In less than a year, I turn sixty. Not quite senior, but certainly approaching the cusp. I have reflected on words my father spoke often to my brothers and me growing up in Pittsburgh.
“Today is the youngest you will ever be, live like it.”
This was a mindset that escaped me when I began recovery at forty-six. I sat in the 12-step room and listened to men and women who had been twenty and thirty years sober. They had begun their recoveries years and decades before me. It honestly depressed me. I wasn’t sure if I even had that many years in front of me with all the damage I had done to my body. It caused intense depression and loneliness.
I lamented the loss of a way of life and uncertainty about a projected future free of the bonds of booze and blow. I was terrified of looking at myself in the mirror, stripped naked, having to love the person I saw without an expensive but ill-fitting suit of cocaine and booze.
Beginning recovery at any age is difficult. It often involves some sort of loss. Loss of family. The loss of self-respect and the breaking down of self to ground zero before the slow rebuild begins. Sometimes the loss of freedom. When it happens at a later stage in life, there is a lot more room to engage in looking back at all that destruction. I certainly did that quite a bit in those early days of recovery. I obsessed over the years I had “wasted,” convinced that I might as well have lit a match to them. I felt the shame, regret, and contemplation of the uncertainty and fear of “middle-age sober.”
Starting out, it ripped me apart that I had two successful brothers whom I compared myself against and never came out feeling good. I engaged in the most self-destructive kind of reflection on the past. I call it “revisionist recovery.” Going over every moment in my past and wondering how things would be different if I had only not taken that drink or done that snort. Would I have been a better law student? A better husband? A better brother? A better son? A better lawyer?
I eventually realized that this was not going to help my recovery because it boiled my life down to moments in time rather than viewing it as a fluid chain of events that make me the person I am today. Do I have regrets? Sure. I will always regret the collateral damage, but that is what making living amends and doing my best to change the world with acts of kindness is all about for me. I can’t change the past, but I can control how I respond to it and do my best to stay in the present, trying to do the next right thing every day.
I had the epiphany that, for my recovery to truly move forward, I could no longer obsess about “wasted years.” How things could have been different or what I could have done in my life if I had gotten sober earlier. I embrace who I am today. Today is the youngest I will ever be, and I will live like it one day at a time in my recovery. That’s what I hope.
Next year I will turn sixty.
When the time comes, I will embrace the cusp of senior sober, hopefully looking forward with verve and purpose. Senior sober will be a wonderful place to be.
Brian Cuban (@bcuban) is The Addicted Lawyer. Brian is the author of the Amazon best-selling book, The Addicted Lawyer: Tales Of The Bar, Booze, Blow & Redemption (affiliate link). A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, he somehow made it through as an alcoholic then added cocaine to his résumé as a practicing attorney. He went into recovery April 8, 2007. He left the practice of law and now writes and speaks on recovery topics, not only for the legal profession, but on recovery in general. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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