Fire & Ice
Some say the world will end in fire
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire,
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
– Robert Frost

Obviously, when most of us think of “honeymoon,” we envision romance, exotic destinations, and post-wedding unwinding. But we also recognize that the term has taken on broader applications. It is seen, generically, as a window of time that allows those enjoying it to be free of judgment, criticism, and intervention. It is a “feel good” time, whatever the application of the term may be.

I recently had a sobering (no pun intended) conversation with one of my clients in recovery from alcohol dependence. He has been sober for about two years. Predictably, his life has improved markedly since he quit drinking. He has experienced success in his profession, was able to terminate a toxic relationship, and has lost a considerable amount of weight. In every possible application of the word “feel” my client has felt good about the upswing of his life over the past score of months.

And yet my client’s recent call was not about the joy of recovery, but rather, focused on the subtle ennui that flows from the end of the “honeymoon.” For those in recovery from an addiction, the honeymoon period involves the positive effects of physically feeling better, the lightening impact of escaping guilt-generating behaviors, and experiencing the support and compliments that flow from a sober life.

Another salient example involves those who have overcome a weight problem. They relish the earned compliments about their new appearance and energy level. They feel good both physically and emotionally. But after a while, acquaintances become accustomed to the “new you.” The praising remarks ebb, but the hard work of avoiding beloved Mickey D’s French fries nags on. The euphoria of the honeymoon is replaced by the seeming drudgery of staying sober, avoiding junk food, and taking the garbage out once the honeymoon cruise is over.

But is it drudgery? Is there no upside to removing kitchen waste other than respite from toxic olfactory stimulation? I think there is.

So what’s the upside? It comes in the form of less excitement and more contentment. There is less joy that flows from newness; but deeper and more enduring satisfaction that comes from doing the right thing and becoming the right person. In Robert Frost’s famous poem “Fire and Ice,” he considers the destructive forces of both passion and indifference of fire and ice. Applying the Frost work to my client, he seemed to be describing an emotional, post-honeymoon, winter. The answer to the two extremes of honeymoon-like passion and wintry, flagging enthusiasm is to land into the golden mean of comfort and satisfaction. It means reflecting fondly upon past success while enjoying the journey forward to continued health and satisfaction.

The honeymoon may be over, but a longer and far more satisfying path of wellness and virtue lies ahead. We need only see it that way.

“Love is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because that is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement; it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion…Love itself is what is left over, when being in love has burned away. Doesn’t sound very exciting, does it? Oh, but it is! ” It is the only thing that matters, really matters.
– Capt. Corelli’s Mandolin – Dr. Iannis