One of our AA slogans is: “pain is mandatory, but suffering is optional”. I am grateful that today I can see loss, pain and sadness is just a part of life on life’s terms, but suffering is all in my mind. If I am suffering it is because I am believing a story my mind made up. These self-centered stories are all about me -- what I want, what I need. They are not about how life is, rather they are fantasies about how I think life should be. I am grateful today that I don’t suffer as long before I recognize these ego traps.
A few days ago I was lying in the Shanghai fancy foreigner’s hospital with pneumonia. I felt like crap and worried that I couldn’t afford the treatment. Every few minutes I had a coughing fit that felt like I was coughing up a lung. Both my temperature and blood pressure were well beyond normal. My Chinese doctor said I may have hyper tension and I might need to begin taking blood pressure medicine. She said high blood pressure is common in “elderly” people like me because our veins get smaller. Elderly! It was the first time anyone had called me elderly and it stung.
After she left I lay there worrying. Ego began it’s self-centered story: “You are an elderly walking time bomb, Jeff. You had better get your affairs in order. You better learn to control your temper, you should give up caffeine, you can’t afford this medicine...” These thoughts and a whole bunch more whirred in my head for a good thirty minutes before my higher self whispered, “You are believing a story that is dragging you into the future, Jeff. Just relax and do the next indicated thing and you’ll be okay”. I felt peace return almost immediately. It turned out that my blood pressure was fine. The spikes were caused by my coughing. I smile when I think about all the hours and days and years I spent worrying about nothing.
The longer I stay sober the more I become convinced that everything that has ever happened to me is intended for my highest and best good. I look at my alcoholism as a blessing. I could not have come from where I was to where I am today without having a deadly disease that was going to kill me.