554 days ago my wife bought me a book.

It was a writer’s guide to publishing in the 21st century. Her inscription was, “Don’t give up.” The book described what blogging means for an independent writer.

I began a blog with the first layout that caught my eye: The Hemingway. In true writer fashion, I think the name caught my eye more than the layout. I published a post called “Prayer” about how I learned to pray in rehab. Annette of Just for Today became the first person I met online.

The blog was called Man in Recovery back then. I created a Twitter handle with the same phrase, my first and only Twitter account. It was a phone conversation with Daniel Maurer of Transformation-Is-Real that inspired the Miracle of the Mundane.

Opinions fly to extremes on the topic of social media interaction. If you are one of the principled minority who doesn’t use social media, I regret to inform you that in reading this blog, you are actively participating in it. Blogging is social media, after all—a live literature of shares, reactions, and followings.

Old school folks bewail what all these social circles on screens might mean for the future of humanity. Yes, we are connecting globally and instantaneously, connecting with hundreds, thousands, even millions, but at what depth? The critics say connection is about human touch, eye contact, and these digital interfaces are facsimiles lacking true purpose. As usual, critics have good points, but their points are pieces of something larger and more complex, filled with counterpoints and silver linings.

Social media is awesome.

My wife is likely shaking her head as she reads this. When she met me, I didn’t use social media in any form, despite my millennial status. I was the teacher critical of what all these applications are doing to friendship and courtship. I abstained on principle. I read Rilke’s letters and subscribed to his theory that a poet absorbs or ingests everything around him in order to hone his craft. I saw social media as junk food, not part of a healthy writer’s diet.

I still subscribe to the Rilke regiment. I don’t listen to the radio or watch TV, with the exception of sports. I read the good stuff. But now my diet includes tweets, Facebook posts, and blogs. So I try to follow the good stuff which, to me, means I follow people who, as Sarah Fader puts it, can get real on Twitter.

It’s the people that make social media awesome.


I’ll prove it to you.

I posted last month about depression.

At least, I posted about how I was struggling with the symptoms of depression. The hardest thing I’ve done as a blogger was hitting the “Publish” button on that post. That says a lot, considering I’ve blogged about drug addiction in all forms: pints, powders, pills, plants. I’ve blogged about hospitals and holding cells. I’ve published pieces on pornography and white privilege. But that post on depression was the hardest thing to write, and therefore the hardest to publish.

I’ve never felt more vulnerable online.

And what happened? Calls, emails, tweets happened. Comments happened. Support happened. I grew out of the funk, acknowledging that we all share it, that it will return again and pass again. I learned once more that transitory emotions do not become a permanent state of mind, that this too shall pass.

Damien of Sober Boots called me. He hit me with a one-two combination of kindness. He said, “You don’t need to be diagnosed with depression in order to experience its symptoms.”

Our 30 minute conversation was like a therapy session.

We looked at my life together, how I had replaced coaching football with a full slate of writing. “Writing is hard,” he told me. “And it’s an inside job. Coaching was an external job, full of rewards and affirmations. Writing is different.”

We looked at my writing routine. I admitted that I was hooked on writing in the morning, that even after late nights, I felt obligated to be up at 4:30 and on the keyboard.

“Take it easy on yourself,” he said.

The fog didn’t lift that day. A friend walked me out of it. It made me wonder if these fogs, these bouts of mental illness ever lift. It’s more like we walk into them alone until we find someone or something to lead us out of them.

I established an either in the morning or at night routine. If I was up late, I made sure to write a little then so I could sleep in and not feel like I’m slacking on my calling. It has kept the fog at a distance, where it belongs.

I met Damien on social media. We are proud members of the recovery posse. He invited me to see Jason Isbell on Friday night. We went to the concert together, sober.

Isbell gets it. His album Southeastern was Damien’s go-to in his early recovery. Not only a virtuoso soloist and composer, the man’s a poet.

The band’s rendition of “Cover Me Up”—his greatest hit—was a pop symphony live. He sang, “I swore off that stuff, forever this time.” Damien and I joined a pavilion of cheers. The concert ended. We parted ways. And I drove home reflecting on the incredible journey this blog has been.

This blog is a tribe, a people, a posse, a crew—the haggard and scattered, the incarcerated and institutionalized, the writers and readers, the commenters, the supporters, the phone-callers, the bloggers, the website-designers, the podcasters, the influencers, the tweeters, the likers, the strugglers, the helpers and the helped, the leaders and the followers, the sharers and the listeners.

It is where we connect. And when we do, I am you and you are me. We exist, however temporarily, in that strange spiritual realm where our experiences merge into one molten narrative of the human experience burning through time.

For too long, on this blog, the tribe has gone unacknowledged, unaccounted for. There was the blog and there was the tribe. I had to change that.

I built a home for the tribe on this blog.

I call it community.

Click around.

Stay awhile.


38 Responses to “Tribe

  • Soberinny
    8 months ago

    I absolutely love your writing. When I see you in my inbox I know I am in for a thought provoking, calming support as I a wobble around attempting long term
    Sobriety. Although our stories are different the FEELINGS are the same. Thank you for being here.

    • Wow, thank you! That is such a thoughtful and inspiring thing to read.

      I’m so glad you decided to leave a comment. I’m never quite sure who’s out there so I love hearing from people who read the blog. Here’s to continuing the connection!

  • Love this, Mark. I’m a “reluctant” user of social media as well. Especially since I’m so old. (Ha ha drum beat). But this crew has changed my life. My wife rolls her eyes for sure. But it’s real. Keep er rollin, man.

  • Thank you again for a wonderful blog. There are people on the earth who have a gift to heal, without even knowing it. You are definitely one of them.

    Your words always resignate to the place in me that wants to be a better person.

    It’s inspiring. Thank you.

    Have a wonderful day.

    • Jenni – Your comment is so appreciated. What high praise!

      This made my otherwise pretty questionable day into something really good. Thank you.

  • Its a place I call home and I know you guys, my family, will always be there. Thanks Mark.

  • Who knew when I responded to that beautiful first post that I would make such a wonderful friend and all of the many words and thoughts that laid ahead for us all to read. Bless you Mark, and thank YOU for sharing your journey with all of us, for your transparency and honesty and shared wisdom.

    • Who knew? That’s right. Been through a lot with this thing already but will never forget how it all started! Thanks again Annette.

  • I think often about how my life would be different without social media. Sometimes I think only about how it would be better without social media, but it’s the experiences of making connections with good people like you online that remind me that it’s not the complete cesspool that it’s made out to be by the critics.

    I’m blessed to know you my friend. Here’s another band for you to check out. Not recovery related and sadly no longer together, but a great band nonetheless.

    • Awesome.

      Obviously your opinion carries a lot of weight. I keep going deeper into Isbell’s repertoire. Like, Something more than free, the whole album, is just incredible.

      Anyway, thanks for the inspiration, Damien. And the friendship. Both mean a great deal to me.

  • paul_jft
    8 months ago

    Thanks Mark!
    Early A&A folks in isolation for various reasons often formed “Loners Groups” that shared letters and Grapevine articles. We have it so much better today! The signal “the laguage of the heart” can be stopped.

    • Can definitely not be stopped!

      I like that comparison, Paul, to the old grapevine days. I get tired of people moaning about how bad all this stuff is rather than just shutting up and using the obvious tools and ways it can benefit. As the posse clearly does. Thanks Paul for leaving a word here at the site.

  • paul_jft
    8 months ago

    Typos LOlL
    Cant be stopped

  • I love this, Mark!

  • Okay, I guess I will need to get Twitter and find you all on there!
    Thank you so much Mark, for helping connect us all!
    I am SO thankful for all the people I have “met” on-line, who help me stay sober AND thankful!
    I learn something every day from reading and responding.

    • Follow me! I’m @maninrecovery

      It is a great community and I think you will find it worth your while.

      Here’s to learning something new each day! I like that.

  • Mark, Mark, Mark. Thanks for helping to keep the Community growing strong. Big hugs & lots love, brother. ?

  • Lovely. Genuine. Glad you’re choosing to ease up on yourself. The days of beating on ourselves to be better are in the footpaths of our shadows. Love the tribe. (((Hugs))) ~Susan

    • “… in the footpaths of our shadows.”

      That is stellar right there. That’s some poetry.

      Thank you Susan for your thoughtful comment.

  • It truly is a tribe! When I had my lapse last week all the support I got from this community this tribe helped me more than I can possibly say! It’s magic. Love the new page, it’s awesome! xxx

    • Thanks Hurrah.

      I’m so glad you reached out. We lean on each other in all sorts of ways. At times we help, at times we are helped. It’s all depending on who needs what. It’s incredible, I agree. Glad to have you here and glad you like the page!

  • Great post. Thanks for sharing.

  • I love what you’re doing here Mark.
    As a recovering addict myself I can identify with your journey.
    I remembered when I started blogging. What inspired me was every time I spoke people would ask where I learn so much from.
    I though to myself the world needs recovery too so I decided to share my recovery with the world.
    I’m blessed to have come across your amazing blog.

    • We have similar stories Vernon. How long have you been at it? The blogging. I fee real fortunate to connect with you. Fatherhood, recovery, faith. It’s nice to read posts I can relate to that have relevance for my life.

      • 5 years now.
        I have to remember from time to time why I started blogging.
        It wasn’t to become popular or a ‘pro blogger’ but just to share my experience and hope someone out there can identify.
        I blessed to be a part of your tribe.

  • Mark! The community I have connected with through blogging has pulled me through dark times. As I said you and Damien were there from post one. So grateful for you and this tribe. (Even though I still kind of suck at social media lol).

    • I think sucking at social media is a good things. Paradoxically, it means you’re still cool.

      Thanks M! All about holding each other up.

  • I get up at 4:30 am to write too. Mostly journaling so not even productive in the same sense as a book or article or post to be shared. It feels nuts but lately I’ve tried skipping it to sleep in, and it comes with a side of discontentment loss. The community here is awesome and I think it’s so incredibly cool that you and Damien went to see Isbel. That just made my day.

    • Awesome! Yes! I suffer this sense of loss if I miss that morning writing too. I just saw a book published by David Sedaris that was nothing but diary entries. So, keep journaling! One day it might be published.

      • I have that book on hold, looking forward to reading. My earlier entries aren’t so entertaining, not in a good way anyway, so will leave it to the pros.

  • I can”t imagine what depression is like. I’m sorry you have it. Keep remembering that there is a light at the end of your journey. When I lost my job in 2015 when the store closed, I was well pretty down. Try to smile and keep your chin up.

    • Thank you Crystal. Thank you for stopping by and uplift my day. I appreciate it. It’s helpful to know I am never alone with all this.

  • Hi Mark,
    If you don’t mind, what is the title of the book your wife bought you?
    I’m glad I found this blog! I was looking for something to go with Since Right Now and your writting is wonderful 🙂

    • I’ll let you know! I have to get home to look for the title. I’m away for a week.

      Thanks Bill! Glad to have you. Since Right Now puts me in good company. I appreciate it!

  • john spence
    7 months ago

    Just (re?)read this. ,I think its my favorite (along with the other 5, I’ve said it about!), the Live page is an awesome idea mate. I think this is the first time ive read the full account of the visitation of your black dog in recent days. I’m so glad you had Damien and that your connected to so many online posse and recovery members that could give you the REAL support you so obviously needed.

    shit mark, ‘drugs don’t work’ just came on radio….. god, how many more signs do I require?
    Thanks my friend for bringing so many together. Applaud you for writing about your depression, its fucking hard, and publishing that you’ve helped push awareness of stigma into the light even more. We owe it to the many many people that are suffering. And your work will aid those still to come have acceptance and understanding from a more enlightened society.

    • Thanks John – I hope it’s a valuable tool for people looking for the real people behind all the sites and bells and whistles.

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