On this glorious Spring Monday morning we read from the book Living Sober, the chapter entitled “Live and Let Live.”
Of course, the expression live and let live does not originate in the recovery community. In fact, the whole lesson today falls into the category of “human problems” rather than “alcoholic problems.” But still, learning how to focus on our own lives, and refrain from concerning ourselves with the lives and opinions of others goes a long way to a successful sobriety.
I remember reading this chapter in early sobriety and finding it to be an eye opener. I never thought of my addiction as being in any way related to the people around me. I would hear people say, “I like to drink at my problems” or “I drank at people, not with people,” and those expressions made no sense to me.
But as the chapter let me know… I started drinking, as most do, with people. Then, I became resentful when people commented negatively on the quantity I drank, or my attitude after I drank, so I decided to drink alone. I compared my drinking style to that of others. I preferred social functions with alcohol, and avoided those events that did not have alcohol.
And in all of those situations, people, and my reactions to those people, were involved.
It was a relief indeed to learn the mantra live and let live. It reminded me that there is only one set of beliefs, opinions and actions I can control, and so to worry about anyone else’s is not only pointless, but it is counterproductive to my own serenity.
Two corollary philosophies I learned in recovery that go hand in hand with live and let live are:
What other people say about me is none of my business.
Do I want to be right or do I want to be happy?
When I am on my game, and embracing these three ways of living, then my life is peaceful indeed.
Like most lessons in recovery, it is one that needs to be reviewed on a very regular basis! It is supremely simple to forget how good life is when I am living and letting live, and instead I easily fall into the trap of believing I know what’s best for everyone around me.
As always, I am grateful to start my week with positive and healthy ways to live my most peaceful life.
Here are some other great thoughts from this morning:
- Often the focus is on the second half of this expression… the letting live part. But equally important is the first half… live! If we focus on living our own best lives, is is natural to let others do the same.
- Often figuring out the best way to live takes time. Early sobriety is confusing in and of itself, so patience is key in terms of figuring out what exactly brings you joy.
- People who like to control things by nature find the “let live” part of this advice to be extra difficult. It is a process to unlearn the habit of giving others our take on a situation, or offering our input. Time and practice will help us strengthen this skill of letting things go.
- Typically the root cause of our inability to live and let live is our ego… we think we know better, and therefore we insist on forcing our will on others. Learning to get our egos right-sized will go a long way in learning how to live and let live.
- It is our job to figure out the best way for us personally to live and let live. For some of us, the challenge is in figuring out how to keep our mouths shut, and our opinions to ourselves. For others, the challenge is in asserting our own needs and wants, and learning to live authentically, rather than trying to please those around us. Either way, it is our responsibility to figure it out and challenge ourselves to living our best life.
- When in doubt about which is the best course of action…. keeping our mouths closed or open… shooting up a quick prayer can do wonders!
Wishing everyone who celebrates a beautiful Easter holiday!
Spring, glorious spring!
Spoiler alert: so much good stuff at today’s meeting that my mind is still reeling. This might ramble a bit.
Today’s reading came from the book Living Sober, which I’ve described a hundred times so won’t bore you again, except to say it is an easy-to-read book with practical advice on how to get and stay sober.
Typically before the meeting I take time to prep a little bit, read through a book and thoughtfully select the reading. However, a case of the In-My-Headedness had my mind occupied, and I wound up spending time emailing with a friend to help me figure things out (which she did, and I am grateful, friend who reads this blog!)
And yes, In-My-Headedness is a real condition. Or if it isn’t, it should be.
All that said, I had to select a chapter in a hurry, so I picked Chapter 5, “Live and Let Live.” It vaguely applied to my crisis du jour, and every chapter in this book is a good one, so why the heck not?
It’s crazy how things work out. The chapter selection brought back to surface a very brief, and relatively minor brush with alcohol I experienced recently. Since I assume the memory was brought into consciousness for a reason, I shared the experience, not so much for myself, but for anyone else that it might help.
And for the rest of the meeting we talked about brushes with alcohol, and how it affects us. My conclusion is that where you are on your recovery timeline is the most critical component of how intensely if affects you. As I mentioned, mine was brief, and it did not affect me in a lasting way.
And I will pause here to comment how incredibly grateful I am to make the last statement.
A friend of mine with similar sobriety time to mine shared two stories of brushes with alcohol. The first was brief, and her choice to accept or decline was taken away by a well-intentioned friend announcing (loudly) that neither of them wanted alcohol because they are sober. So the issue there was less with alcohol, more with mixed feelings of someone choosing to take her anonymity away from her.
But her second incident was one that affected her more intensely. Here’s the scene: out to dinner at a chain restaurant with booth seating, she is trapped next to an enthusiastic beer drinker. Not wanting to call attention to her vexation, she endured the affair, but grew increasingly uncomfortable as the smell of beer became more and more pungent. By the end of the night, she felt like a wreck, and escaped as quickly as she felt socially correct to do so.
She considers it a valuable learning lesson, and an event she will never repeat. She will either opt out of such occasions, or she will see to it that she puts a healthy distance between her and the more-than-casual drinkers in the group. Her sobriety is too important for her to take chances like this one.
A few others spoke of more and less harrowing experiences that involved exposure to, offers of, or temptations with alcohol.
Then my friend in early sobriety raised his hand. I have referenced him the past few blog posts, feel free to refer back for more information. My guess is that he has almost a month of sobriety at this point.
He shared a very recent and poignant story of being offered a beer on Mother’s Day, which happened to be yesterday. He is at a point in sobriety where he not only craves alcohol intensely, he believes strongly that it would be a temporary salve to some of the more troubling physical consequences of his excessive past drinking.
On top of all this, he was feeling emotionally low; it was Mother’s Day and he has no mother. He did not go into further detail than that.
He shared that he said no to the offer of a beer, and had to walk outside to try to get a hold of his emotions. He was angry, and he is fearful: sure he refused this time, but what about the next time? He doubts his ability to stay strong as he did yesterday.
As is always the case, a newcomer’s share is always powerful stuff.
My experience, my story of addiction, my life, is as different as night is from day to this gentleman. Yet he shared this story, and I am transported back…
…Back to days of trying and failing at recovery, when even if I did manage to abstain, there was a very conscious voice in my head shouting, “Why bother? You know it’s just a matter of time before you pick up, might as well do it now!”
…Back to days in earlier recovery, when less intimate friends would be asking in astonishment why I was drinking soda, and convincing me that it was okay to drink. And my feeling of intense discomfort and painful self-awareness.
…Back to days when, comfortable with saying no to a point, then spending enough time around alcohol to where I started considering things like… Wow, am I really never going to have a sip of beer/wine/gin and tonic ever again?
…To current time, when someone offering me a cocktail is no more than a blip on the screen. Talk about gratitude.
There were some powerful other issues discussed, more in line with the topic of the chapter. Several of the group, and I will count myself among them, have a hard time figuring out the boundaries of the “let live” part of live and let live. At a bare minimum, it is certainly easier said than done!
All agreed that when we make even the most minimal effort at staying in the moment of living our own lives, and letting go of that which distresses us, we are living our most peaceful and fulfilling lives. The expression live and let live is timeless for a reason!
A day late, but hopefully not a dollar short, sending out love to all those who mother or who are mothered. Hope you had a wonderful day!
Ten attendees at today’s meeting, robust by summer standards, several of whom had been away for some time. In other words, a reunion of sorts for me. We read from a chapter from the book Living Sober, entitled “Live and Let Live.”
Certainly, those in recovery have no trademark on the expression live and let live; the proverb precedes 12-step recovery by many years. However, it contains a powerful message for those of us choosing sobriety. How many of us drank “at” a problem, a resentment, an irritating person? How many, when in the midst of a challenging social situation, turn to thoughts of a drink to soften its edges?
Naturally, then, when issues arise in sobriety, it is essential to develop a new set of skills. Because, since we are flawed humans living amongst other flawed humans, situations will continue to arise that rub us the wrong way.
The part of the chapter that stood out for me personally, and I so noted to the group, was:
We have learned it pays to make a very special effort to try to understand other people, especially anyone who rubs us the wrong way. For our recovery, it is more important to understand than to be understood.
Living Sober, pg. 12
Ouch! That last sentence hurt, since I can rewind not very far back and find a multitude of examples of doing the exact opposite.
From my share a good friend was freshly back from an extended family overseas vacation, and she shared of her struggles during that time: a family that relies heavily upon alcohol, especially when in vacation mode, far from the comfort of home and sober support, and very little chance of escaping all the alcoholic conviviality of the group. She worried that, at close to 2 years sober, the chaotic feelings she experienced, and to some extent is still experiencing, even while home, are not normal. She worries that she will feel this way for the rest of her life.
Thankfully, the group has several with decades of sobriety, and all were quick to assure her that it is normal to experience feeling of discomfort when surrounded by excessive alcohol. You’re not “doing something wrong” in sobriety if you look longingly at a glass of your old favorite varietal wine.
Chances are, if you are attending a 12-step meeting, you have acknowledged a problem with alcohol on some level. People who have experienced problems with alcohol will, from time to time, wish to imbibe alcohol. It would be illogical to think otherwise! The difference is, in sobriety, we learn to think through the longing, and play the tape through to its inevitable end, which is not that one glass of wine.
Even in the short time span of the meeting, my friend reported feeling much better about the situation, and about her confidence in her sobriety. Sometimes all it takes is getting it out of your head to feel better.
A few others reported being “live and let live” people naturally, so applying that philosophy to sobriety came a bit easier to them than to those of us who struggle with the concept. Needless to say, present company is included in the half that struggle!
One attendee finds that even with over 7 years of sobriety, her natural inclination is the complete opposite of live and let live; her hackles are raised the instant somebody interferes with her sense of right and wrong. Her response to feelings of irritation and discontent is prayer. She finds that by taking all issues to her Higher Power, both crises and smaller irritations, she is better able to live and let live.
Another gentleman, the type who enjoys the “live and let live” philosophy naturally, finds that it is a skill. Like most skills, it gets easier and stronger with practice. He finds that even when his feathers are ruffled these days, the feelings of discontent are benign and short-lived.
Finally, a variety of people talked sober vacation strategy: limiting your time spent around alcohol, creating sober activities for yourself to counteract prior traditional ones, packing inspirational literature, researching 12-step meetings in your vacation town.
All tried and true advice given by the very wise group of Monday meeting attendees. I would love to hear others that we missed. What are your go-to strategies for staying sober away from home?
As always, getting more than I think I need from this group is a blessing I hope I never take for granted.