The first few days of summertime in Chicago feel well earned after the grueling winter months.
On the first hot day, people blossom out of their apartments and onto the streets, piling into busses and trains to the beach, to shop, to browse fruit and vegetables at overpriced north side farmers markets.
The swirl of fried food smells, snippets of dance music blaring from taxis and the endless number of beautiful people whizzing past on bicycles has an intoxicating effect on the senses.
I stare wistfully at people drinking tropical concoctions on patio bars throughout the city and wonder if they're able to stop at just two. Will they remember their conversations? Under the strings of Edison bulbs, they look happy and healthy.
Just as I mentioned in previous posts, even with a solid year of continuous sobriety under my belt, I get curious about what it would be like to go back "out there." What if I took all this knowledge from people who had learned to manage their drinking and tried again - this time with the caution and resolve I lacked as a teenager.
As quickly as I envision myself being able to drink "normally," I recall that there never was a normal for me. I didn't start drinking and eventually master it. I was bad to begin with and got worse. If I start again, I know I'll get right back to where I was.
Earlier this week, I sat at a great bar and looked at the pyramid of bottles behind the counter. As my friends ordered drafts, we bonded over the fact that no one had showed up for the show.
Tired, restless and acutely aware of the sweet smell of Old Style, I caught my reflection in the mirror and instead of feeling sorry for myself, for the first time in a while, I felt satisfied.
Even if I couldn't have a drink with my friends, I could sit in this bar in a city I so deliberate moved to in order to pursue my dream of being a comedian. Here I was, being a comedian. Recovery allows me to remember this messy, convoluted period and hopefully grow from it.
To quote a writer who allegedly patronized that very bar, "It's every man for himself in this hired air. Yet once you've come to be part of this particular patch, you'll never love another. Like loving a woman with a broken nose, you may well find lovelier lovelies. But never a lovely so real."