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Shakespeare = Sober (kinda, sorta… not really.)

By January 24, 2008No Comments

Shakespeare = Sober (kinda, sorta… not really.)

I was a freshman in high school when I was given an assignment to read and analyze a lengthy poem by William Shakespeare. The poem, ‘The Rape of Lucrece’ is almost 1900 lines long and, in Shakespearian form, very hard to follow for a fourteen year old brain under the influence of anything I could get my hands on. I never read the poem. I failed the class and many others that followed. It was only after I got sober almost a decade later that I discovered a passage in that same poem that has helped me maintain perspective in my own continuous recovery from the disease of more.
I was crawling through my first year of sobriety and knee deep in my guilt reading phase. I decided to read all of the books that I was supposed to read as a way to make some amends to myself. It is an endeavor that I continue still, and through which I have gained a great deal. When I rediscovered ‘The Rape of Lucrece’ I struggled through it, but was able to take with me the following:

What win I if I gain the thing I seek?
A dream, a breath, a froth of fleeting joy?
Who buys a minute’s mirth to wail a week?
Or sells eternity to get a toy?
For one sweet grape who will the vine destroy?
Or what fond begger, but to touch the crown,
Would with the scepter straight be stricken down?

I get a lot out of those seven lines. There are more times than I like to admit that drinking and using drugs sounds like a great idea. There are those times when I don’t want to go to meetings, or call my sponsor, or be of service. Those are also the times when I can open my wallet and read that part of the poem, take a deep breath, and keep walking. “What win I if I gain the thing I seek?” What will getting loaded avail me? At the very least it is a hangover. At most it would cost me my life. “A dream, a breath, a froth of fleeting joy?” Mere moments of the ease and comfort that comes with that first drink, and the spiral that surly will follow. “Who buys a minutes mirth to wail a week? Or sells eternity to get a toy? Who in their right mind would give up four and a half years of recovery and immeasurable progress for just ‘one more time’? Today I have the opportunity to make the right choice. One day at a time, I hope to continue making the right choice.

Brian C.-
Visions Teen Drug treatment Center

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