Clegg, Bill. “Ninety Days: A Memoir of Recovery”, Little, Brown and Company, 2012.
Just Ninety Days
All Bill Clegg needed was just 90 days to be clean and lose the addiction that caused him to lose everything. He had been in rehab for six weeks and he then came back to New York and attended two or three meetings a day. At the meetings he became friendly with several people including Polly, a woman who was struggling with her own addictions and her recovery and relapse and Asa who seemed to be sober and unshakably so. In the beginning peer support did not work for Clegg and he relapsed with just three days to go. If you know or have known addicts you know how difficult that this can be. Clegg told us about his addictions in his first book “Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man” and this book picks up where the previous book stopped.
Clegg was determined not to fall into his addiction again—he had to rebuild his life. As he walked the streets of New York City, he faced memories of what he had been through and the struggles he experienced in trying to quit. The cravings for crack were powerful and he knew he could slide back into using and he does with just three days to go.
While “Portrait” was full of self-awareness, “Ninety Days” seems to be lacking the same self-awareness. Because of this, the book does not seem finished. Replacing self-awareness here is self-pity but we see it through the eyes of other characters. He seems to be crying about himself all of the time. It is as if he is telling us that his path to sobriety is the way to go, even when he tells us that co-dependency has replaced drugs in his life.
What we see here is that once the craving for drugs begins, it is almost impossible to stop and perhaps this might be difficult for some to understand if they are not familiar with the problems of substance abuse. It is certainly hard to imagine how someone who lost everything to drugs would fall back into using. I think we also must understand that even those of us who partook of recreational drugs in our earlier years have no idea what Clegg was going through. I find it frightening that someone has to deal with such issues. Clegg explains how a relapse can occur even when one makes the decision that to stay sober.
Here is a person who had a successful life and lost it. He returns to New York and is going to live in his brother’s office when the business is closed and spend his time going to Narcotics Anonymous and 12 Step Meetings during the day. He wants to salvage his life and the people that he sees at the meetings seem eager to help get back on track. He gets a sponsor to guide and help him but neither nor his new friends really seem to be what he needs. Out of boredom he went to the places he was told to stay away from and he saw people who could cause a relapse to occur. The temptation seems always present. Sometimes he has fond memories of using.
Clegg learns that he must be honest with himself but he has a great deal of trouble because he does not feel he is like the other addicts. He takes us into the world of recovery and we see it is not a pretty place.
Ninety days does not seem like a long time but if someone is struggling against an addiction even two days can be a long time. We see that even if someone gets through those ninety days, the journey is still ongoing. It seems that recovery last forever and for me it is quite difficult to understand how something can so totally engulf a person. With Clegg, I had some problems. I began rooting him on but I became really angry when he relapsed and could not understand how he could be so stupid. The reality is that addiction is a sickness and there does not seem to be a cure for it.
The struggle is raw battle and while Clegg says he wants to get sober, I have to see it to know that he has succeeded. I do not personally know Clegg but I do have friends who are his friends (or were his friends before addiction) and I understand that he is a bright, good-looking guy. That is the Clegg I want to see and that is the Clegg that I want to begin writing about other things than his addiction. His writing here seems honest and his prose is quite good. His story is moving and hits us hard—I only hope that it hits him in the same way.