John Y. Brown, III: 28 Years of Proud Sobriety

JYB3I joke a lot about being 50. But that isn’t the only age I consider myself.

A few hours ago, it was 2:30am on October 18th which is about the exact time I had my last drink of alcohol 28 years ago.

We each, if we are lucky, have our actual birth date and another birth date when we are, some would say, “re-born.” Not necessarily in the religious sense…although it often is.

A line I love which captures this truth well comes from the movie The Natural with Robert Redford playing an aging and ailing baseball superstar. “We live two lives. The life we learn from and the life we live after that.”

I believe that. It’s not a perfect demarcation but it is a profound one. Maybe more crudely put it is the “life we tried to lead” and failed at and the “life we built up from those ashes.” It isn’t really a failure as much as a right of passage.

Most young people are full of vim and vigor and have a limited and self-absorbed view of the the world. Sometimes they crash and burn early, as I did. Sometimes the crash and burn later after having tremendous success. Sometimes they smolder for years until they careen off the road and into a ditch. This is our first life. The war years. The wild years when anything was possible.

Then there is the next life. The reality years. You don’t sell out but integrate and find your place and hopefully a place where you can be and do what you are meant to be and do. Until a person has hit their own self-imposed wall, they may be fun but aren’t terribly useful. Being useful is not a priority during this first life anyway, not really.

The “wall” introduces a person to him or herself. And soon after that a new life, based on the realm of the possible begins. It is a better and more useful life. Not less passionate or less fun or less exciting. But a grown-up (in the best sense of the word) has joined your “road trip” and turned it into a lifelong metaphorical journey. My wall. My old and sated life ending. My new and more useful life beginning all started about this time 28 years ago.

Here’s the post from last year describing the night. Hope it helps someone else in some small way. New lives are like that.


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