My first few weeks of sobriety, the amount of time I had available to me in a day overwhelmed me. Sure, I was busy from 8:00 a.m. until about 4:00 or 5:00 p.m.… but then what? Should I go out for coffee immediately after work, like I used to go out for beer? Should I go home and… I don’t know.. what did normal people do? Cook? But, if I went home, it felt so final. Like putting a period at the end of my day, when really, I just wanted a semi-colon. I wanted something to DO. But what? I wanted to talk, but I didn’t have anything to say. I wanted to engage, but I was disconnected. And just as I would finally settle in each night, finally finish wrestling with the vast expanse of time looming before me, it would be time to head back out to hit a meeting. I felt out of sync. Frustrated. Restless.
After a couple weeks of existing in a state of pure time suckage between work and a meeting, I began to perk up: I had TIME. Time that wasn’t consumed by frantic efforts to grade papers so that I could get to the bar. Time that didn’t involve trying to piece together hazy memories of drunken conversations, wondering what mortifying things I had said this time and to who. I could use this time to leaf through recipes, purchase ingredients and actually cook. Or to go for a run. I could read a book if I wanted—and I didn’t have to buy it from the discount section in Barnes & Noble; I had enough cash to buy any book I wanted, since I wasn’t spending it all on cheap beer & Taco Bell. These things, such mundane things, drew me in. I was finding a rhythm. Comfortable. Peaceful.
And then it happened…Somewhere between 30 and 60 days, I became obsessed with time. For starters, there wasn’t enough of it. The day only offered me 24 hours. 24. That was it. And part of the time had to be spent sleeping. And then, if I went for a run, I had to waste time getting dressed to run and showering after a run. I needed those wasted minutes. I wanted them back! I needed each second to make up for all the time I had sat in a bar and hadn’t read, hadn’t been involved in politics, hadn’t cooked dinner, hadn’t LIVED. Shit. How as I going to make up all that time? How?
Here’s the rub: I can’t. I can’t make up the time I spent staring into the bottom of a Miller Lite can. Nor can I be frantic about it, consumed by regret. I can only start again from here. Right now.
People in meetings are forever telling newcomers to stay where their feet are. This used to frustrate me immensely. I mean, what the hell? It is physically impossible for me to be anywhere other than where my feet are. But I finally got it (sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, they say). While it may be impossible to physically be somewhere other than where my feet are… psychically, I can be just about anywhere. My mind can whir faster than a hamster on a wheel; it gets just about as far, too. So, I have to reign it back in with prayer, meditation, hugging it out… whatever it takes. I have to bring myself back to the now. Hamster brain makes me feel hopeless, like too much of my life has been wasted for me to even try to make a difference in the world. And that is a lie, pure and simple.
Each day I get a choice about how I will spend my 24 hours. I can get bogged down in regret, overwhelmed by the future (and the never-ending pile of laundry in my house), or I can embrace what I am doing in the moment. I can relish the book I am reading (even if I haven’t read every book on my reading list). I can listen to my preschooler’s epic school adventures (instead of mentally ticking down my to-do list). And I can reach out and share hope; because for all the things I haven’t accomplished yet, I know this: WE DO RECOVER. Tremendous hope and power exists in that message, and I can use this moment to share it.