must admit that upon reaching this step my thoughts were something along the lines of this: “So, here we are. Face to face with the religion inherent in these steps. God. Him. I’ll never be able to deal with this.

Many people told me something along the lines of “but it’s God as you understand Him. Not helpful. My understanding of God was that he was that relative who came over at Thanksgiving, got drunk, insulted everyone, and pissed in the bathroom floor before leaving in a huff. That was my experience with the God of my childhood.

It wasn’t until I understood that I could let go of that God, the God of my childhood, that I was even able to consider this step as it is written. And, to be honest, even then it triggered me.

I was not ready to give up my free will or my life to a deity. I read and re-red the step. I dissected it over and over and completely missed the critical words in the step.

Care of.

When I noticed these words in the step I felt like I’d been thrown a life line. Maybe I could work with this?!

My sponsor at the time told me to read the Third Step Prayer in the Big Book and you say it every day for two weeks. I didn’t do that. I couldn’t get past the archaic language. It ruffled my feathers so much that I decided to “fake it til I made it” – bad advice in my opinion but that’s another blog post.

After two weeks I told my sponsor that I was ready to move on to step four. “No your not, you haven’t done step three yet.” I don’t know how he knew that but he did and I confessed that I couldn’t get past that language and he told me to write it in my own words. Apparently I am not alone in this because the blog post about re-writing the 3rd step prayer is the most viewed post on this site.

Even after writing that post I was not sure if I’d done it right. I continued to search. I’ve read many alternate versions of this step in Secular AA sites and books and I like this version from The Alternative 12 Steps: A Secular Guide to Recovery a lot:

Make a decision to be open to spiritual energy as we take deliberate action for change in our lives.

When I break down this step today, I’ve eliminated all the references to a deity and spirituality. For me, it’s really quite simple.

I can’t do this on my own. I need help from a variety of sources and I need to be willing to ask for it, regularly.

Reflections on Counting Days after Four Years of Sobriety

Lets talk about counting days. Opinions vary about whether or not counting the number of days one has been sober is useful or not, just as opinions vary on so many other things in the recovery community.

When I first got sober, I counted my days. I think most people do. As the days stacked up there was a sense of accomplishment. When I got my 30 day chip, it felt like an unbelievable milestone, because it was! I mean, in the previous twenty five years there hadn’t been a week that went by without getting smashed and in the previous seven it was a daily thing. Going 30 days without a drink was a miracle. And the same was true for my 60 day chip, and my 90 day chip, and my 6 month chip, and a year! A whole year without a drink!

But somewhere along the way counting days lost its shine. I certainly felt a sense of accomplishment with each passing milestone and I’d never belittle anyone for counting their days, but it just started not to matter to me. Perhaps it was that I’d become comfortable in my own skin, perhaps it no longer felt so miraculous — though to be fair, any day that someone like me gets through without a drink is miraculous — perhaps I just lost count.

I have not relapsed or slipped or whatever you want to call having a drink after a long period of abstinence. I suspect that I’d feel overwhelmed. I might feel shame. I might feel guilt. I might feel like I’d wasted my sober time. That I’d thrown it away.

That’s one way to look at it. But it’s zero sum. It’s fixed mindset. It’s black and white. Binary.

I believe that there is growth in sobriety. I believe that we become more fully ourselves in sobriety. I know that I’m not the same person I was 1461 days ago (I had to do the math on that). If I took a drink today, all that growth is still there. It doesn’t get obliterated. My perspective has shifted and I am more conscious of myself and others. One drink, one night of drinking, one week of drinking even wouldn’t change all of that. I might backslide but I don’t believe the narrative that I lose all my growth.

Sure I’d reset my sobriety date, but resetting ones sobriety date doesn’t set us back to square one. It’s just a number of days strung together.

What really matters is today. That’s why we talk about one day at a time. That’s why the Buddha spoke about the impermanence of everything.

That’s not to say that there wouldn’t be consequences if I were to take a drink. There surely would be consequences. They may be minor or they may be huge. It’s not something that I could predict. And that’s why I won’t be taking a drink today, just as I haven’t for the last 4 years of continuous sobriety, one day at a time.

Triggers, Messages, & Flack Jackets

This one is gonna be messy — honest and messy, like me.

The rooms of 12 Step Fellowships are triggering for me. Not in a “I’m gonna need a drink” way, but triggering none the less. They have been since day one.

A few of the things that I find triggering in 12 Step are God (regardless of who’s understanding it is), Religion, Outdated and Imprecise Language, Hypocrisy, and Dualistic Thinking.

And I know I’m not alone in this. Many other people are triggered in the rooms as well. The rooms may be triggering for many different reasons, but they are still triggering for a lot of people.

How does one recover in an environment that is triggering? How does one recover when one doesn’t feel safe?

The short answer is that often, we don’t. Often we leave. And more often than not when we leave, we fulfill that 12 Step saying that we’ll end up dead, in jail, or institutionalized.

And yet, I continue to show up because when I lean into the discomfort of the triggers I recognize that they are memories of traumatic events that happened in the past and aren’t currently happening. In other words, I’m currently safe, even in a triggering environment. And by leaning in, I get to remain connected to a group of people who help me to stay sober. For me, 12 Step has always been about the fellowship rather than the program.

I also happen to know many people who have left the rooms of AA who continue to maintain happy and healthy lives. People who continue to live their life following a moral compass, who are sober, and who are anything but “Dry Drunks.” These people are often highly emotionally intelligent. For those not familiar with this term, here’s the definition according to Google.

Emotional Intelligence
noun: emotional intelligence
the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard a lot in the Recovery community about Sobriety being more than abstinence. I’ve heard a lot about something called emotional sobriety. I personally believe that emotional sobriety and emotional intelligence are the same thing. I also believe that sobriety is not dependent upon emotional intelligence, but that a happy and healthy life actually is dependent upon the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions.

But this is a topic for another post. What I want to write about today is a dialogue that must happen. A dialogue that needs to be given space to exist within as well as outside the rooms. A dialogue that I believe can save lives.

The simple fact is that the 12 Steps have an abysmal success rate, at least as best as can be measured. Depending upon what statistic one looks at, the success rate is anywhere from 5% to 40%. The variance in the reported success rate is largely due to the anonymous nature of the program. Even if one wants to argue that the success rate is better than 40% there are still thousands of people dying every damn day because they aren’t getting the help they need.

We need to have a dialogue about multiple pathways in the recovery community as well as in society at large. We need to add professional help from the medical community and the psychiatric and mental health therapy community.  If the recommended treatment method for any other disease failed as often as the 12 Steps do, it wouldn’t be the recommended treatment. If people continued to die because antibiotics were only successful at treating bacterial infections such as Staphylococcus at the same rates that 12 Step is effective, we would be looking for alternate treatments.

This conversation needs to start in the recovery community. We need to make space for it. We need to allow it and we need to take the cotton out of our ears and stuff it in our mouths if we don’t like the conversation, because people are dying.

We need to start carrying the message that there are multiple ways to recover and that no one group knows best. We need to be open to the possibility that the way we’ve always done it may not be the best way. But most importantly, we need to talk about it.

Today, when someone expresses these concerns within a 12 Step forum, the most frequent response is that it gets shut down. We hear a lot of fear mongering. We hear a lot of reasons why it doesn’t work for everyone. We hear a lot about people needing to “want it” and willingness. And I don’t discount that.

What we don’t hear is that its okay that it doesn’t work for everyone and that there may be other ways to recover. For a group that claims “love and tolerance is our code” we can be awfully hurtful and rather intolerant when the topic of alternate paths of recovery comes up.

The fact of the matter is that we know a lot more about addiction after 84 years of study than we did in 1935. We know that addiction fundamentally changes our brains. We know that addiction is fueled by chemical reactions in our brains that have to do with dopamine and GABA receptors. We know that substances not only give us a dopamine hit, but also cause our brains to create more and more dopamine receptors. This is why we develop tolerances. And we know that when we suddenly remove the substances that gave us the dopamine hit, the brain reacts, sometimes in violent and life-threatening ways.

And yet, we continue to treat addiction with prayer and meditation. We continue to treat it with a program that is essentially a guide to living a good life. A moral compass of sorts. A program that essentially says, don’t be a dick, and when you are, admit it and do what you can to make it right.

Don’t get me wrong, that’s an important lesson for anyone. But it is not the be-all and end all of how to treat addiction. And it’s especially not effective when there are aspects of the program or the rooms that trigger people, causing them to feel unsafe and to leave. As one of my good friends in recovery says, “I can’t treat a dead person.”

So, we need to have people who are brave enough to bring up this topic. We need to also have people who are open minded enough to listen to the conversation and participate in the dialogue. I know from personal experience, that raising questions about 12 Step often leads to flack from some factions in the recovery community.

I also know that I have a flack jacket. I know that when I put something like this post out there, I need to put that flack jacket on. And I also know, that some days, I can’t bear the thought of wearing that flack jacket. So on those days, I put the jacket down and I don’t put myself in situations where I’ll need it. I am comfortable that the day will come when I can put it on and continue to raise this awareness.

Today, clearly, is a day that I’m ready to put on the flack jacket.


I Haven’t Written a Post In 2019, Here’s an Update

At the end of 2018 I was thinking of combining this blog with an older one and renaming it. I was considering the change because I wasn’t sure that the idea of a sober blog, a sober persona online, was serving me. I’ve long struggled with the idea of identity. And so I’d shut down one twitter handle and renamed my primary handle.

Then life happened.

In January one of my high school friends died, potentially as a result of his substance use. I really don’t know but it hit me pretty hard because I’d been talking to him about my sobriety and his for months. It seemed like he was doing great. And then he was dead.

February came and went, as it does. Nothing exciting. Cold and grey.

March was a shit show. I can’t get into the details but my sobriety was tested by events in my life that no parent should ever have to go through. I struggled with cravings in a way that I haven’t in years. The desire to numb and escape was stronger than it has been since my early rays in sobriety. But I did the right things. I went to meetings and I talked with lots of people both in and out of the program. I should note that everyone is safe and healthy but it was one of the most traumatic events of my life.

I also was interviewing for a job in March. I couldn’t give the interview process my complete attention and as a result I would learn that I didn’t get the job in April. This is probably a good thing.

As a result of the events of March I started seeing a trauma therapist. This is long over due and it’s been helpful. I am learning more about myself that I learned through the steps. This experience has reenforced my belief that outside help is more important than the 12 step community generally acknowledges.

April was better. The weather started getting warmer. I started running again, We went in a trip to Grand Cayman.

But April was not 100% peaches and cream. I learned that I didn’t get the promotion and I also got my first ever call from HR. It turns out that even though I was ready to consolidate my online personas, my employer was not happy with one of my politically charged tweets. To be fair, I said some rather unprofessional things to our Tweeter in Chief.

The call from HR was really a non-issue because I was happy to remove the tweet and didn’t fight their objection, but it opened my eyes a bit and made me recognize that some separation between my personal life, my personal online presence, and my professional self and online presence is probably warranted.

And suddenly, it’s the middle of May and I haven’t posted in 5 months.

I have a few ideas about some topics to post in the near future but for now, I’ll just say that I’m doing okay.

I’m still sober and I keep moving forward.

Imposter? I Don’t Think So.


a person who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive others, especially for fraudulent gain.

synonyms: impersonator, masquerader, pretender, imitator, deceiver, hoaxer, trickster, fraudster, swindler

As I sit in the meeting, listening intently, trying to hear a message that I’ve not heard one hundred — (no, thousands) — times before, I hear only the same things over and over again. The medium might be different but the message is the same.

Meeting makers make it
I go to a meeting a day, sometimes two just for good measure.
This is my medicine, I need to take it daily
Your addiction is doing pushups in the parking lot

If you didn’t feel a great sense of relief when you did your 5th Step, you didn’t do it completely

The only way I know to stay sober is to be of service to others
If you don’t stay in the center of the herd, you’ll end up dead, in jail or institutionalized
If you don’t do all the steps, in order, you’re not going to stay sober.

And what I hear in all this is a familiar refrain. One that I’ve heard all my life. One that tells me that I’m not good enough. A refrain that tells me that I haven’t done things right. Over and over and over again, I hear the refrain:

You’re Doing This Wrong

And more often than not, today, I leave a 12 Step meeting with a deep sense that I’m an imposter, that I’ve gotten nothing out of the meeting, and perhaps worse, that I’ve contributed nothing to the meeting because what I have to share doesn’t fit the narrative so I keep it to myself.

I want to share that I’ve been sober for nearly three years, that my life has gotten immeasurably better, that my relationships with the people that I love are better than they have been in a long time, and that I’ve not done all 12 of the steps. I want to share that I’m not so sure that the 12 steps are as magical as they’re made out to be. I want to say that when I did my fifth step it was no big deal and I didn’t feel a great sense of relief after it, more of a “well, that’s done.”

I want to share that I feel strongly that I made a decision on September 23rd 2015 to stop drinking and that I needed the help of the fellowship to do that, but that I don’t struggle daily with the thought that I need a drink, and it’s not because I go to a meeting every day, and sometimes two for good measure.

And so, I wonder, am I doing this right? Have I missed something, or am I just an imposter.

Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

I’ve lived with it most of my life. When I was a kid, I was incredibly afraid that people would find out that I wasn’t cool. That I really couldn’t skateboard as well as I might have liked. In college, I was terrified that people would discovery that I really wasn’t working that hard on my studies despite my good grades (I wasn’t, sorry Mom.). My entire career has been in the world of information security, despite having a degree in English. I go to work every day wondering if people are actually going to believe that I know what I’m talking about, despite the fact that I’ve got over 20 years experience and have been recognized as a leader in ever role that I’ve ever had in my career.

So, why wouldn’t I doubt myself when it comes to being a sober man?  Especially when I hear messages that reinforce that I’m doing it wrong in ever meeting I go to?

This is not an indictment of the 12 Step model, or even a critique, its just a statement about my truth. My truth is that I have stayed sober for nearly three years for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was making a decision to abstain and having the support to achieve that goal.

When I walked in the doors of my first 12 Step meeting (this time) I knew deeply that I needed to change and I knew that the people in the rooms could help me. I knew that I needed to surround myself with people who were living a sober life. I was (and remain) powerless over alcohol, in that once I have my first drink all bets were off. I found the conversations about spirituality confusing at best, and annoying at worst. I’ve written about that extensively, so this is no surprise to my readers. But I found that the people in the rooms were warm, welcoming, and happy. And I wanted that desperately.

So I stuck around. And I found that the community was the most important part of the program for me. I found that in the beginning, daily meeting were necessary, but that over time as I became more comfortable in my own skin and gained surer footing walking this path, that I needed meetings less and less. Daily meetings became a few a week, a few a week became one a week. As my life became fuller, I had less time for meetings. And I am okay with that — until I go to a meeting and hear the messages that others need meetings daily and then I the doubt creeps in.

Some may recognize this in some way as fear mongering. That these repeated messages are meant to scare people into remaining in the 12 Step world. And that may in fact be a part of it, for some people — I’ve always said, “some of us are sicker than others.” But I’m not sure it’s that simple.

Recently I was discussing this with my wife. Ever insightful she said, “I think there are people who need to go to meetings ever day. I think there are people who, even several years in to sobriety, have thoughts of taking a drink daily. Who struggle with the decision to turn into the liquor store or the bar on the way home. But, you’re not one of them. The only way you’ll go out is if you make a conscious decision to take a drink.”

And I think she’s right about that. I don’t struggle with the idea of a drink, thankfully. Yes, the occasional thought crosses my mind, but these thoughts aren’t cravings or urges. They’re just thoughts. And I think there are many more people like me — people who got sober by going to a 12 Step group, who stayed a few years, and then stopped going to meetings. Like me, they don’t disparage the 12 Step world, they are grateful for it. And they know that if the time comes that they need to go to a meeting they can return.

When I think about my life, and I think about what it means if I don’t go to meetings, one thing that I worry about is the newcomer. I worry about the fact that if I’m not in meetings I won’t be there to help. Thats a fact of proximity and presence. But there are other ways to carry the message.

There are other messages that I hear in the rooms, less frequently, which I find incredibly valuable.

I didn’t get sober to spend all my life hiding in church basements.
I make my recovery the center of my life rather than my life.

I’m very active in the online recovery community — particularly on Twitter. Every time I engage with an addict or alcoholic on twitter and offer hope, I’m carrying the message. Every time I write a post here and broadcast it to my audience, I carry the message. But more importantly, each day that I live my life in accordance with the principles of the program — honesty, humility, service to others, and abstinence — I’m carrying the message.

Showing others, though example by my words and actions, that one can remain sober and live a rich and rewarding life is indeed carrying the message. And that’s what I’m doing. If that makes me an imposter, so be it. I know in my heart, that I’m enough, and that I’m living a better life than I ever did when I was drinking.

Ericka’s Summer Blues

Damien’s Note:  Ericka started following this blog on it’s Facebook page a while ago and recently reached out with a series of articles written from her personal experience.  Here is the second in the series.  I can certainly relate to parts of her story and I suspect some of my readers will as well.  This piece was written on August 6, 2015.

It was July 4th weekend when my whole family came for a long weekend visit. I lived near the ocean, so my place was the perfect summer vacation spot.  I was so excited and looking forward to having everyone under my roof.  At this time, my husband and I were still sleeping in separate rooms and for the most part living separate lives.  He really wasn’t too thrilled with everyone coming because as he always would say, “it’s your family.”  It was the first time we would all be together in a long time and all I wanted was for my husband to be present.  Upon their arrival, he made excuses to run some errands and stayed away for hours.

That morning I had already started my drinking.  After breakfast, I opened up my first bottle of wine and proceeded to finish it before noon.  I had a plan to just sip throughout the day so that maybe I could once again hide the fact that I was drinking a lot. I knew once everyone arrived, we would be packing up the coolers with beer and soda and heading to the beach.  I couldn’t wait.  I could drink the beer freely along with everyone else.  During this time, I knew my drinking was getting heavier, but denial still lived inside me.

We had an amazing visit together all weekend long and I was drinking not only with everyone but behind closed doors as well.  I had my stash of wine in my bedroom and whenever I had a moment I would go upstairs and have a nice, long sip.  Sips turned into gulps and then I knew I had to hold it together.  I really don’t think anyone noticed.  I thought I had complete control over my drinking.  I was so very wrong.

The short vacation with my family came to an end.  My husband did several disappearing acts during the weekend. This was so difficult for me because it was so out of character for him.  I just knew our marriage was not going to last much longer. I just didn’t get it, but my wine did for it always understood.  As my family pulled away to head home, I waved goodbye and cried.  I walked back in the house, grabbed my purse, got in my car, and went straight to the store.  That night I would drink my sadness away.

IMG_20170223_093816_772Ericka’s Bio: Ericka Brandt Delagarza is a professional, creative, and witty writer who has been published on many blogs and websites. Her most recent accomplishment was as a co-contributor for the cookbook, “What’s Left to Eat” which debuted as a number one international best seller on As an amazing home cook, foodie, writer, and former resident of Europe, and Puerto Rico, as well the East Coast, Ericka writes just about anything these days. With food and travel as her passion, she has found writing about her struggle with alcohol and staying sober over the last five years the most difficult, yet very therapeutic experience to date.

Bookshare: Detroit Muscle, by Jeff Vande Zande

51j0maeapglRecently, Jeff Vande Zane, contacted me to see if I might be interested in reading his novel Detroit Muscle and offered to send me a PDF version. Since, I’d heard good things about this novel from several friends on Twitter, I was immediately game. In fact, the book was already on my “to read” shelf on Since I can’t stand to read PDFs even on an e-reader, I bought a copy from Amazon for my kindle.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was a bit concerned that I might not identify with the protagonist in the story, Robby Cooper, because his story was so different from my own. However, I quickly knew that I would identify with Robby because after all addiction is addiction regardless of the user’s drug of choice. Yes, my drug of choice was Alcohol, and Robby’s was Oxy, but that became immaterial once I got into the story.

The book catalogues Robby’s first few weeks after he gets back to Detroit from a rehab facility. Vande Zande clearly knows Detroit well and includes details about the city and it’s landmarks that pull the reader into the scenes. A story about Detroit would not be complete if it didn’t feature a car and this one does, a 1968 Pontiac Firebird that Robby’s father had restored with his grandfather. Continue reading