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M(3), 7/13/15: Laissez-Faire, Recovery Style

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?

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