I read an interesting post the other day in which the author complained about some of the trite sayings we hear quite often in recovery.
One that really had him fired up was, “Now the real work starts”. Where I grew up, they actually preceded that gem with “The first year is a gift”…
This is typically said at a person’s one year sobriety anniversary. The person who wrote the rant to which I am referring was irate at the notion someone would say this in the first place. He assumed whomever would say such a thing would be negating or diminishing the work that was done to get there in the first place. In fact, that’s how I felt when it was said to me after I gave my first Open Talk on my One Year Anniversary. Let’s just say I wasn’t happy at hearing that little comment myself.
I remember that night vividly. “A gift?! That first year was f***ing hard. There was no ‘gift’ about it!”
There’s one problem: It was absolutely spot on. That’s when the real work did start, and it was a good deal harder than actually getting sober in the first place. The first year was a gift.
I didn’t freak out though. I didn’t get upset, I didn’t get all indignant about it and I sure as $#!+ didn’t stop going to four or five meetings a week.
Here’s another trite line: “I took it one day at a time” and muscled through it. The hard part of that second year was that I’d figured out how to not drink (a miracle on its own). I’d begun a new life and things were getting much better. Something was missing though. Something was off, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at first. After talking at length with my sponsor, he let me in on what I was going through; I’d fixed the drinking part but the rest of my life was still a bit of a wreck. Getting drunk was a symptom of a bigger, underlying issue and now it was time to fix the big problems. I had to learn to apply what I’d learned about quitting drinking to the other aspects of my life…
It was vastly more difficult to nail down and change the underlying issues. The first year, by comparison, was a gift and the real work was just beginning.
The key to dealing with that trite bullshit, at least for me, is to take a deep breath, relax, and not add any of my extra thoughts and fears to what is being said. There is nothing presumptuous about that saying. It isn’t cruel to say to a person who gets their first year. It isn’t spiteful, mean or ignorant to say it.
It’s the honest to God truth and I’d rather know what I’m in for than rip myself apart trying to figure out what’s wrong with me later on, wondering why everything seems off, on my own.
That initial anger was really just my ego messing with me. Of course, everyone who has more than a year knows how hard that first year is. And everyone who has more than two knows how much harder the second is.
Humorously, I didn’t tell him the next in that line of trite thoughts: The clouds really don’t even part till you hit 10 years… And while we’re at it; The sun really doesn’t start shining till you hit 20.
If you think those are bullshit, stick around and prove me wrong. I’ll still be here and I’m always okay with being wrong. Either way, you end up with 20 years and as with day one, you’re welcome to go back out and have your misery refunded in full.