Right for the Wrong Reasons.
Sunday I went to the driving range with Jimmy Legs. I haven’t been actually golfing since I was in rehab. This was the second time I’ve been to the driving range in sobriety. The first time was with my ex-wife and then-stepson. I had told them that I was not a terrible golfer, and as usual, they didn’t believe me. And that’s all I am, not terrible. With clubs numbered five or higher I can hit the ball straight, with a maximum distance of about 150 yards, about 7 times out of ten. This is enough that when I used to actually go out and golf, I would generally get one or two pars in eighteen holes, and score about 100.
So, I’m not terrible. But I’m certainly not good. Jimmy Legs is going on a golfing vacation in the fall with his father and brothers, and so he wants to get out and refamiliarize himself with the motions and equipment. Golfing is really amazingly difficult to do well. And unlike many other sports, it’s even pretty difficult to do badly. However, despite this lengthy introduction, I’m not going to go all Bagger Vance on you and start making golf into some sobriety metaphor. Golf is a game where you hit a ball with a stick. I don’t need to build a larger narrative around it.
No, instead, I’m going to talk a bit about dating again. I was talking with Jimmy Legs about a women I dated last fall, who is (was?) an oncology fellow an a local medical school. We only went out three times, and by her own description, she really liked me. But she’s the one who rejected me because I’m in recovery. I liked her. She was bright and pretty. And I was really impressed by her job. But she had some issues of her own that might’ve interfered with a relationship. She was very OCD (like, diagnosed by a psychiatrist), and was uninterested in addressing it. She was also a Conservative Jew, and while I have a Jewish bloodline (on my mother’s side), I was not raised in the faith or the traditions, and am not interested in adopting them.
She guessed I was an alcoholic on our second date, when I didn’t order a drink at dinner, and asked me straight out about it. I told the truth immediately, of course. I asked if it was a problem. She said she didn’t know but that she’d “want to be certain I could stay sober.” Of course, certainty isn’t what I do with regard to sobriety. I won’t make promises. I said that I hadn’t had a drink in (at that time) more than 3 and a half years, and that I couldn’t imagine having one. Then we went to the Muppet Movie and held hands and I kissed her goodnight. I thought it would be ok.
We went out once more, and it was a bit awkward. We set up a fourth date, but she canceled, saying that the alcoholism was a problem, and she felt bad, because she really liked me and didn’t want it to be. She said she didn’t want to see me again. I was very upset. I still think about her from time to time. But, as I’ve written before, she has that right. I don’t have to like it. I don’t have to respect it. But I have to accept it.
Today on twitter, a friend mentioned that her family is coming to visit the city she lives in while she’ll be away. I don’t know the circumstances of her interactions with her family. I made a joke that “this way [she] won’t have to see them.”. This kind of thing is painful though. Family is always troublesome, even in the best families there are frictions and frustrations and irritations. Her circumstance reminded me of what Jimmy Legs said on the car ride home from the driving range.
“Well, she was right for the wrong reasons.” That’s exactly right. That oncology fellow had every right to make her decision not to see me again, even though she liked me (assuming it wasn’t just a convenient excuse to sever ties; after all, that’s a thing I can’t change.). But if my recovery is the real reason she didn’t want to see me again, then she’s right. We shouldn’t see each other. But she’s wrong about the reasons.
My recovery is not precarious. I will not promise never to drink again. Not because I expect to, but because I think it is hubris. I don’t want to tempt my disease. Yes, I know that’s not strictly rational, but maintaining this kind of perspective is important to keeping myself sober. It is daily work, regular treatment, to stay in recovery. If I start making lifelong promises, it becomes too easy to ignore the daily maintenance. Recovery is like a physical condition. If I don’t do regular work to keep it up, I will become soft, winded, and exhausted.
The real reason for me not to see her again is that I don’t want to be with someone who needs certainty and assurances in life. It suggests she’s looking for control over things she can’t control. I don’t want to be with someone whose world is balanced on a spindle like that. I don’t want to be with someone who is constantly doubting my recovery. My worldview. The thing about me that I am proudest of. The core that shapes me. If that central self of mine is a seed of doubt for her, then we would never be compatible.
I think a lot of times, things are right for the wrong reasons. We, I, react against that. Because I want a person to change their reasons. Then, maybe something could be right for the right reasons. Right the way I wanted it to be right. I can’t help but wonder if something similar, though painful, might be happening with my friend. I don’t know of course. It’s wild speculation, bordering on the irresponsible.
Most of the time, in life, I end up with what I need. Too often, what I need and what I want are strikingly dissimilar. I am still sad, about things I wish I’d kept, but which I lost. About things I never had, but that I wanted. But I have the crucial things. I am of sound mind, these days. I have a healthy body to carry it around in. And I have hope. When I look back, I am reminded how much better my future is than my past.