Everybody’s losing their minds about the Coronavirus, and I’m over here thinking about this old wheelbarrow.
I don’t mean to downplay any alarm over COVID-19. Clearly, it’s causing a good deal of concern here at Cornerstone of Recovery and Stepping Stone to Recovery, and for good reason. After all, we look at what’s going on in the nation and the world and wonder, how can we keep our patients safe? Our families safe? Our home groups, our communities, ourselves?
There’s so much about this bug that’s unknown, and speaking solely for me, that precipitates a lot of fear. One of the reasons I didn’t get clean for so long was because the thought of life without drugs and alcohol terrified me. It represented a journey into a future shrouded in mystery, the wonder and beauty of which I couldn’t comprehend in my addicted state. And so I chose the familiarity of addiction. It was miserable, but it was also comfortable, because I knew what to expect.
Not knowing what to expect is frightening, and that applies to the Coronavirus, I think. However, there are familiar ways of thinking that we can call upon in these times that offer us some measure of comfort.
Which brings me back to that old wheelbarrow.
It sits in my side yard, propped up against the side of the house, and this time of year, when we’re putting out plants and trees and preparing the garden, it earns its keep. It was sky blue at one time, and the paint on the underside has held onto that color, although its hue has faded over the course of 40-something years since my dad bought it.
I don’t remember how it came to be mine. I suppose the old man bought himself something new, one of those garden carts with the off-road tires and the pull handle that traversed the backyard of his suburban neighborhood home with ease. I could probably use one of those myself, but whenever I look at the price tags on them, I can’t bring myself to buy one. That old machine, I think, still gets the job done.
In my mind’s eye, I can see my father, splitting logs at the woodpile, loading up that wheelbarrow and wheeling it to the sliding glass door of the den, where he’d stack the wood beside the fireplace. I can picture him loading it up with tools to dig a hole for a new mailbox post. I remember his shirt wet with summer sweat, the muscles on his spindly arms bulging, as he wheeled cinder blocks and bricks, dead animals to their final resting place, trees and shrubs and bushes to holes he dug for my mom.
That old wheelbarrow never let him down, and it continues to do whatever task I require of it. The bowl is rust-flecked but solid, and the tire needs replacing … but that old machine works just like it always has, and every time I pull it out in preparation for another Saturday afternoon of work, I always think of my father, and how the old machines of our lives are often the truest.
That goes for the very program that has been Cornerstone’s lifeblood since day one. We’ve expanded our therapeutic repertoire over the past three decades, and we’ve adopted new and innovative ways to help patients heal from pain and trauma. We’ve grown size-wise and facility-wise. We take them on outings and excursions, put them through fitness regimens and on ropes courses, work with their families and address their psychiatric needs.
The 12 Steps, however, remains our “old machine” … and in sharing them with those who come to us for help, we can find solace for the things that worry us, that concern us, that cause us anxiety.
The things that cause us fear. Things like COVID-19.
Let’s review what the Big Book tells us about fear: “This short word somehow touches every aspect of our lives. It was an evil and corroding thread; the fabric of our existence was shot through with it. It set in motion trains of circumstances which brought us misfortune we felt we didn’t deserve.”
“Perhaps,” that passage continues, “there is a better way … for we are now on a different basis; the basis of trusting and relying on God. We trust infinite God rather than our finite selves. We are in the world to play the role He assigns. Just to the extent that we do as we think He would have us, and humbly rely on him, does He enable us to match calamity with serenity.”
I don’t know about you, but that brings me some measure of comfort. We must take sensible precautions, of course — I don’t know about your Higher Power, but when I pray and plead not to get Coronavirus, I hear my HP whispering, “Wash your damn hands, then!”
But there is serenity to be had, if we only seek it. Because sometimes, the old ways — and the old machines — are the most reliable, and the most comforting.
Here’s your Friday motivation, friends.