This topic had its genesis about 32 1/2 years ago. At that time, I was early into my recovery and preparing to speak at a retreat for alcoholics and their families. I happened to mention this to a coworker who replied with “You alcoholics! When you are drinking you brag about how much you can drink and when you stop you brag about how good you are at not drinking.”
That statement has stuck with me for a while as I wondered if he was right. And if he is correct, is that a description of someone who is really in recovery. And what does this have to do with old people camping?
I believe that recovery, for me, needs to progress beyond just not drinking. I know that abstinence from whatever addiction or disease with which someone is struggling is not only the starting point, but also key in any recovery. That is where I started and once my denial was addressed and I stopped fighting on my strength alone, the drinking stopped. That is when God stepped in and took away my desire to drink. The further I was removed from my last drink, the more I grew in my understanding that just not doing something was not recovery. I needed action to continue my growth.
So one thing I do is camp. Not with a trailer or RV, although if offered one I would probably not turn it down. Rather, despite the fact that my wife and I are in our sixties, we spend a good number of our vacations in a tent. There is just something about pulling into a campground, finding the perfect spot, and setting up a tent between two 40-foot long camping trailers that makes me smile. I see the guy next to us stop adjusting his satellite dish and I wonder if he is thinking, “Do those people know they forgot to bring their trailer?” and I smile. I watch as our dogs experience an olfactory overload from the thousands of campground scents not permeated with the aroma of the city, and I smile. Activities that make me smile strengthen my recovery.
I must admit that tent camping when you are past 60 does have its own challenges. My muscles creak when I get out of the van following the last few hours of our journey. I think it is a scientific fact that every year our van gets farther away from the ground. But once the plunge to the ground is over and the sore leg muscles loosen up, it is on to setting up camp. Following a few minutes of staring at the pile of poles and stakes, the brain cells eventually locate the assembly file and within a short time our tent majestically arises. Thankfully, despite my drinking, there appears to be an ample portion of my brain still functional. So I need use that brain to add to my recovery.
Once everything is unpacked, the double high queen sized air bed is inflated, (this is now a necessity after years of thin foam pads) and the picnic table re-positioned to just the right spot, it is on to the first activity – taking a break. Recovery and being over sixty has taught me that sometimes it is necessary and acceptable to take a break. I can close my eyes now and feel the breeze gently blowing, I can hear birds chirping, and smell the smoke of a campfire. So perfect to just be able to sit and do nothing – until I open my eyes and see the dogs trying to use their Vulcan mind control on me. “Walk – you want to take us on a walk!”
So I get up and accommodate their request, but not for only them. God blessed me with a wife who hung in there through all the ugliness of my active alcoholism and I know how much she likes to take walks. Part of my recovery, or more accurately, our family recovery, is doing those activities together that strengthens our marriage. Those things we do may be what she likes, or what I prefer or even something in which we both have an interest. Again, we are doing something together. And our relationship and recovery grows.
While I am writing in particular about camping, I know my recovery benefits from a number of other pursuits. I recently have tried my hand at this blogging stuff. It challenges me to take an inventory of my recovery and where I need to grow. It also keeps me from sitting on the couch at night and taking my pre-sleep nap. (My wife really appreciates my blogging efforts) I seek out books and articles to read that can be either educational or just for entertainment. And I spend time with my grandchildren – time that I did not always have for my own children due to my drinking. Yes, these are common activities, but again doing something.
When I was in treatment for my alcoholism, many people I met talked about wanting to stop drinking to afford them the opportunity to live a normal life. I am not sure if I am living a normal life. I am not even sure if I know what is normal. I do know that I am now living life and not just not drinking.
Even more important than living that life in recovery is the truth that what I enjoy now, the sobriety, the camping, the ability to walk the dogs, and even my loving wife are not mine. All of those and more are a gift from God. It is his love that sent Jesus to take care of my worst problem, my sin. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 He gave me heaven. Then he gave me my recovery and continues to provide me with all the power and strength I will ever need to live and grow within that recovery. How can I not respond to his love by living my recovery life in thanksgiving to him.
“You alcoholics! When you are drinking you brag about how much you can drink and when you stop you brag about how good you are at not drinking.” When I first heard this I bristled and wondered how someone could know so little about alcoholics and recovery. Over the years I have realized that no one comes into my life by chance. God always has a purpose – even though it may take me 32 1/2 years to learn.
Thanks for stopping in and please consider coming back.
I will wait you.