“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”- Anne Bradstreet.
When most of us think about spring, we think about flowers and rebirth and sunshine and new beginnings. A promise of hope dangles in front of us, and it’s a welcoming breath of fresh air after a long sequence of cold and dreary winter nights.
Spring, after all, embodies the season of rebirth. The trees and flowers bloom, and the world seems brighter.
If addiction mimicked the seasons of life, spring would represent the initial step into sobriety. That’s because spring offers hope for change and new beginnings. It’s idealistic and promising, but let’s not put spring on a perfect pedestal.
Spring can be finicky- just like early sobriety- with its odd weather and unpredictable patterns. After all, spring often entails random patches of wind and rainstorms smackdab in the middle of a week full of cloudless, balmy days. And, only in spring, can people experience mild and warm afternoons followed by spontaneous snowstorms happening just a few days later.
Spring, in that regard, is fragile- just as sobriety is fragile.
When Winter Is All You Know
I specialize in acute addiction treatment, which means that I work with clients in their very first days of sobriety. I experience the full rainbow of emotional temperaments- the excitement and fear and worry and sadness.
Early sobriety comes in hot, and it comes in cool, and it comes in every temperature in between.
My clients understand perpetual rainstorms and thunder and getting struck by lightning. Lousy weather is their norm; in fact, good weather evokes discomfort and suspicion. My clients have built their entire lives centered on chaos and thunderstorms. It’s what makes them feel safe, cocooned away from the dangerous world at large.
The beginning of sobriety means leaning into the reawakening of life. It means allowing yourself to pack the umbrella and the t-shirt, and being able to use both, depending on the daily forecast.
It entails being open to the process of new beginnings- and all that those beginnings have to offer. After all, in spring, you can’t tell for sure if the plants are going to grow, but you follow the instructions, and you hold onto the faith that they will. You trust that your work yields results, but that also requires you doing the job.
Even Good Beginnings Can Feel Scary & Painful
One of my favorite professors once told us, We don’t fear the unknown; we fear the worst-case scenario. I think about this quite often, as it powerfully encapsulates so much of the anxiety we feel about change.
And, yes, sobriety is terrifying. When you have been living in shackles as a prisoner to your own addiction- the thought of anything else, while freeing, seems foreign. Almost untrustworthy. Almost impossible.
While the “rebirth” part of sobriety may seem enticing, it’s easy for the fear to shadow it. But, living in fear often means living in stagnation. We miss out on opportunity and growth- typically because we fear that the outcomes lying ahead will still hurt us.
And Spring Comes Every Year
No matter how rough the winter was, and no matter how many days it rained, spring happens, without fail, every single year.
That means there’s always a beacon of hope lying ahead, and this applies to both the weather and sobriety. Rebirth can happen.
I know that because I see it every day. I see people transform and change their lives and grow in ways they never perceived to be imaginable. Change is possible- in the weather, in people, and everywhere in the world around us.