Letters of Note

28 Jul

Letters of Note is a fantastic site and book which publishes some of history’s most influential figures’ letters.

Today one from author Henry James to his tortured friend really caught my eye. Behind the poetic words of consolation to a friend suffering depression is a message that speaks directly to the challenges of sobriety.

He writes:

You are right in your consciousness that we are all echoes and reverberations of the same, and you are noble when your interest and pity as to everything that surrounds you, appears to have a sustaining and harmonizing power. Only don’t, I beseech you, generalize too much in these sympathies and tendernesses—remember that every life is a special problem which is not yours but another’s, and content yourself with the terrible algebra of your own.

I love the way he acknowledges the ‘special’ feeling that plagues the depressed, the ‘no-one understands me’ feeling that we can fall victim to as drinker, but has sympathy for the tendency to catastrophes and take the weight of the world on her shoulders. He reminds us to keep focused on what we can control, to accept the things we cannot and to not let the very positive trait of a capacity for empathy run wild and cause us emotional distress.

And what poetry, ‘the terrible algebra’ of our problems, the unique set of letters and numbers that makes us individual, but when thrown out of balance, can make us feel truly rotten.

James goes on to talks of the concept of fellowship and unity which for many of us is the cornerstone of our sobriety:

We help each other—even unconsciously, each in our own effort, we lighten the effort of others, we contribute to the sum of success, make it possible for others to live.

This is what we’re all doing here, reading, blogging, commenting, going to AA, supporting another sober person. We help others spread the load, to balance that tricky equation out. 

And as is so important in sobriety, acknowledging the the transience of intense emotion is paramount:

Sorrow comes in great waves—no one can know that better than you—but it rolls over us, and though it may almost smother us it leaves us on the spot and we know that if it is strong we are stronger, inasmuch as it passes and we remain. It wears us, uses us, but we wear it and use it in return; and it is blind, whereas we after a manner see.

YES. This has been my biggest lesson in sobriety, the notion of ‘this too shall pass’, that no emotion is eternal and can be overcome.

I’ve read this letter several times tonight, savouring the words and finding comfort in them as I cherish my sobriety after a tough weekend. 

To read the full letter and other Letters of Note, visit here

Advertisements

4 Responses to “Letters of Note”

  1. Lisa Neumann July 29, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

    Love your words here (I always love them). As you share your today, I am reminded that when I get too far away from all of you I do all my isolating and/or self-centered actions, but when I stay close, when I see that I matter and that you matter I give and receive love and this is what helps me stay sober—my connection to humanity and the greater good unfolding. It’s nice to see you progressing in your journey. You are a sober blessing for me. xox Lisa

  2. primrose August 1, 2014 at 6:31 am #

    this was beautiful. thank you. am working on not ‘melting’, indeed. Xxx

  3. mallards4us August 6, 2014 at 6:13 pm #

    I really needed this as well! Very touching, thank you, xx

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

The Art of Keeping Going

A blog that's mostly about not drinking.

trufflesfreedom

Starting a life of sobriety and freedom.

waking up, being sober

and trying to make sense of what follows

Off-Dry

I got sober. Life got big.

Hungry Girl Eats

Notes on the care and feeding of body, mind and spirit.

DominantSoul

The Erotic Art of Sensual Domination

lydia davies

author of 'Raw, the diary of an anorexic'

800 Recovery Hub Blog

Written by people in recovery for people in recovery

My Road To Abstinence

Sober, me? Really?

ainsobriety

Trying to ace sober living

tired of treading water

Ditching the drink and waking up

Shadow. Ash. Spirit. Flame.

Out of Shadow and Ash, Spirit ascends and blazes Light.

The drinking Stops Today

My attempt to quit drinking....

Good Morning Mercies

Seeking beauty and balance overcoming chronic illness and addictions

sparkly sober

writing my way out of drinking

We Admitted We Were Powerless

A journey of recovery

A Woman Without Wine

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got

Mind-Full Mom-E

Being sober & clear headed with a mind that is full!

12 the hard way

ruminations on the twelve steps.

superbly sober

A girl trying to get sober in a boozy world.

Recovering From Powerlessness

A journey of recovery from everything

soberchoices101

One day at a time

nomorewine's Blog

The greatest WordPress.com site in all the land!

Ditch The Grog Blog

A Quest to Sobriety!

Lucy's New Life

Goodbye booze. Hello clarity, health and happiness.

The Adventures of a Sober Señorita

Follow me as I live la vida loca (but sober)

Party.0

Getting crazy with no consequences!

The Six Year Hangover

A BLOG BY A GAY MAN GETTING SOBER IN NEW YORK CITY.

And Everything Afterwards

How I quit alcohol and discovered the beauty of a sober life

Just A Rock

The trials of a young woman awkwardly trudging her way to happy destiny

Life Unbuzzed

Rowing my sober boat gently down the stream

Alcoholics NON Anonymous

Step 1: POWERLESSNESS is not real.

The Lotus Chronicles

Just like the lotus we too have the ability to rise from the mud, bloom out of the darkness and radiate love and beauty.

Living Free

A fine WordPress.com site

messyarts

lettuce turnip the beet.

Seeing Clear Lee

musings on becoming alcohol-free

Sober at 51

Enough is enough...

%d bloggers like this: