Will I see you give more than I can take?Neil Young, “Harvest” (1972)
Will I only harvest some?
As the days fly past, will we lose our grasp?
Or fuse it in the sun?
With fall upon us, signs of harvest-time are everywhere. This is the time of year when hearty vegetables are ready to be picked and eaten. A humble pumpkin seed has grown from the size of a dime into a 10-pound orange sphere, ready to be turned into pumpkin pie or carved into a jack o’ lantern. The seed planted in the spring was slowly nurtured into what it is now.
Waiting for something good to come out of the seeds we’ve sown can be challenging. In an age of instant rice and Instagram, we don’t have to wait for much in our lives these days. As a result, our patience “muscles” have atrophied. We have created a society that wants to keep moving towards bigger, better and faster. But what happens when we slow down and actually watch the world as it turns? We begin to see the beauty in nature, the joy in face-to-face, screen-free conversation. We are in the precious present moment, fully seeing our friends around us.
In early sobriety, everything is hard. Getting out of bed. Brushing your hair. And especially, living sober. This is the seed-planting stage of a life in recovery. The seeds of a life of happiness and freedom. If we are patient like the farmer, we sharpen the tools of recovery today to reap the bounty of the healthy lifestyle of tomorrow.
I would love to tell my story of a bumper crop in recovery, but my harvest-time remains in the future. Like most of you, I am still growing and learning every day. Others in recovery have provided me with fellowship and guidance. I currently attend a 12 Step meeting with several older men in the group. In the past 9 months, 3 of these wise old men have died – but they died sober. In fact, prior to their passing, the three departed wise men had nearly a century of sobriety between them!
I have lost younger friends to the cycle of addiction, and those deaths were tragic. In the cases of the three wise old men, however, I feel neither pity nor sorrow in their dying. Instead, being relatively new to sobriety, I find hope and comfort. These men truly reaped what they sowed. They lived full, exciting lives with spouses and families. They bought, started and sold multi-million dollar businesses and stayed sober through it all. Those accomplishments aside, when it came to sobriety, the wise old men were just like you and me. They took it one day at a time – for a long time. Just like each of us, they had their struggles as well as their victories.
Their One True Victory was their decision to quit using. To stop the lying, stealing and manipulating that often comes with addiction. They planted the seed, and they lived to watch it grow into something that sustained them. They tended to their crop – recovery – in part by faithfully attending their weekly 12 Step meetings and staying connected to other people in recovery. Through fellowship, they could admit when they needed help and never faltered far from the center line. Throughout it all, they were able to reap the benefits of sobriety.
Sobriety, like the seasons, will have its ever-shifting rhythms. You will experience “firsts,” and you will make mistakes. But just keep tending to your crop. Equipped with a farmer’s tools of patience and hard work, in recovery you can make it through the rainy days and the sunny days. We need both to grow.