This is (and isn't) a story about sobriety.
A book passage and a podcast for a rainy Sunday.
HALF WILD is about sobriety, kind of.
The same way I couldn’t call myself an alcoholic, I won’t call this a sobriety book. “Sobriety journey” implicates a single antagonist and suggests that removing said antagonist will resolve the conflict. Anyone who has ever quit anything knows all too well that it’s never just about the cessation of the thing. It’s about what drives us to the precipice, and what we discover beyond it.
Since drinking was less of the problem and more of a symptom, cutting its head off simply revealed a thousand more snarling heads. The book is about how, after conquering what I perceived as my antagonist, I found before me an escalating array of tests and traps. On the other side of alcohol was self-loathing, deep rejection, and existential fear. I simply exchanged kinetic behavioral warfare for a battle of emotional attrition.
So, sure, I can call it a book about sobriety for marketing purposes and, like all marketing, it will be overly simplistic and lacking in nuance. The whole story is deeper, and less convenient. The excerpt below shares a taste.
I had a blast joining journalist and colleague Michael Hickins on his delightful podcast But I Digress… to discuss the highs and very real lows of the writing process.
Please check it out on Spotify or wherever and let me know what you thought of the conversation.
Now, an excerpt from HALF WILD
After a year sober, I lost the drive to drink or prove myself, numb out, and hide behind a woozy veil of hops and bourbon. But I couldn’t help but feel like the alcohol had not fully left my system. Even though drinking didn’t leave me down and out, it left me haunted. The ghost rattled her chains to distract me from how far I had come. I learned to live with her.
Every now and again, I will go to sleep and dream that I am drinking again. When I wake up, usually feeling a little guilty and panicked by my imagined transgression, I will feel relief that it was just a dream, and I will soothe myself by opening the app on my phone that shows me how many days it has been since I quit drinking. Almost every time those drinking dreams happen, I am on or near some significant anniversary, like a 6-month mark or a day that ends in two or three zeroes.
I heard someone say in a meeting once that the dreams are just what happen when your brain decides to “clean out the attic.” They are your subconscious flipping through old scrapbooks, stepping into the nostalgia of a bygone life, and asking if you want to keep those relics, or let them go.
It’s like looking at old pictures. Only the good times got documented for posterity, and that was what appeared when your brain did the audit to bring them back up to be processed. Drinking dreams showed the romance of a glass of champagne at a wedding. They skipped the hot cigarette breath of the groomsman copping a feel on the dance floor.