Hey, remember blogging?

Way back in the summer of 2011, what seems like three lifetimes ago by almost any measure, two different people close to us found themselves dealing with the harsh reality of addiction. It was an experience that Chelli and I knew more than a bit about, having quietly weathered Chel’s own journey (god, I still hate that word) of clawing her way into recovery several years prior, but it wasn’t something we’d ever talked about openly. Even though the process swallowed our marriage whole for the better part of a year, I could count on one hand the number of people who knew any of the gory details of that period in our lives. To complicate matters, we’d lost a dear friend to addiction the year prior, which made our continued silence on the matter all the more untenable.

So, I started a blog. (Hey, it was 2011. It was a weird time. You remember? We were still putting those “Hipstamatic” frames on all of our over-processed smartphone pics, so in the grand scheme, a blog was hardly my greatest sin.) I wrote about our experience with Chelli’s hard-fought battle into & then with recovery, the way it decimated our marriage, the way we rebuilt, the things we learned, and more than a few things we screwed up. I wrote about our friend, Michele, and my deep, unresolved guilt over not being able to save her. I wrote a lot about grief, in all its various forms. I wrote about other things, too… my love for my grandfather, my oldest niece going away to college, milestones like anniversaries and birthdays, the summer I decided to jump out of perfectly fine airplanes, and I even managed to pontificate about a social issue or two for good measure.

A lot of great conversations happened as a result of those posts about addiction, some on social media, but many more privately. Telling our story — something that had been a sort of secret shame for a number of years — felt liberating, but it also allowed others to do the same, friends and strangers who in turn shared their own stories of addiction and all of its related horrors and triumphs. Although I was writing about one of the most difficult things we’d faced at that point in our lives, I was doing it all from the safety and advantage of hindsight. I knew we successfully made it to the other side… battered, but not beaten. I wanted our story to be one of hope, especially for anyone who now found themselves neck-deep in their own struggle with addiction, so I wrote from that perspective. There was (at least a veneer of) vulnerability in my posts, sure, but it was a vulnerability that was under full narrative control, by design, because I knew how the chapter ended.

Then in the fall of 2015, our lives fell apart anew, the result of the beginning of a harrowing medical shitstorm unlike anything we’d ever experienced. Although I continued to write during that time, both in private journals and in “update” posts on Facebook, I didn’t put any of it on my public blog. After all, I didn’t know how the next day was going to unfold, much less how this new chapter in our story was going to end, so the idea of putting it all out there on a public forum was a bridge too far.

As I look back now, the simple fact is I’m not the same person I was seven years ago when the blog came to a whimpering halt. That guy — 2015’s Jeffrey — is almost unrecognizable to me now. While Chelli’s illness has certainly been the driving force in that admittedly reluctant metamorphosis, it definitely hasn’t been the only life-altering circumstance fighting for representation. My decade-old ruminations on grief seem almost quaint now, particularly after the unrelenting string of losses Chelli and I have experienced in the last handful of years… the deaths of a number of close relationships, our collies, several friends, my beloved grandfather, and most recently, Chelli’s parents. But I also know myself in a way I didn’t back then. I’m more intimately aware of my limitations & my failures, but also of my value. Maybe that’s just the sort of thing that happens when you make your way into your fifties; no one gets through this life unscathed, after all.

And so, why resurrect a dusty old blog now? Shit, I don’t know for sure. My first instinct was to finally put it out to pasture, to throw it in the proverbial burn pit, just as I have with actual paper journals over the years. While some of those old blog entries are meaningful, most are mildly embarrassing to me now. Some, downright cringe-inducing. Then there’s a second instinct to take out my red teacher’s pen (once an English teacher, always…) and do a full overhaul: clean them up, edit the cringe, correct the typos, and reduce the unflinching need to try to make everything into a positive life lesson.

Instead, I’ve opted to leave them be. I gave the blog a fresh coat of paint, but I’ve left the words alone. Over the next couple weeks, I’m going to fill in some of the missing pieces of the last seven years by transferring a collection of my writing, taken from some journals and old Facebook posts, to their own place in the blog’s timeline. So, prepare for a flurry of new/old stuff. Eventually, maybe I’ll catch up with the present day and write something brand new from time to time. Or maybe I won’t. I’ll figure it out as I go.

Because this time, I don’t know how the story ends.

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