Based on a true story found on a placard in the Museum of Culture and Environment at their exhibit for Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.

The date is July 3rd, 1989. A Monday; what a perfect day for new beginnings. Here I stand, in the white doorway of the facility of the chemical dependency treatment program. A grey metal sign above my sober head reads “EXIT” in softly glowing green letters.

And so I did.

I take in a deep breath as I step beyond the threshold. A wave of thoughts, questions, and considerations crash into me. I am aware of my free hand subtly shaking and the misty sweat starting to bead on my forehead. My heart pulsates the blood through my body: I feel that sensation travel down my arms and legs, and even though I know this motion happens fast, it was a slow process of recognition. What if I relapse? Will I be able to do this? Be able to make it? I shake my head and take another breath. I have to tell myself that I can.

The pavement greets me with a warmth coming up through the soles of my shoes. A gentle breeze kisses my bare arms and face. I look around. My hope is torn from me as if the air is knocked from of my lungs. Dread is the only thing present, as I realize I am in a small town in the middle of nowhere. How will I start here? From nothing to a new life. A brief consideration of returning to the city passes through my mind. There would be more opportunities. Yes. Many… Opportunities. I lick my dry, cracking lips, tasting the temptation and toying with the flame threatening to reignite. A tendril of smoggy darkness whispers that I am alone now, to do as I please. No one would know if I just… I shake my head once more, furrowing my brow in defiance. No.

Focus. Start with concrete things, like they taught me. What do I have? Well…

I have no money to my name, not even a backpack. No, I have a pillowcase: softly grey but browning lightly from the time passing. Orange-brown spots splatter in a few places, dried from I forget what. Inside are the sole possessions I carry aside from the clothes on my back.

Two pairs of underwear, three pairs of socks, two t-shirts, a lightweight summer jacket, one sweater, a pair of flip flops, a few books, and a newfound invigorating resolve to be the better man I know I will soon be.

I am a new man.

I will succeed.


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