I’ve heard that you cannot separate living from learning. Every experience is another lesson learned. I have found this to be especially true in recovery. The irony is that the longer I stay sober, the less I feel like I know. It’s a funny twist of fate, but one that has me looking back in laughter.
I wish I could go back and talk to my newly sober self. I feel as though I could have saved him some frustration, lots of anxiety, loads of fear and too many sleepless nights. Where would I begin?
I would start in treatment. I went to rehab in a town called Newtown outside of Philadelphia. There was a soybean field that was changing colors with the seasons. I would have told him to relax and enjoy the colors of the field. To this day, I still think about how beautiful it was, and I wish I would have taken a few more moments to enjoy it. I was in such a rush to get out that I didn’t get the full experience. Luckily, I got what I needed.
Next, I would teach newly sober Tim about fear. I would reassure him that my fears are not life altering. They are not crippling, although at times they felt like they were. I would tell him that my fears were in many ways very helpful to me, because they always pointed me in the direction where I wanted to go. I would make sure he knew that if something scared me it usually meant that it was important.
Finally, I would teach him the value of patience. In the beginning, it’s difficult not to want everything right away. We all want to feel good about who we are and what we have accomplished, but it wasn’t until a few years into my sobriety that I realized that the time is what gives things value.
I’m reminded of a quote I heard in a meeting once. A man I respected was talking about sober time and why although it shouldn’t be considered a “ranking factor” of sobriety, it should still be valued.
He said: “if you think sober time isn’t important, then go get some.”
I’ve learned that this is the case with everything in my life. The things that I am most proud of have all taken dedication and commitment over a long period of time. My sobriety, of all things, has gotten more valuable to me as time goes on. It has taken me more than seven years to get to this point, but it would only take a second to lose it.
Most of all, I would tell newly sober Tim to just enjoy the ride. You always hear people say things like, “life goes by in the blink of an eye,” and it's difficult to take the time to appreciate the little things. The morning coffees, the little laughs with friends and the peaceful sunrises on the beach. Those are the memories that can slip by while we are all too busy living our lives. I would tell newly sober Tim that the best is yet to come and if he can just hold on, he is in for the ride of his life.
Tim Stoddart is a contributing writer for Sober Nation.
Originally published in 2017.