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Relapse, an inevitable state in the cycle of addiction, is akin to a Wisconsin winter. Before it arrives, we sense its looming. When it arrives, we survive its weight. As it lingers, we fight through it. We wait for spring. We wait and wait. The winters are long, and somehow in spring, we forget how hard the winter really was. What we fought through. But, still, we celebrate spring. Because we have to. This hope we find at winter’s end gives us the fight we need to survive what will be next winter. The hope of spring carries us through. So, too, does the continued hope for sobriety as relapse bears its weight. The winter may be long, the spring may be late, but we have enough fight to get through it.

This project is for my family, William, AJ, addicts, and anyone who loves an addict. You’re not alone.

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ABOUT THE PROJECT

Our childhood home was an 1880’s farmhouse with a leaky foundation a stones-throw away from protected wetlands. It was where my brother, William, and I dug deep for dinosaur bones, and nailed boards to a boxelder. We called it our treehouse. With no neighborhood kids for miles, we ruled and reigned the lands together. Home was a feeling then.

My brother and I were close for years, until we weren’t. That’s how it goes, I guess. Our paths diverged when addiction entered his life. And, later in life, as heroin took hold, he neither ruled nor reigned his reality. Losing that piece of him changed what home was. Home became a place—an obligation, really—only memories enlivened that childhood feeling. Ignorance was easy, distance was easiest, and neither were bliss. I would tell myself, “This is my last winter here. Spring will come. Then it’s time to go.” This cyclical narrative carried me through many winters.

In 2014, William was incarcerated for eleven months. During our timed phone calls and supervised visits, I met my sober, adult brother— a person I had never known. This project documents the time following his release to include our celebration of his sobriety, his relapses, recoveries, and overdose. William has overdosed twice, most recently June 4, 2016. He has held sobriety since. I'm really fucking proud of him.

In 2019, I was selected to participate in Alec Soth’s workshop: How to Make a Photobook that Matters, in Vancouver. I am currently working on a book that matters. The book will combine my journal entries and imagery from December 2015–January 2017. 2019 was my last winter in Wisconsin.