It starts with a conversation.

In contrast to where you were over a month ago, you’re lying in a hotel bed in Seattle with Milo, and he’s running his fingers tenderly through your damp hair. You feel safe. You feel loved. Maybe it’s because you feel safe and loved that you don’t lash out at him like you would at any other person when he brings up your drinking.

“I’m worried about you,” he says.

“I’m okay,” you say.

“I don’t think you are.”

The conversation ends more than a week later when you check yourself into a treatment center for five days of detoxification.

Your first day in detox reminds you of what it was like growing up in foster care. The room they put you in has all of the qualities of the room you stayed in at your last group home, with its bare, gray walls, metal furniture, and waterproof mattresses, but here, you have one roommate instead of many, and rather than a house parent with a list of chores, a nurse comes and goes with a cocktail of prescription medications to treat your withdrawal symptoms. You hate it as much as you thought you would. It feels as much like prison as you thought it would.

If you didn’t know any better, you might think that the treatment center was built to dredge up your bad memories as much as it was built to “rehabilitate” you, making you shake and sweat for reasons not at all related to your drinking problem while you sit on the bathroom floor and dry heave over the toilet - despite the Zofran and Valium that have taken the place of alcohol in your blood. Your roommate, a gruff man in his forties who has been in and out of rehab half a dozen times, tells you that you’d better get used to the idea of spending more time here. Unsurprisingly, you find yourself wishing you had a shot of something to take the edge off.

On your first night, when you’re unable to sleep, you swathe yourself in Milo’s favorite sweater and sit at the foot of your bed, closing your eyes, trying to recreate his image in your mind with enough clarity to curb some of your anxiety. When that doesn’t work, you open your eyes and crane your body over the edge of the bed, reaching out to open the blinds and the window behind them in turn, paying no mind to your roommate snoring a few feet away and seeking solace in the familiar sights, sounds, and smells of the Portland nightlife. There are wrought iron bars encasing the window from the outside to prevent you from throwing your body several stories to the street below, but they aren’t enough to keep you from looking out, from wishing you were down there and willing yourself to do whatever it takes to get back down there in four days’ time.

Hugging your knees to your chest, you sit - watching unsuspecting passersby, listening to the whir of cars driving past with radios too loud, inhaling the humid night air - and you wonder if Milo is as wide awake as you are. You miss him. You miss the feeling of his hands in your hair. You miss the feeling of his lips on your skin. You miss the feeling of his body pressed up against yours and his arm wound protectively around you when he insists that you be the little spoon. Not knowing how else to cope, you wrap your arms around yourself and breathe in the ghost of him, filling your lungs with the essence of cigarettes you aren’t allowed to smoke, of deodorant and coconut hair product, until the sun rises on the second day of your sobriety.

You tell every person who asks that you’re doing this for yourself - because you know it’s what they want to hear, because you know it’s what the truth should be, but the truth is—
I did it for you.