Sober Chronicles with Marc Lee Shannon

Sober Chronicles | Intervals

by Marc Lee Shannon

In my music theory studies many years ago, I learned that an interval is a difference in pitch between two sounds. The space between the notes that, along with the rhythm, tempo, meter and dynamics, creates the essence of the melody and harmony. The carefully planned pauses and starts are places where we are left to ourselves to anticipate and to interpret the meaning of the music. Just as there is significance in the flurries of cascading notes, there is meaning in the moments of silence.

Living this sober life in the midst of the COVID-19 lockdown interval has been difficult. Routines disrupted, Wi-Fi and other connections strained, and lots of alone time… spaces, to reflect. Some of this quarantine house-living has been productive and enlightening. Some friends have come closer; a few have also seemed more distant and hard to reach. Zoom conversations, which were never part of my workday, have been a welcome interval disrupter, offering the chance to create a veil of tidiness as I frame myself in the screen of public view and make my best presentations to my 13” MacBook Pro window to the world. It’s not the same as in person. I can cover a lot of “not OK” with a false background or good lighting. 

All in all, this interval of the great disruption of 2020 has changed me. I don’t think I will be the same, and I am growing more OK with that. 

Read more:

Sober Chronicles | The art of practicing

Sober Chronicles | Stop resisting

Just like 6 years ago when I walked out of St. Thomas detox in early June 2014, for me, this interval of COVID-19 created an opportunity to take a breath, strengthen my moral resolve, and come together to raise my voice and stand. I have much to learn and I need to get going. 

I have come to the knowledge that the intervals of racial prejudice and inequality are in deep need of my attention. Dissonant chords without resolution, suspensions without relief. I feel the great disappointment of late at my own past failure to see and activate a personal response to these inequities. This interval in my own behavior has to come to a new place. I need to go forward and do better from here. 

I do not know enough, but I will seek to know more. 

I am hoping that these weeks will mark a time when we all look back and say, “THAT was when the real change began to happen.” That this particular interval in 2020 resolved the mass ignorance of some of us— and we committed to the idea that we would not allow things to remain the same. 

In my world of recovery from addiction, every person is a component of a community of souls working to help each other. Although it is not perfect, there is a sense of unity that together we can all sound out our own story, our own experiences, and create a chord of harmony. Like notes on the staff on a page of music, we are stacked on top of each other. Blending, sometimes in unusual and unexpected intervals, but when played in harmony, we create a sound that resonates with a unified intention. That unique signature, if you will, creates a solace of sound that triumphs over the silence. 

No matter where you are as an alcoholic or an addict, the words “Please. Help. Me…” break any barrier down. We are all the same in our struggle. We all know how it feels to be powerless against our demons. We all share the experience of loss of control and helplessness. We all are committed strongly to helping each other. The human components of recovering addicts and alcoholics are like unique intervals played together in harmony, creating a chord of sound that is solidarity. 

I hope, I pray that our world will use this interval, in which many of us have finally recognized the reality of racism, to say that enough is enough. The gap of race inequality must be addressed and we must find the voices in ourselves to speak up and out. 

Then, maybe this interval — after so many have waited and suffered — will resolve into a sustained chord, like the end of a song that flips from the melancholy minor key to the hopeful major key.

Steady on.

Reach Marc Lee Shannon at

Photo: Angelo Merendino. Used with permission from Marc Lee Shannon.