Friday, November 17, 2006

The Big Trip

“I am going to that country which all my life I have wished to see.”

William Blake, on his death bed.

Is this what is at the heart of travel and going to see new lands? Are we really always preparing for that big trip, the true terra incognita? The place that is so unimaginable?

Why do we spend money and time to see new places, to endure the rigors and inconveniences of travel, especially now that we can have so many nearly virtual experiences of other places on the planet? In the whole of a life why physically go to other countries? Why be hot or cold or tired or lost or bothered by airports, lines, discomforts and the protocols of travel? To learn, yes. To see, yes. But why?

What place is it that we are really craving or preparing for?

If you stay sober and in recovery for a long time you eventually have to deal with death. Over the course of one’s recovery it gets closer and closer. You know people who die in and out of the rooms. At first it may be the “but for the grace of God” variety: the former friends who didn’t stop drinking and we learn of the car accident or the illness directly attributable to drinking. Later it is other sober folks in the rooms who are older than us and we see them deal with cancer and heart attacks and consequences of serious medical conditions that are among the luck of the draw. Then it is a peer, someone our age or with our same number of years in recovery. And family members: parents, siblings. It comes closer.

It is a fact of long sobriety. If you stay sober people you love will die and you too will get sick and die. Contemplating our own death is still so unimaginable that I hear people say, “Well, if I was going to die…” If?

Perhaps this is why we need to remember that this is a spiritual program. That it is only about alcohol in the most indirect manner. Booze was the loss leader that got us into the practice of making a sober life and beginning this spiritual journey. At the heart of recovery we are preparing for the rest of the trip. That country which Blake longed for as only a poet who faces the emotional truth of life could long. And as only we can too, those of us who remind each other not to leave “before the miracle happens.”

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