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But it’s hard to play defense against a player you’ve never encountered. Turns out that the x I was trying so desperately to solve in the equation was something utterly out of my control: another person and his secrets. I grew up in a household where one person managed and controlled all the money, and that one person was not even the one making the money. Some stuff becomes hardwired in your brain, even if you know it’s not absolutely correct. This was one of those things.

Sometimes I wish life were more binary. I want to be stretchy. Period. I don’t want to be stretchy and chasey, although truthfully, being chasey sometimes drives me to figure things out just to alleviate my envy. But it’s hard to live simultaneously with those two qualities because the chasey feels like it is drowning the stretchy, and I know that the stretchy just needs more time.

We talked for awhile, this man, whose name I heard as Matt, and I. He was relatively drunk but so, so pleasant…and that accent! My biggest concern was, interestingly, not the drinking. I could excuse that because his family were over from England, and it was their last night, and you know how the Irish can drink (somehow that was comforting excuse. Hindsight!). No, my biggest concern was his swearing. I’d never heard those few words used so effortlessly in many parts of speech in my life.

So I try to keep September 10, 2001, always present in my mind, even though I can’t tell you a single thing that actually happened on that day. I keep it present because that day is a perfect example of the “before” time to whatever instance abruptly stops you in your tracks and hijacks your world. Before the diagnosis. Before the accident. Before the breakup. Before the ______________.

We didn’t just talk about addiction, of course, because these men, and the other woman and I are more than the product of this disease, which steals from every person with whom it comes in contact. But it was so easy to ask questions, to recall a similar experience, to look at this couple, who in many ways are a mirror of us, and see where we had been, where we are and what damage still lingers. Because believe me, no matter how much better it is, no matter how fabulous it is, in fact, there is lingering damage. Scars heal over time, stop being red and raw, but never go away entirely.