Finding strength to ride the storms out
Between the time you read this and Wednesday morning, the news will pretty much be a non-stop cycle of election coverage.
Hurricane Sandy, which roared into New England last week, will be mentioned, I’m sure — at least in terms of how the devastation affects the election. There may be a few smaller pieces about the damage and the clean up, but for the most part, we’ll be discussing presidential politics from now on.
Sandy is still on my mind, though, and while it was bearing down on the United States last week, I thought about how my former sponsor used to talk in metaphors about the storms in all of our lives. The wind and rain that wreak so much havoc during a hurricane can come in many forms. The storms in our lives occur whenever menacing clouds threaten to overwhelm us physically, emotionally and financially, and just as none of us are immune from Mother Nature’s fury, neither are we exempt from experiencing the good and the bad that accompanies life here on Planet Earth. We all experience such storms, and we all have to ride them out.
Sometimes they blow in unexpectedly, appearing out of nowhere and turning our lives upside down. We lose our jobs suddenly and unexpectedly; we’re in car wrecks; fires damage our homes and illness strikes our children. Other times, we see them coming, angry clouds building on the horizon and rolling toward us with the inevitable, unstoppable fury of the machines in the old “Terminator” movies.
Either way, many times there’s little we can do except hold on, and pray.
For those of us who struggle with addiction and alcoholism, our drugs and drinks were the ways we coped with life’s storms. We numbed ourselves in order to keep from feeling any pain, and in so doing we ended up summoning even more storms. Once we get clean, we learn that drugs or alcohol did nothing to protect us ... but the first time we go through a major crisis in early recovery and sobriety, it can be a difficult thing to endure.
After the long nights spent in our disease, the freedom and beauty of newfound serenity in the 12 Steps is akin to blue skies, bright sun and beautiful days. Then life on life’s terms kicks in, the first storm rolls in and we’re knocked off our feet. It’s a trying time, getting through those monumental milestones of life without turning back to drugs and alcohol. The first time a loved one dies ... the first time a relationship ends ... the first time we lose a job or suffer a serious injury ... all of those things can be triggers, but we don’t have to get high or drunk over them, no matter what.
Because doing so doesn’t help. It doesn’t make the storms go away. In fact, the longer we remain sober, the more storms we experience. We learn that they’re simply a part of life. Just as in nature, they’re unavoidable, and they happen to us all. The program becomes the anchor by which we tether our ships and safeguard our lives, but it doesn’t mean the storms will be easy to endure.
Here’s the thing about storms, though: They always pass. They’re difficult to endure, but we can endure them without getting high or drunk. We can make it through without losing hope, because our Higher Power(s) promise one thing:
After every storm comes the clearing. The sun re-emerges, the skies clear and calm sets in. We may have a lot of cleaning up to do, but we rebuild. We move on. And we learn to enjoy the beautiful weather again.
Here’s to clear skies for us all, and the ability to remain steadfast during dark ones. Have a blessed week.
Steve Wildsmith is a recovering addict and the Weekend editor for The Daily Times. Contact him at (firstname.lastname@example.org) or at 981-1144.