Sirens in the distance and the sound of a circling helicopter–trouble somewhere in the city. Not unusual in a city of 800,000–small compared to most, but bigger than the total population of, say, Alaska or South Dakota. California has over 37 million people in it these days, up from 7 million when I was born. No wonder we have no elbow room anymore. We along the coast, that is. Modoc Co. in the northeast has fewer than 10,000 people in over 4,000 square miles. What is that–2-1/2 people per square mile? Now there’s elbow room.
Maybe the noise and stress and crowding and traffic explain why there’re so many drinking/drugging people around here. Any place that can support 700 AA meetings, as well as LifeRing, Smart Recovery, and a bunch of other recovery groups, has to have a pretty high density of substance abusers. It must be hard for younger, single people trying to stay sober, so much of the social life seems to be around the bars. True most places, I suppose. One of the big contributions of recovery groups has been to offer a social life to people who don’t drink. My younger son hangs out almost exclusively with his AA buddies. I come across them once in awhile in a restaurant, and they’re often the loudest, most hilarious group in the place. He’s done a great job of building the kind of sober life that keeps him there.
I’ve been thinking about this since this morning after reading today’s post on John Falk-Williams excellent blog on depression, Storied Mind. He is writing an ebook about his struggle to overcome depression, and in his post summarizing it, one bit seemed to me to apply equally well to people recovering from substance abuse problems:
My assumption is that you are the most important part of your recovery, that your active participation in the process is essential. Depression is a condition that influences and changes all aspects of your life, and preventing it from overwhelming you requires your full focus and commitment.
That may sound obvious, but many people start, as I did, with the passive attitude of a patient waiting for the right treatment to bring the symptoms of illness to an end.
The fundamental shift that made so much difference to me was to stop thinking of illness and its limitations and to focus instead on changing the way I was living and work toward the kind of life I valued most highly.
Or in alcoholic terms, we need to stop bemoaning the ‘losses’–holiday nog and wedding champagne–stop looking for the right moment to quit, the right rehab program to ‘cure’ us, and get serious about building a new life of health, well-being, and sobriety.
LifeRing, a secular recovery program that I’ve participated in, has a workbook that helps you look at what to keep from your old (drinking) life and what to change, Recovery by Choice. I went to a series of meetings where we discussed it chapter by chapter that were extremely helpful and have gone back to the book many times since. I believe there’re some online discussions about it that can be tracked down through the website, if anyone’s interested.
Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in, forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day, you shall begin it well and serenely…
–Ralph Waldo Emerson