This is the most personal and honest thing I have written for publication. It was hard to write, but I hope it helps others dealing with addiction and recovery.

After more than 15 years of chasing oblivion in a bottle, I knew it had to end. So I checked myself into rehab on February 21. The plan was to dry out for 30 days, get out of rehab, find an Alcoholics Anonymous group, connect with a sponsor, and hopefully end the vicious cycle of drinking, regret, depression, and more drinking.

But come March 22, when my 30 days were up, I found the world to be vastly different from what it had been when I had entered rehab — empty streets, bare shelves at the grocery store, and people more afraid of others than usual. All I had learned of the terms “shelter in place” and “social distancing” while in a rehab center in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains was from the local daily newspaper and short calls from a payphone to my loved ones on the outside. But I had no idea what I was in for.

Once discharged, I realized how the beginning of my sobriety would go: no hugs from friends and family, no AA meetings in church basements, no dinners at my favorite restaurants. These things I had clung onto as bright spots as I faced my life after rehab were now gone. Then there were the classic triggers that cause people to relapse — isolation and economic insecurity, which have been now amplified to levels most of us have not seen in our lifetimes.

“This is the worst possible time to get into recovery, there is not a doubt about it,” Dr. Paul Earley, president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, told me over the phone.

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A narrow strip of US Route 1 brings millions of tourists a year to the steep chaparral flanks of the Santa Lucia Range of Big Sur, on the rugged central California coast. Head east into the mountainous Ventana Wilderness, however, and there are few roads and almost no development. On this remote terrain, five California condor chicks were getting ready to fledge in the October sunshine.

These six-month-old condors mark an important milestone for the species. Just 28 years ago, California condors were extinct in the wild. Now, with these five chicks, their population in central California has ticked above 100. Throughout the southwest United States, their total wild population is well over 300 and still increasing.

In the coming months, the Ventana Wildlife Society, which co-manages the central California condors with Pinnacles National Park, plans to release six more captive-bred condors, says Kelly Sorenson, the society’s executive director. The park also plans to release two, pushing the regional population to 111.

“To have more than a 10 percent increase in condor population in one year is just amazing,” Sorenson says. “The story of the condor is a hopeful one and shows we can make a difference if we work at it.”

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