I often look back at the time when I was a young kid and think, “Damn, I wish I could have just let go and realized that everything was going to be okay.” Time has shown I really didn’t have much to worry about. Still, I had so much fear as a young person. I had major anxiety about things that weren’t even mine to worry about: money, the logistics of a day, other people’s relationships.
Now as an adult, I tend to think that I missed out on that chance I had to be carefree. I didn’t know how good I had it. Now that time is gone. Or is it?
Years from now I don’t want to look back at my thirties and think, “you didn’t have to worry like you did. Everything turned out alright. Even when shit happened, and it wasn’t alright—eventually, you were always okay.”
That’s kind of how I’ve looked back at every other decade of my life. Experience suggests, that may not change.
Fear and anxiety can swallow up whole swaths of our life if we let it.
Lately I’ve been putting an emphasis on being present and living in the day. Ironically that’s brought up memories–ones of when I first got sober. If there was a time in my life that I was able to live one day—no—one hour, at a time, it was when I first entered recovery.
Things got bad in the end. I was devastatingly ill in my body and mind, and my soul was completely empty. My life was on the line. It was clear that if I didn’t get sober, I wasn’t going to have anything else. Each day, each hour, became only about one thing: not drinking. It made life very simple. I’d often try to complicate it with little dramas and anxieties I had about the future that I’d grown accustomed to staying busy with. Was someone at work trying to take my shift? Was I going to be a bartender for the rest of my life? (Yes, I was a bartender my first year of sobriety. Not currently recommending that to others.)
Fortunately at this time, I had enlisted some guidance and started taking the advice. I had a sponsor who had been through what I was going through already. She would reign me in and help me focus on what was important. At the end of the day when I was worried about where I was going to be when I was 30, she would say, “did you stay sober today?” I would answer, “yes.” She would reply, “Great, this was a good day. We’ll figure tomorrow out tomorrow.”
It was never more complicated than that.
Life has gotten bigger since then. More responsibilities. More goals. More people loved. More people lost. Sometimes, it all feels like too much. When it does, I recognize the feeling. It’s how I felt when I was 10 standing in line at the checkout and needlessly worrying if my mom was going to have enough money for the groceries. It’s like when I was 6 months sober and crying myself to sleep wondering if I’d ever leave my hometown again.
In retrospect—even when things have not been okay, they’ve turned out okay. I’ve come out on the other side. I’ve laughed and had joy again. I’ve been happy to be alive—to have a life, even with the pain.
So I think at least for today, I’m gonna trust that things are gonna be alright. At the moment when they’re not, I’ll face that. It’s not planning and worrying and anxiety that will prepare me for that moment. It’s my life. It’s 35 years of experience that I’ve now been fortunate enough to collect. That experience has taught me that if my instincts don’t tell me exactly how to deal with a situation, they will at least point me towards the person who can give me some insight.
At the end of each day I ask myself, “Did you do your best today?” When I can answer “yes”, I give myself a mental thumbs up. When I have to answer “no”, I make a note to try and do better the next day.
Really, it’s never more complicated than that.
photo: jason rosewell