Live and Let Live

I identify with members who share that the booze stopped working for them. Oh, I still got drunk all right, but the psychic pain had ratcheted up to the point that a few drinks would no longer produce the sense of ease and comfort I craved.  Instead, I woke up every morning paralyzed by fear. I was unemployed and running out of borrowed money, but all I could do to help myself was get drunk and make believe a job would solve all my problems. 

Gratefully something inside of me cried “Uncle” and let go. I experienced a moment of clarity and was led to Alcoholics Anonymous. You told me if I really wanted to quit drinking I had to do what you did. Little did I know at the time that I had to change pretty much everything about who I thought I was. Fortunately I was so sick and tired I was willing to try.

Relationships with others was a fertile area for change. I had chased everyone out of my life with my judgmental, “my way or the highway” attitude. I didn’t hate, I simply had no time or interest in anyone who didn’t think, act, and dress like me. I was so insecure, I couldn’t risk letting a person into my life who might try find out the truth about me. It’s no wonder I ended up all alone, getting drunk twice a day in my messy apartment with the curtains drawn.

In AA I was taught when I point my finger in judgement of another, I have three fingers pointing back at me. During my first fourth step I came to see I had almost the exact same character defects I resented in my father. I was cold, critical and emotionally unavailable. Today whenever I get twisted up in judgment of another -- especially people in the program -- I try to take a good look at myself. Usually I find I am guilty of the very same shortcoming I see in them. These discoveries are like little doors to freedom.

Live and let live means I allow everyone else on the planet to be exactly who they are. I try and treat others the way I want to be treated. I do not always succeed, but I have the willingness to keep trying. Thanks to the many loving examples of the alcoholics who came before me, I am becoming more loving and tolerant as the years go by. It is nothing I did and everything God did.

Wanting What I Get

"Life is a sh*t sandwich and it's always lunchtime." This was my favorite expression during the last few years of my drinking. I said it to get a laugh from the lower companions I met at the bar every afternoon for "happy" hour, but part of me believed it totally. It beautifully summed up my attitude about life. I was negative, cynical and sarcastic, but I couldn’t figure out why my life was swirling down the toilet. In my mind I was a pretty nice guy just going through a bad patch.

Gratefully, in the midst of this insanity, I was graced with a moment of clarity. I was led to the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous where I learned I have a disease called alcoholism. You said I needed to undergo a complete change of attitude or I would drink again. You went on to say the only way to change my attitude is to change my behavior. I had to act my way into better thinking.

I watched the old timers and the other regulars at the meetings. They seemed to move through life effortlessly. I wanted what they had so I began to do what they did. I went to a bunch of meetings, put my hand out to newcomers, made coffee and helped to put away the chairs. Slowly my attitude began to change. I began to see the glass half full rather than half empty. My drive for money, power and prestige gave way to my desire for a peaceful life. Today I see life as an exciting adventure not a painful endurance contest.

I used to gag when someone would say something like, "If life hands you lemons, make lemonade." But today I know that every experience holds a gift designed for my growth if I am willing to look for it. The secret to a happy life is wanting what I get, not getting what I want.