WITH 12 STEPS –   

JULY 6, 2021 – Ron’s gold track pants make a swishing sound as he walks toward me, his right hand outstretched. Tall and skinny with the impeccable posture my mother would love, he’s probably in his late twenties. He yawns and apologizes for yawning while leading me through a maze of hallways to a small room with a twin bed, a chair with initials carved into the seat, a tall dresser—and no door.

“Call it a way station,” he says, gesturing from the threshold like he’s revealing a prize on a game show. “As long as there’s no contraband in your bag and no red flags go up in your intake evaluation, you’ll be in general population tomorrow morning.” He follows me into the room and stands at the foot of the bed with his arms folded. I hug my bag and stare at the shiplap wall.

“Okay, so here’s the deal,” he says. “Every morning we’re up at six, except Sundays when you can sleep in. That means seven. Group therapy every day, and AA and NA meetings. Physical fitness, meditation, recreation, lectures on sober living—the whole nine. Unless you have a doctor’s note, everything’s mandatory, so don’t think about trying to ditch. Capisce?”

Does he want me to say “Sir, yes, sir”? I nod and drop my bag on the bed, trying not to laugh at his dorky impression of a drill sergeant.

“This will be your life for the next twenty-eight days. Once you’ve been here a week, you get phone privileges. Forty-five minutes a day. Abuse those privileges and sayonara the phone.”

“Some folks don’t go home for 18 months. Some never do. All depends on how bad your disease is. Questions?”

“I promised my mom I’d call when I—”

“Holy smokes, Dave. Has it been a week already? I could have sworn you just got here.” He grins. “No, all kidding aside. Mom knows you’re here. I just talked to her. Part of my daily routine is a check-in with your folks.”

“My parents are divorced.”


“Will you talk to both of them every day?”

“Mom and Dad have as much to learn about recovery as you do. And fortunately for you and them, Hazelden does a terrific job of educating parents about enabling and tough love, everything they need to know to help you avoid old patterns when you’re back home in six months or—”