M(3), 3/2/15: How Many Times Can I Beat a Dead Horse?
I actually just went back through my blog archives and checked: this will make the ninth time I am writing on this subject. So the answer to the title question is, at least nine times, and I’m pretty sure there will be a tenth.
And with that mysterious lead-in, the reading selection at my Monday morning miracle was a personal story in Alcoholics Anonymous entitled “Acceptance is the Answer.” Long-time readers of this blog, as well as regular 12-step meeting attendees are probably quite familiar with this story. Here (again) is the seminal paragraph, possibly the most important lesson I’ve learned within the 12-step program of recovery:
And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation – some fact of my life – unacceptable to me and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God’s world by mistake. -Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 417
This story is a huge part of my personal recovery. On day one of sobriety, the meeting I attended stopped the discussion they were having and instead turned to this selection when they found out I was less than 24 hours sober. Of course, it meant very little at the time, my life was in too much chaos for me to focus on anything, but in the 6 weeks that followed I was at meetings that featured this story 5 or 6 times. Statistically improbable, but I now realize God needed me to hear it.
And it took that many times, more than that actually for the message of this story to sink into this hard head. It was probably the second or third time reading that I started to get indignant about this story, and I scoffed at the premise that I am the cause of my discontent. What if somebody’s being a total jerk? What if they’re 100%, black and white, straight up wrong? Then can I have some justifiable anger?
Turns out the answer is no to that one. You see, people are always going to be jerks, there’s always going to be irritations beyond our control, shit’s gonna happen, but here’s what we can control: our reactions to it. And if we can find acceptance of these perceived imperfections, well, then, we’re going to find peace of mind. It’s really that simple.
I told the group this morning that I needed this reading selection because of my discontent with the season, with the weather, and with the disagreeable decisions my school district continues to make. And certainly I am ready for spring, but as I read through the selection with the group, a few things stood out to me that highlighted the real reason I needed to hear this story today:
Perhaps the best thing of all for me to remember that my serenity is inversely proportional to my expectations.
When I focus on what’s good today, I have a good day, and when I focus on what’s bad, I have a bad day. If I focus on the problem, the problem increases; if I focus on the answer, the answer increases.
-pg. 419, Alcoholics Anonymous
It was when I read those lines that I realized what the problem I was focusing on: myself. Self-acceptance has always been a challenge for me, currently it has become impossible. Every part of this story has been true for me when I read it from the viewpoint of self-acceptance:
- I am focused on the problem rather than the solution, and have so far the problem has increased
- I find myself unacceptable, and thus find myself disturbed and unable to grab hold of serenity
- I continue to manipulate my external environment in the hope of influencing the internal one, to no avail
I could go on and on, but I’m sure you get the idea. Even as we were reading and I’m realizing the ultimate point of this selection, I still had the audacity to rail against it: but it’s myself, I think furiously, and therefore I’m allowed to be frustrated about my continually repeating negative patterns! And then one attendee shared this perspective that helped her with the concept of acceptance:
Acceptance does not mean approval. Acceptance does not mean agreement.
At this point of the meeting even my argumentative brain shut up. I spoke with the woman after the meeting, and told her how much her share had meant to me, and how I would be reflecting upon it in the days to come. She responded that she was blown away by something that had happened to me: I stated at the outset how badly I needed to hear the important lessons of this reading selection, there’s a dozen or so people who take turns reading, and yet it “just so happened” to be my turn at the most highly regarded paragraph of the story (at the top of this post). I laughed, and thanked her for reminding me of this. You see, I make sure to read this story twice a year for the past few years I have been running this meeting… at least 6 times so far. And every time we’ve read it, the responsibility for reading that paragraph falls on me.
There are no coincidences!
That I was reminded that there are no coincidences. I would have taken that miracle for granted had it not been pointed out to me.
Posted on March 2, 2015, in Monday Meeting Miracles, Recovery and tagged 12 step program, 12 steps, AA, Addiction, Alcoholic Anonymous, Alcoholism, Big Book, Higher Power, Meeting, Miracle, Monday, Recovery, Sobriety, Substance Abuse, Twelve-Step Program. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.