Apparently, the fine line separating alcoholism from sobriety is just a break in a storm that continues to roll through. Finally believing that the four months of sobriety Swenny had achieved was the beginning of longterm recovery, I was greeted in bed one night last weekend by the familiar scent of vodka. My patterns are as predictable as his, so I immediately questioned what my nose was telling me and fell asleep believing I was mistaken.

The next morning, when I was asked about Swenny by a running buddy, I answered that he was good. Surprisingly good. Sensing there was more to my answer, she said nothing for a few strides before I broke the silence by adding that I was certain I smelled vodka the night before. When I returned home, I found it – a nearly empty bottle, poorly camouflaged by a brown paper bag, tucked neatly away in a locked compartment of his trunk.

At first, Swenny denied that he knew anything about it. A few seconds later, he claimed it was an old bottle. I waited while he chased leads on a story he hoped I would buy. Finally, he acknowledged another relapse, characterizing it as small and assuring me it would be short lived.

With nothing left to say, I tossed the bottle in the trash and entered our kitchen to find my favorite coffee mug. Molded by a potter, it sits perfectly in my hand. On the front it says “Run”. So over a cup of coffee, I considered running and alcoholism. And storms after an early morning thundershower washed through.

For those who struggle to achieve longterm recovery, every day of sobriety is also a day closer to relapse. As storm clouds build, those who love someone with alcoholism take heed of what’s to come. Before long, against their better judgment, they run into the storm. With thunderclouds still building, they realize that once again they have underestimated its power, and emerge weakened by their effort.

Knowing that it’s just a matter of time before they run back into that storm, they can’t help but wonder what it will take before they decide to run the other way.