I imagine this whole world of people out there who have never failed and have never had to start over. Well, my alcoholic brain tries to tell me this is the whole world around me while I seemingly wander about aimlessly. At this point, I do realize that these are lies that my disease tells me. Everybody fails and starting over is not a shameful thing. The whole experience can be fairly frustrating, though, especially when I wake up to find myself in over my head once more, after having developed a bit of confidence, and realizing that the only way to get back on track is to go back to square one.
Today is my little brother’s birthday. As he begins another journey around the sun, he is also beginning a new job in a new city with a second child on the way soon. Often, starting over can feel so much more daunting than beginning something the first time around. Though you’d imagine the first time or six around would provide some valuable experience to aid in the new journey, sometimes it can actually be a hindrance as it comes equipped with expectations and prejudices. If the starting over is due to or accompanied by a previous failure, then fear can become stifling and even paralyzing. Even positive new beginnings, like those my brother’s family is experiencing can usher in a little feeling of ennui or futility along with the excitement. “What if this job is no better than the last? What about the friends I’ve left behind and why bother making new friends if I’m just going to have to move again? Am I ready for midnight feedings and diaper duty all over again?” For all I know, Little Bro and the fam are all gung ho about everything. These are the sorts of fears and doubts I’ve faced when I’ve found myself in similar circumstances, though.
An alcoholic’s life is fraught with new beginnings, failures, moments of humility when one realizes that what was learned once perhaps isn’t going to be sufficient for this new circumstance. As we aren’t exactly known to be the biggest fans of change, we can sometimes really dig our heels in, becoming very obstinate and causing ourselves increasing amounts of damage before finally admitting defeat. Even after letting go, our ego can creep back in, telling us that we already tried this and it didn’t work; our prior confidence will say, “Oh yeah, I remember how to do this now,” and off we’ll go, back off track, making the same old mistakes.
Whether it’s the child just beginning middle school, the father starting a new job or the alcoholic attempting to return from a relapse, fear can get the most of us and our doubts can sabotage us. The child’s nervousness can turn into a nightmare when his stomach plays tricks on him or he accidentally calls his teacher Mom. The father’s assumptions that things are done the same way as at his old job can lead to ruffling the feathers of his co-workers. And the alcoholic’s failure can lead to years of misery or death due to the inability to overcome his pride and admit he needs help.
We are told in recovery, though, that all we have is 24 hours at a time. Every day we start over fresh and new. Every day we must humble ourselves to ask for help once more to make it through the hours ahead. Every single day is a new beginning. At night, we put our day to rest, tending to any issues still outstanding so that we can sleep peacefully and wake up to a blank slate. When resentments arise, we don’t wallow in them, but we tackle them head on so that they don’t fester and drag us down.
Well, at least that’s what we would do if we were to work our programs really well. Invariably, we will find ourselves needing to reevaluate our programs throughout recovery. An old timer I know says, “Just how honest do I have to be? Just honest enough to stay sober.” As I’ve gone through the process, I’ve found new levels of honesty and realized my old program simply won’t suffice anymore. Another old timer says, “I was sober five years before I realized that I had been manipulating myself.” Every day is a new beginning and every new beginning comes with new wisdom and new understanding.
Consciously, we can understand this. Theoretically, we have learned how to roll with the punches and adjust to life on life’s terms. We have even “practice[d] these principles in all our affairs.” Some days, though, it’s like waking up from a coma, trying to live a 1983 lifestyle today. Sometimes this simple reboot can be completely overwhelming – feeling like your whole life has been a lie or that you’ll never make it.
How easy it is for us to forget the truth of the matter while we are wrapped up in our doubts and fears of starting over. The child fails to recall that his whole elementary school class is joining him in junior high this year, so he won’t be alone. The father overlooks the years he spent learning the ropes and wading through office politics. And the alcoholic forgets that every single other person in recovery starts each day the same way – humbly asking God for help to get them through the next 24 hours. Give your fears to God and just do the next right thing. Soon enough, you’ll find the starting over is a blessing beyond your wildest dreams.
Happy birthday, Little Bro, may your new job and your new city treat you well, and may your midnight diapers be gooey and stinky. Everyone needs a little poop to appreciate the good things in life. 😉