Ten years sober today. These four words fill me with a strange concoction of gratitude and shock. Gratitude for obvious reasons: I am not dead; my life feels worthwhile, and I have my sanity and people who care about me—which is more than many people get. But a decade is an incomprehensible amount of time for someone who lived in a broken Lincoln Towncar and couldn’t stay sober for an hour, let alone a day or a month. 

Shock is good. I cannot accept sobriety as a given fact. Years ago, an old man in a church basement said, “Stick around long enough, and this becomes a life spent stepping over dead bodies.” It sounded brutally morbid at the time, but it makes more sense with each passing year. I know too many people who’ve died, some with double-digit sobriety who believed they were cured. So I must continue to do what I’ve been taught and keep practicing the little routines that have been drilled into me over the years. Most of all, I must turn outward and focus on others, even though my tendency is to turn inward—as if I might ever solve the riddle of the self. But that’s a dead end.

This morning I went for a run in the desert behind our home. The elevation creeps up subtly, then suddenly. Patches of snow coated the sand, and I carefully picked my way through rivers of broken stones. After fifteen minutes of huffing and cursing, I looked back, stunned by how far I’d climbed. I switched off my running mix and savored the blessed silence. Metaphors abound.

If you’re struggling, please reach out to someone. I’m here.