100 Breaths

Welcome to the Miracle of the Mundane.

I’m glad you’re here.

For the next five minutes, we get to share in a strange and divine human experience. I put words down and you read them. And after you do, you—however small a piece of you—will be changed, for better or worse. I hope for better.

I should warn you, since time is valuable, that no magic graphics or scroll-friendly lists will make up this post. I know that is disappointing to every reader who is trying to pack their Monday commute with a flurry of screen activity. I’ll try to make it worth your while. You won’t, for instance, find any pop-ups or advertisements. I also won’t hover buttons around the words to bait you into sharing this. I care more about the depth of your experience here than I do its reach.

But I have to be honest. This blog is dedicated to the ordinary, the common. I’m just a recovering addict and alcoholic who discovered that a regular life was what he was after all along. A sober father who falls asleep before his son after reading The Call of the Wild to him. A teacher by trade, I’m not writing this from some exotic location. I’m no guru. I’m in bed, actually. My wife and children are asleep, and I just wanted to share something with you.


My son beat me in Candy Land tonight.

He always chooses to play Candy Land when we give him the option, probably because he always finds a way to win. I mean it. Always.

Sneaky Snacky Squirrel is my jam. Maybe it’s the spin of the wheel, but that game always treats me better than Candy Land does. My son kicks my ass in Candy Land every time.

Take tonight.

Right out the gate, he pulled the ice cream float card. It’s the biggest leap a player can make, and he pulled it on his first turn. A few turns later, when a peanut butter bar sent him half way back down the trail to the Crooked Old Peanut Brittle House, I made my move. A series of double-color pulls and a big Lolly Pop draw, and I took the lead for a while.

It was not my wife’s night. Although her can-do spirit never leaves, especially in competitive atmospheres, she couldn’t advance quickly enough to keep up with us if her name was Milton or Bradley.

My son and I went down to the licorice wire.

“Ev,” I said at one point. “Do you know this is the most competitive game of Candy Land possible? All the destination cards are gone and it’s just me and you. Mano-a-mano.”

“Hey!” My wife would not be overlooked, despite being categorically eliminated from competition. She added, “Destination Candy Heart is still out there. Either one of you are one card away from a coast back down the Rainbow Trail.”

She was right. How could I forget about those candy hearts? That lame card, lingering somewhere in the quarter-deck like a pulled hamstring in the last leg of a marathon—-it could catapult me or my son out of contention in one cruel twist of game-night fate.

Can you guess who pulled it? That’s right, Mr. Big Mouth over here. I swear I didn’t stay up to write this out of bitterness for the loss. This post is not some vindictive call for attention as a consolation prize.

I’m writing about Candy Land because there was something miraculous there. And I keep stumbling into these jaw-dropping sprees of bliss in the most mundane and ordinary of moments.


The miracle, you ask? What was it?

I’m not sure how to best articulate it, and not for a lack of effort. I value your time and I’m glad you’re still sharing it with me, but asking to describe the miracle in Candy Land is like asking a fish if he is enjoying the water. The miracle just is.

I met a woman who agreed (God help her) to spend the rest of her life with me. We made two beautiful children. One of them has an uncanny ability to win Candy Land. And I am free to let him. What a miracle is that?

Now, I don’t mean it’s a miracle because I restrained from flipping the table in a sore-loser act. I’m not referring to the spirit of a parent that can be humbled into wanting what’s best for a child.

I’m referring to the body of an addict, the mind of an alcoholic that has been reprogrammed—I’m referring to a re-born spirit. I am a new man today.

I enjoy playing Candy Land on the weekend. I look forward to game night. Somehow, I’ve become all the things I swore I’d never be because they looked so boring—that typical domestic life—that steady work—that mortgage. Never in my dullest moments did I imagine this sort of life for myself.

In that strange way that makes you say things like, “God’s got a great sense of humor,” I have become everything I ran away from—and I couldn’t be happier. I tell you, dear reader, my former self was so nervous and fidgety that board games used to feel like Chinese water torture. My old self would have been jonesing the whole time, or worried if they knew I was jonesing, or imagining what they could have been thinking about me, or painfully aware of my fair skin and bushy hair, or convinced that they didn’t really love me, or too drunk to stand, too stoned to speak.

I experienced none of those things at the table tonight.

And what I’ve started to realize is that people who claim miracles are happening all the time and everywhere are right. The fact that it is annoying to hear it, especially when life has hit me with a vicious one-two combination, doesn’t make it any less true. When we clear away all that isn’t, we are free to experience all that is. And this life—the roughly 100 breaths you took while reading this post—the five minutes of your day and the day itself—is nothing short of a miracle.

And if even one breath—one moment—one game of Candy Land falls short, then all the mistakes are mine.   



14 Responses to “100 Breaths

  • Lisa Neumann
    8 months ago

    Savoring the simplicity.

    I boxed up Candy Land for donation pick up, but after a second glance thought the trash might be a better home.

    Such a gift. It’s not an old tattered game. It’s the memory of the fact that I played it to exhaustion—and I remember playing it.

    Now they beat me at everything and I actually TRY to win.

    Good times. Good thoughts.

    • Who says I wasn’t trying to win? Haha. Not like I would cheat my own four-year-old son out of winning, but he certainly beat me fair and square.

      Thanks for the visit, Lisa! How is everything going at Sober Identity? New projects? New ideas? I’m eager to catch up.

  • I love your posts! And this is no different!

  • Every moment of every day can be a gift.
    Thank you…

  • I enjoyed your game. And the glory of it all.

  • Mark,

    As usual, beautifully written and articulated. I can’t express how appreciative I am for these kinds of mundane moments in recovery. I am experiencing these miracles with Jim’s sobriety all the time. They just take my (100) breath(s) away.

    On a less serious note, is this a new version of candy land? I am unfamiliar with this candy heart card. As a pediatric SLP I am moderately concerned I am unaware of this.

    All the best,

    • Haha! Don’t be concerned. I’m not sure which version it is. I’ll have to look it up when I’m back home. I’ll let you know. I do know it’s not the original original, because those are worth like fifty bucks on eBay. But I can say with certainty that in this version, those damn candy hearts send you nearly back to the start. I found out the hard way.

      I so appreciate your visit and comment. My best to you and Jim, Mark

  • LOVED this post, because you articulate what I am discovering!
    Each day I am sober is a miracle.
    Each dinner I have with my hubs, each walk, and hand holding.

    • Thank you so much, Wendy! Go and enjoy those moments is right! We are off to pick up the boy early from school to catch a movie!

  • “I am referring to a reborn spirit.”

    Oh I loved reading this. The whole simplicity of it all. It was a soothing read and a reminder to myself to, keep it simple. Let things unfold.

  • This warmed my heart and gave me goosebumps. I LIKE what you have, Mark — living the miraculous in the mundane and being so grateful for it. Thanks.

  • Great post, Mark. There are some things that I do at home which take me back as well, back to when I was drinking and miserable, and wondering how would I see me today? I would certainly scoff at myself. Boring dad. Silly games. I would have had to get loaded up to get myself to sit down and play cards or Monopoly or whatnot. Today I don’t have to. Do I enjoy board games in general? Not always, but at least I can be there for the boys. Let them know I care about them to play and to create memories. Because I know they won’t remember what level they got to in their favourite video game, or what place they came in at their last school track run, but they will remember sitting at the table playing games with their family. So it’s my mandate to be there for them and help create those lasting memories.

    Thanks for this, Mark. Wonderful stuff.

    • That’s good stuff, Paul. I admit I’m not the board game guy either, really. But we’re in that fun stage where E is just old enough to sit down and enjoy it. I’m sure that will change when he is 10 and wants to play Monopoly all day, but I’m here to enjoy it in the meantime.

      Thank you, as always, for engaging. It continues to mean a lot to me.


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