Dear Hope Nation,
You could fill eternity and more than a couple notebooks outlining my ignorance of life, the universe and everything. For instance,
On each of these I have but bits and pieces of knowledge, often unconnected by any theme
Chemistry: covalent, effective nuclear charge, exergonic, oxidation
Biology: cell, species, mutation, organelle
Philosophy: existentialism, Descartes, Plato, void
I think of measures—hours, years, eons
I think of pleasures–the quality of the time, its fullness, its nickness, its depth
I think of the ancient Greeks, who didn’t see us as facing the future, the way one might face a hill to be climbed. After all, we cannot know what’s to come next, but we do know the past. Rather than hurtling face-first into the future, they saw us as sitting on the back of an ox-drawn cart, looking backward to see the events that we’ve just lived through, raising our gaze to see the more distant past. Like Plato’s Cave, this cart keeps the riders from looking to the left or right—they stare into the past and only into the past.
I think of us today, picturing ourselves facing the future as it comes toward us, our backs to the past—all while remaining in one spot—the present. In this view, the universe flies past us as we remain stationary, bugs clinging to a post and observing a passing train. Like all trains, of course, this time train had a beginning, an engine, that long, long, long ago disappeared into the past. We hope against hope this train is unique and has no caboose, or at least that the train won’t end for a long time.
I think about time all the time, but especially at this time of year. Not because it’s my favorite time of year—spring is beautiful, but I prefer fall. Not because the school year is almost over—I was driven from education (correction: my behavior, drunk and sober, expelled me from education), so summer vacation doesn’t mean much to me. Not because May is the shortest month alphabetically, for that would be silly indeed. No, I think about May because of my recovery.
As it happens, I stopped drinking one day in May 2007. (If I were a good Bokononist, I’d say “as it was supposed to happen.” I am a bad Bokononist.) I’m sure I’ll write about that anniversary as the date draws closer, but for now I just want to look at the concept of time in recovery. I am, I suppose an “old-timer” with 12 years clean and sober and closing in on yet another one. I can give you the Three D’s for becoming an old-timer:
I’ve got the power to manage my life to avoid the first two. The third, not dying, I’ve got some influence over—by not learning to walk a tightrope at 61, for instance—but nothing like control. When I was using, I defaulted to the notion I was a victim. Today, with long-term recovery, I feel much more like the beneficiary of circumstances—I am a lucky man whose efforts have paid off.
In recovery, many of us equate time with wisdom, always a mistake. I’ve known a ton of old fools—have even been one myself on too many occasions—to believe in a causal relationship between time and insight. I know I view the world differently today than I did in 2007, and I believe my vision is clearer. Regardless, I know my life in recovery is more meaning-filled, joyous and free than it was while using. Still, I don’t think time in recovery is the solution—using that time to make changes is.
If you’ve got 37 years in recovery, congratulations! If you’ve got 37 days in recovery, congratulations! If you’ve got 37 minutes in recovery, congratulations! (And it will get better, really.)
You matter. I matter. We matter.