July 4, 2020

Dear Hope Nation,

Happy Fourth of July! Part Three of the Series will come tomorrow. For today, a special letter.

Two-Thousand-Twenty is one of those glorious years when Independence Day falls on the 4th of July, so we get to celebrate two holidays at once! Whether today includes picnics, fireworks, swimming or sitting in front of a television watching the same “Office” reruns you’ve seen dozens of times before, please be safe: socially distance, don’t gather in crowds, wear a mask when you’re not able to properly distance.

Oh, yes, please remember you don’t need to get high or drunk. It may well seem like a good idea, but you know deep down it’s not. As someone in recovery—or at least with a hankering to be in recovery—you may remember the last days of your using. Strung out, exhausted, mad at the world (but mainly yourself) and seeing no friendly direction, you reached out for some kind of help. You may also remember detoxing, whether off dope or booze or meth. Feeling like your guts were trying to discover new knots, continually thinking “just a little bit” of your particular poison would help, hating the world (but mainly yourself) and wishing it (and here “it” means everything) could just end. You may also remember early recovery, the pride, the confusion, the accomplishments and the gratitude. You don’t have to throw all that away. Really.

(I mentioned Independence Day, and I’ll get back to that, by and by, but in the last paragraph I mentioned guts discovering new knots. Is there an international registry of knots? Are new knots being invented every day? Do knots need to be functional, or can I create a purely decorative knot that will fall apart as soon as it’s touched? Can I sit down by a fire pit tonight with a couple pieces of rope and find a new way to connect them? Is it possible to monetize a never-seen-before knot?  This paragraph is evidence of why I loved meth, and why I needed to give it up. I could spend four or five days on that kind of nonsense.)

As every schoolchild knows, the American War of Independence began April 19, 1775, with the Battles of Lexington and Concord. The first year for the Americans had its ups Ticonderoga). its moral victories (Bunker Hill) and its losses (Montreal). When the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, victory for the Americans was not at all assured, as evidenced by the more than seven more years of the war. Still, the Declaration was a do-or-die moment for the country.

As a child, I somehow assumed the document was addressed to King George. As a child, I believed all kinds of poppycock and balderdash, and this notion can be sorted onto that pile. The Declaration of Independence was designed to explain to other colonists and to the world what we were about, why we were fighting and what we hoped to gain. It laid out our grievances and pointed directly and indirectly toward our goals.

(One way to have good ideas is to have a lot of ideas (see the knot paragraph above), but to keep your eyes out for the ones that seem different than your run-of-the-mill flow. I think I’ve spotted one—I’ll share it in a moment—but you’ll have to be the judge of that. I know in advance it’s better than ornamental-only knots.)

The Declaration is divided into three parts. The first lays out a theory of natural rights (the “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness part), the second is a list of charges against King George and the third is the actual declaration of independence from England. My proposal for anyone in recovery, or having a hankering in that direction, is that we write out our own declarations of independence from our particular poisons. This document can follow the same format as the American one:

  1. Why Living without Addiction is the Best Course
  2. My list of grievances about what I’ve let drugs or alcohol do to me
  3. My “Dear John” or kiss-off letter to drugs or alcohol

If you’d like to share what you’ve written with me, I’d love to include excerpts in a future Dear Hope Nation letter.

Whether you write anything or not, whether you picnic or not, whether you watch fireworks or not, please be safe. After all,

You matter. I matter. We matter.

Keith