It is June 25, 2017. I am lying on the beach in Plum Island Massachusetts. My husband is next to me on the blue cotton quilt we have always used as a beach blanket. I look out to the jetty, it’s gray and irregular rocks like long daggers, outstretched blades on either side of us that pierce the active white-capped and frigid Atlantic sea. I hear the sound of waves beating against the shore rhythmically. The humming of boats vibrate across air and water as they travel out to open ocean. I feel at peace.
Everything is different. It may not be our first sober summer, but it is our first summer in recovery and that is something unique. Something shiny and new. But also hidden, something to be explored, to be discovered.
In recovery my husband wakes up earlier than me, even on weekends. In recovery my husband goes hiking with me and fishes. In recovery my husband and I ride bikes and he rushes me out of the house to the beach. In recovery I don’t resent the other couples I see out doing things together. I am no longer envious of even the most mundane, like couples running errands and doing food shoppings. In recovery I have a husband. He is in recovery from dope and he is perfect to me.
It is June 10 , 2017. We have had a lot of rain this spring. Not today. The car windows are open, it is 75 degrees, and the blue sky is scattered with puffy white clouds. I sit in the passenger seat of the car with our chihuahua Sky in my lap, my husband driving. My eyes are closed and I let the warm air rush pass my face, the suns rays caressing my eyelids. I am turning stations on the radio and not able to find anything. But its all good. Life is all good in recovery. We are headed to the North Shore, MA. Although we have only been in the car for 10 minutes, we have been traveling to this place for years now. It is moments like this that I find myself comparing points in time, analyzing the destinations on our life’s map, surveying the journey across days, months, and years. I did this while my husband was using, I would recollect the good old days, the before-relapse days. Now I do it in recovery, I assess how far we have come since treatment. Since the before-rehab days. This, as you can imagine, is a less out of control, hair pulling, fist beating, and soul crushing experience; a more gratifying assessment.
My passage across time takes me to last summer, 2016. We had recently moved from San Diego. He spiraled to rock bottom so quickly once we got here, we didn’t really get to experience our new digs in Massachusetts. Not together at least. He learned about the street corners and the dope spots. I focused on work and started a blog. The good moments then were fleeting, blips in the radar on the way down to rock bottom. And then there were no more good moments. My husband one more, one last, hit away from death, toeing the heroin-fentanyl line. Then there was the most important moment, in October of 2016 he surrendered and went into treatment.
Fast forward to now. Carfentanil has hit Massachusetts. It is 100 times more potent than fentanyl. A ruthless killer. On the beach, next to my husband who proudly displays his Vivitrol tag hanging from a chain around his neck, I feel overwhelming gratitude sitting on our blue quilted oasis. It is enough to bring me to my knees. I gaze into my life on our blanket, at his sunned chest, tattooed arm, and gray specked beard, sunlight reflecting from silver strands. We are not alone on the beach. I gaze out from life on our blanket. There are couples and families with their colorful umbrellas dotted up and down the shoreline. Surrounded by beach goers, I remember our painful journey. Encircled by the chatter of shrieking seagulls and children, I recall the past quietly, privately, and with solitude. I do it without voice and without speech. I don’t remember to perseverate on the past. I don’t remember so I can throw it in my husband’s face. I don’t remember by choice.
My time traveling contemplations come to me naturally in these moments. The recollections are materialized apparitions, emerging spontaneously, unplanned. The memories appear without intention, like surprise visitors stopping by, unwelcome. But when the guests arrive I answer the door. I don’t just let go of them. I acknowledge them in gratitude, relief, joy, and terror. I let them in. The inpatient hospital stay, a near overdose, the cops at my house, an arrest, two, or three, jail bail outs, the nights he disappeared, the time behind bars, the days locked in the guest bedroom, the withdrawals, the numerous court dates, the terrifying phone calls at 2, 3, 4 am, and a drug induced psychotic break. I let them in and I let them go. But they will always return, residing in the back room of my mind, specters in my guesthouse.
Back on our blanket in the sand, the hot tears stream down my face as the cool air caresses my flushed cheeks with her gentle fingers, as if to comfort me. The waves lapping the shore, as if to whisper to me, “Its over now. You are both safe. For now. You are here. He is sober.”
About a month ago we started joking about how this summer in Massachusetts would be our “sobah summah”. You know because here we “pahk the cah in the hahvahd yahd “. On the car ride home this afternoon, covered in sand, and smelling of burnt skin, sunscreen, and freshly devoured lobster rolls, my husband tells me how he plans to hit the gym even harder because he needs to lose weight. As my husband complains of his weight gain, I am smiling on the inside. Because weight gain means recovery. Because going to the gym means recovery. I am smiling because to me he is perfect. Because he is sober. And this is the start of our “sobah summah”.
It feels like the start of our lives.