I have a love/hate relationship with my car. Before I got sober, I needed a car. I was looking at used cars, but couldn’t settle on one. For the price I wanted to pay, all the Hondas and Toyotas had high millage and no warranty. One day, I was talking to my brother. He said, “If I were you, I would go down to the Hyundai dealership and buy their cheapest new car.” I went down there that day, and did exactly that. I came away with a little black Hyundai Elantra complete with tape deck and cloth seats. (Yes, I have a tape deck in my car.)
My first couple of years owning the car was a bit rough. I’d never learned how to take care of anything, so oil changes, stickers, tires, all fell by the wayside. And yet the car kept going. I dented it a couple of times (once sober, once not so much). I broke the cover off of the vanity mirror. I lost my floor mats. My seatbelt jammed. I blew the speakers. And still it goes. Now the paint is flaking off, I have the beginnings of a hole in my floorboard, and my headlights seem to go out with surprising regularity. And still it goes.
And that’s the problem. Eleven years later, it still goes. No matter where I am or what parking lot I am in, I look around. My car is inevitably the worst looking car in the lot. I know because I look a lot. I size my car up against all the pretty, undented cars with paint so glossy it reflects the world back upon itself. It has become an obsession of mine. I look for the worse off cars too, and when I occasionally spot one, I fight off the urge to write a pithy, little note saying, “It’ll be okay, Life’ll get better.”
But then, I love my car. It is an awesome, little machine. When I could not afford for that car to break down, it didn’t. I remember taking a friend to Ben Taub psychiatric unit and driving that car home in the foggy, early morning calm of the desolate Sam Houston Tollroad, never being so grateful to be sober. I remember the first time my love came over in torn jeans to fix the thermostat. Some mornings, when I turn over the engine and it starts right away, I pat my car on the dashboard and say encouraging words.
And the truth is the only reason not to love is because I feel like it is some sort of reflection of my place in society, or even worse, of my place in recovery. I feel like more established people or saner people have nicer, shinier things. So, its not that I am uncomfortable with my car, I am uncomfortable about what you think my car says about me. And that’s crazy! Its like not only do I think you think about me at all, but that you think about my car and what you think my car says about me. To get a new car would, on some level, acknowledge and validate that part of myself that places value not only in the material world, but on what I fear others might think of me. And that’s really awkward.
Over time, my car has become less a method of transportation and more an extension of my journey into my disease and back out again. And now I find myself, like The Giving Tree, learning a new lesson. Now I am learning the lesson of humility and gratitude. A lesson about outer beauty versus inner awesomeness. A lesson about dedication and perseverance and loyalty.
So, yes, I love my car… even if the window doesn’t always want to roll down.