One thing about being in recovery from either drugs or alcohol is that eventually you must face the wreckage of the past. In practicing the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, step nine tells addicts to make direct amends whenever possible, except when to do so would further injure others.

Just last week I saw a wonderful play at the Court theater, “Water By The Spoonful,” winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, by Quiara Alegria Hudes, about addiction, efforts at recovery, and the terrible price of addiction on those who surround the alcoholic or addict. The play was especially timely, given the unfortunate, unexpected relapse and death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman who got sober at age 22, spent 23 years in recovery, but sadly relapsed, overdosed, and died. Aaron Sorkin commented on Hoffman’s death in Time magazine: “He died because he was an addict on a day of the week with a y in it.”

Sometimes the best you can do in recovery when facing the wreckage of the past is to make a living amends, reform your life, stay sober “a day at a time,” and attempt to find a more spiritual way of living. Now that I’m coming up on seven years without a drink, there’s a slight tendency for me to whitewash my drinking years. It feels like the life of a different person, a person who dreamed of doing things, who dreamt of being creative, but never actually sat down to write, a person who wanted to live life fully, but lived a shadow life, using alcohol as medicine to drown out feelings of inadequacy, a sense that I just didn’t measure up and that I wasn’t really living life.

In “Water By The Spoonful,” one of the main characters, Elliot Ortiz, can’t forgive his mother Odessa for the years she spent using drugs and alcohol. The title comes from an incident in his childhood in Philadelphia where she, in the throes of addiction, took him and his sister to the ER when they had the flu and was sent home with the instructions to give the two kids a spoonful of water every five minutes to prevent dehydration, but she failed in her job and his sister ended up dying. Elliot’s aunt ends up raising him, and his mother does indeed get clean and sober, but he can’t forgive her. She ends up getting a job as a janitor (highly symbolic), and during her free time monitors an online site dedicated to helping crack addicts beat their addiction. Unfortunately, not only can’t Elliot forgive his mother, she can’t forgive herself, and it’s this inability to cope with the wreckage of the past that comes back to haunt her and threatens her sobriety in a vulnerable moment.

I think the lesson is that we must reconcile ourselves to the life we have lived, and we must forgive ourselves if we are to move forward and change our future from our past. I’ve been told that insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. The reality remains that we recover a day at a time, and for me, recovery means that I write–good or bad, the words accumulate a page at a time.

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