Yesterday, I had lunch with a man from my church who also happens to be the founder of the rehab I attended from January to March of this year. He’s a wonderful guy, and I was thrilled when he asked me to lunch. I knew he was my rehab’s founder when I was in a discussion group with him, and he walked up and congratulated me when I announced to the group that I was in recovery. Ever since then, I’d wanted a chance to talk with him more, but I also felt awkward approaching him.
Even more surprising was the fact that I didn’t get nervous before we met at the restaurant and that I didn’t get more than a little bit freaked out eating in front of him. I’m normally reluctant to eat in front of anyone but my family. I have some pet theories as to why this is, but that’s a topic for another day. Yesterday, I wasn’t self-conscious as I tucked into my delicious B&D burger. Our conversation was easy and fluid, and I could have continued talking for much longer had I had to return to campus for my 3:00 class.
After I did a few things in my office, I felt the need to get out and stroll about campus. Yesterday was exceedingly humid, so I didn’t last long sitting on a bench in a lovely, slightly out-of-the-way path. While I was there, though, I was fully present.
When I couldn’t take the stifling air anymore, I made my way to the library and checked out a collection of Joyce Carol Oates’ short stories and The Art of Drowning by the poet Billy Collins. I recently taught Oates’ super-creepy short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” to my literature students, and I wanted to read more of her work. And since I’m sending out poems to markets again, I’ve got the appetite to read more poetry. Billy Collins is one of my favorites, and I’d never read The Art of Drowning before.
Empowered by the successful lunch with my friend and feeling generally good being out and about like a normal person, I thought I’d visit the camps coffee shop, which was located in another building I’d never visited. I got my coffee, found a comfy chair, and settled into read for the half-hour or so remaining before I had to teach. At one point, I looked up and realized how calm and happy I was. There I sat, like a normal human being, drinking coffee and reading a book; I didn’t have that sense of impending doom I’m so used to carrying around in my chest. As students gathered around me and chattered, I delved into a story and let the conversations fade to a pleasant, background hum. When I glanced at my watch and determined it was time to go, I realized I had sipped my coffee instead of gulping it (it wasn’t terribly hot). I’d also made half-way through a story which I could recall clearly. I could have taught on the first half, in fact.
If you’ve read this blog for any length of time–or if you’re in early recovery–you know how huge it is to have an experience like the one I just described. For the first time, I took one chance after another and was pleasantly rewarded. I stepped way outside my comfort zone, which consisted, at one point, of my house, my van, and my office. To the outside eye, I was nothing remarkable; I was simply a man in a button-up shirt and tie, most likely a faculty member, walking about, checking out books from the library, reading and drinking coffee. The ability for a recovering alcoholic to do these things is extraordinary, and I don’t take them for granted.
Speaking of the library, there’s one more book by Mary Oliver that I want to pick up before heading out this weekend for a family reunion that I’m actually not dreading. In fact, I’m looking forward to it. I have a little lump of anxiety because we have a lot of packing and prepping to do, but it will happen.
Here’s to more days as a fully alive, fully functioning human being. Happy, sober Thursday to all.