John L. describes his journey toward sobriety and faith in this debut recovery memoir.
John L. recounts his first ever high school party—he chugged a bottle of Cold Bear wine and spent the rest of the night riding the “porcelain school bus.” His adolescence and young adulthood were devoted to drinking and using drugs, often in ways that brought his life crashing down around him. When his wife kicked him out, he reached out to a marriage counselor, who convinced him to check himself into a 28-day rehabilitation program. So began the yearslong process of bettering himself via sobriety, a 12-step program, forging a new belief in a higher power, and having his humility reinforced by the many crusty AA veterans who reminded him that the recovery process is never complete. In the face of a number of personal tragedies—including deaths in his family and a horrible car accident that left him wheelchair-bound—L. maintained his sobriety, reconnected with a lost love, and kept finding reasons to get out of bed. Much of the book reads like an extended AA share, which readers may experience as either riveting or mundane (depending on how many times they’ve heard this sort of thing before). L.’s story is inspirational, almost to a fault: while his desire may be to show how the average addict can recover to lead an average life, his hurdles and achievements seem atypically outsized. A revelation in the final pages will break the hearts of anyone who has kept it together until that point, reiterating the larger message of the book: AA is a program meant to strengthen the spirits of damaged people, and a person committed to its mindset can continue to survive in increasingly unsavory circumstances. Perhaps such a rough point is an important one to make: there may not be a rainbow at the end of the storm, but that’s no excuse to give up living.
An affecting account of rough times and recovery.