Apologies for interrupting our normal programming but July is about to start.
I nearly missed it. I’m taking Deb to the airport Friday and picking her up Sunday, and completely forget about Saturday.
We’re not gonna rehash the whole story, but I’m coming up on a sober anniversary and the first five days of July are pretty significant. These were the last days of my drinking; July 6, 2006, was Day 1 of a new life.
So the first week of July is always a celebration for me. Making it more fun this year is the exact days/date of the week line up as they did 17 years ago. The memories are fresh and clear as a good streaming service (not that I would know), which makes the reality of my life today that much sweeter.
Then, as if THAT wasn’t enough, my two favorite cities are having beautiful celebrations. This is a weekend where Inverness and Crystal River shine.
(So there’s no misunderstanding: “Weekend” is July 1-4. There is no discussion about this. You simply cannot have a party holiday like Independence Day and limit it to one day. Congress should just go ahead and formalize it as a four-day holiday right after it votes for Florida’s permanent Daylight Saving Time.)
Let me tell you first about Inverness’ Patriotic Evening. Always held July 3, except this year it’s Sunday, July 2 to accommodate Crystal River, which has its Centennial celebration Monday, July 3.
The Patriotic Evening, where do I start?
First off, it’s a short walk from Just Wright Citrus World Headquarters on the shores of Big Lake Henderson. I’m able to bounce back and forth between Liberty/Wallace Brooks parks and my home quite easily.
The evening is filled with music, food, games, and spectacular fireworks — just what you’d hope from an Independence Day celebration.
Patriotic Evening is Inverness at its finest. In a town that changes festival direction from one year to the next, the Patriotic Evening is the one constant. And why not? Weather permitting, that’s 5-10,000 people swarming the Depot District and Courthouse Square.
It’s wholesome American entertainment and I’m totally on board.
Then there’s Crystal River, which has hogged the attention lately like a younger sibling with a birthday coming up. I kid of course and the Centennial celebration planned for Monday is fitting for a community with strong core values.
It is sure ironic that my last days (I hope) of hell coincide with celebration. Pre-sobriety, the Patriotic Evening was an excuse to drink in excess and I missed the spectacle of the event.
In post-drinking years, the festival has taken on a much deeper meaning. In short: I have fun. I enjoy watching others have fun.
I can never forget where I came from, but I don’t need to live there either. The first five days of July will always hold significance to know that by God’s grace, I actually survived that.
It’s probably why I make it a point to enjoy each of these five July days individually. I reflect on that previous life and then see where I am today. It's shocking.
If someone had told me he lived a life like mine I wouldn’t believe it. No one can go from that despair to freedom in just a few short years.
Yet here I am, sober and happy. I stick with sober friends, take a few simple suggestions, thank God continuously for his grace and participate in life.
A few days ago someone sent me an anonymous card in the mail.
“In a sky full of stars, you shine the brightest,” it read. And the sender wrote, “Congratulations on 17 years of sobriety! From a fan.”
The return address is a street I recognized in Ozello. I’m touched by the sincerity.
That’s the deal I have today. It’s the first days of July and I’m not drowning in whiskey. Instead, I’m chugging Gatorade and partying with neighbors in Inverness and Crystal River.
We have so much to celebrate. Some more than others.
—Along those lines, Just Wright Citrus is taking the four-day weekend. We’ll stay active on Facebook and the blog will return Wednesday. Please be safe and smart these next few days. Enjoy!
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.