Relief is one of those charged words.

You have to know how to feel relief before you can say it. Its meaning is implicitly assigned.


It’s letting go. It’s breathing. It’s getting home after a shitty day. It’s the TEXACO station in the middle of bumble-fuck Texas when your gas light’s been on for 35 miles. It’s a check in the mail. It’s hearing someone you care about is OK. It’s discovering you’re going to be OK. It’s a sigh. It’s pain — subsiding.

The thing about relief: It requires waiting.

We would never be rewarded with that moment where we let the air escape from our lungs, feel our muscles relax, and allow ourselves to breathe into the deepest part of our stomach if we didn’t have to suffer, even minimally, just waiting for it.

I have decided that relief is biology’s coerced version of gratitude. When we can’t be grateful mentally, our bodies tell us what we’re thankful for and we can literally feel it. The first time I realized that I was physically designed to feel gratitude I was, in fact, grateful for the ability to experience this phenomena. Sobriety enabled and allowed me this tool, I’m sure. Because, in my “blue period,” AKA stark-raving-wasted,  gratitude did not exist for anything or anyone other than the someone-next-to-me at the bar who offered to buy my next round.

For a long time, my relief was served in a rocks glass. The air that I allowed myself to breathe was filtered through my liver, not my lungs. Everything ended up drunk. Everything.

When we don’t listen to our body’s language, its warnings, its instructions…it stops talking. Consult over. It just starts wreaking havoc. And, in that case, much like a case of the insane, we start talking to ourselves. In tongues mostly. We then enlist a whole team of bottles to sort out what’s trapped in our skulls. My most hired translator: Jim Beam. Though, there were nights I preferred the roll of José Cuervo’s “R”s. — “RRRrrrrelief!”

These days, relief comes and goes. But, I feel it. My body knows itself again. A translator is no longer necessary to fully appreciate my own suffering and joy. I’ve come to realize that, in addition to signaling my own condition, relief notes my compassion. I feel, I breathe, I sigh for other people too; something for which Jim Beam has no words.

Like relief, sobriety has too many meanings. All thrown into another charged word that means so much more than the sum of it’s parts. It’s more than just being off the sauce. More than being right-minded. More than calm in the company of calamity. It’s hearing the alarms that you, yourself, have tripped. It’s seeing pain outside yourself that needs tending to, and then, attending to it. It’s the relief of administering aide for the first time, not because you have to, but because you are capable. The pure exhilaration, the inhale-exhale, the integrity that allows someone else’s relief to become your own. The connected, universal pain– subsiding.

Heed your body’s call –Breathe again. Sigh. Feel it all.


“RRRrrrrrelief!”  — No José required.


Stay saucy,


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