Ninety Days by Bill Clegg(4 out of 5)
I did this backwards. This is Bill Clegg’s second book- a followup to what happened in his first memoir, Portrait of An Addict as A Young Man. I read this one first, and haven’t gotten to his first yet. If it’s anywhere as smashing as this book was, I can hardly wait.
I should take this moment to acknowledge that I like to read bleak, depressing stories of human nature.
Having clarified that, this is Bill Clegg’s story of trying to reach the 90 Days of Sobriety mark that many addicts aspire so hard to reach. It’s beyond the turning point for many. For many, it means the difference between a temporary fix and a lifetime turning your back on something that’s ruined your life. Of course, Bill has his relapses- so do his friends. He becomes very close friends with Polly, who’s trying hard to kick drugs, but lives with her twin sister Heather, who’s using every other minute and having users over who do the drugs in front of Polly. Temptation doesn’t lead Polly down an easy street- Bill doesn’t live with anyone. If anything, he takes an apartment he can barely afford and does indeed give into his baser urges on several occasions and falls down the rabbit hole. He finds a real ace in the support community in Asa, who’s a calm, presence in a whirlstorm of temptation. Asa saves him a number of times, but Bill runs through every possible hole he can run into, and finally something clicks. He steals from his own mother, loses all of his older friends, and hits rock bottom before something finally holds. Does Polly survive? Does Heather quit enabling and sabotaging her sister? does Bill’s mother forgive him? Does Asa fall off the edge of sobriety?
To say it’s a powerful book is not enough. It’s a book with a powerful message. I had hoped it was more pages- something along the lines of 400 pages, like Augusten Burrough’s masterpiece Dry- but the small offering the book is, he can get his points across in under 300 pages. That’s not easy. It’s also easy to say “This guy is a freaking loser and I know he’s going to end up dead” but that isn’t the case. You give a shit about Bill, about Polly, about Asa, you even end up giving a shit about Bennie, Bill’s poor neglected cat(he’s fond of bingeing on vodka, crack, and cute gay boys and forgetting to feed her). It was an incredibly gut-wrenching at times, emotionally heavy book, but those are often the best ones. This is a great book. not only about the aftermath of the great fall known as addiction, but about the newfound reality of sobriety.