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!
Pain is the touchstone of all spiritual progress. This concept is discussed in AA literature, but it is most certainly a universal truth. Pain is almost always what makes me stop and realize that I need a change. It can be physical pain… my back aches to the point that I must stop whatever physical activity I am doing. Mental pain… everyone in my life irritates me to the point that I must stop and consider that I am the common denominator. Emotional pain… I continue with my addictive behavior until the consequences are so painful, that I must stop and consider a new way of living.
No matter what kind of pain you are experiencing, there is an opportunity for growth, and an opportunity for learning. There is no way I would wish for myself (or anyone else) the kind of pain that addiction brings, but I can say that I have learned a hell of a lot about myself, about the disease, and about how to deal with life on life’s terms. And since I don’t get to choose whether or not to be an addict, I must learn to play with the cards I’ve been dealt, so I may as well learn what I can, and apply the knowledge going forward.
And now, when other kinds of pain come my way, I can recognize the potential for growth, and the potential to learn something new, even while I’m in the midst of it.
Here’s what else I’ve learned about pain: you can try to ignore it, and hope it goes away on its own, but it does not. In fact, ignoring pain tends to magnify it. So, when I experience pain, I know I have a choice: deal with it now, or wait for it to get much worse. Either way, I’m going to have to face it.
Got up this morning at the usual time, but it was lighter and brighter, and it is only March 1st… spring is coming!!