“Turn on the dark, I’m afraid of the light,” cries the hero of a wise Shel Silverstein poem. The character happens to be a bat, but I understand the sentiment, especially on this day when clocks are set forward and the light lingers and lingers. In the brighter, longer spring days, everything comes into sharper focus–in the natural world, and in the heart.
Buried memories and feelings come to light, some beautiful, others carrying that deep sense of loss and longing that Brazilians call “saudade”. The reawakening of nature wakes the human soul like a bedroom lamp pulls us out of slumber, like the ugly closing lights chase the last drunks out of a bar. The brightness brings clarity but also evokes fear. Sometimes we want to cover our eyes and beg for darkness, like Silverstein’s bat.
So it is with recovery. When we stop drinking, we illuminate our lives. Memories and feelings flood our consciousness. As in March, the landscape illuminated by sobriety is harsh at first. Mud is still more visible than grass. The air is cold, the skies overcast and the streets littered with detritus left by the winds and snows of winter. The days of tulips and balmy temperatures seem very far away indeed.
It is tempting during the tough early days of recovery to want to run back into the comforting darkness of a bar and a memory-erasing drink. This is the time that tests our courage. We need to take our inspiration from nature–the birds that have the faith to return in March and build their nests in the lingering chill; the flowers that push through the mud toward rays of sun that are pale at first. We have to keep reaching for the light.