When I first got sober, I was not interested in anyone’s opinions or suggestions about anything I should be doing. I felt nobody knew anything about me, where I’d been, or what I’d been through. I felt like I was unique and had gotten a bad wrap in life.
Every time someone asked me to do something, I would react with spite and rebellion. First of all, how dare they attempt to penetrate the wall of anger I created to make myself as unapproachable as possible. Secondly, I had zero intention of listening to anyone’s suggestions, let alone following anyone’s direction.
My brain was ready and willing to fix my own brain. I really believed I could. I was told, “you can’t fix a brain like that with a brain like that.” My brain had gotten me to prison, seedy hotel rooms with strange people, dangerous situations, then back in jail—and the pattern kept repeating. I needed outside help.
Then, one day someone suggested maybe I could start saying the word “okay” instead of “no,” “I’m too busy,” or “I just can’t do that right now.” The help being offered to me in recovery had no strings—no debt. So I said, “Okay, I’ll try something different.”
Nobody was asking me to trust unconditionally; I was being offered a way to test the waters. Okay seemed much less threatening to my façade of superiority and once I decided to try that remedy, my life started to change.
“Come a little bit early and greet people before the meeting and get to know some people.” – “Okay.”
“Stay after to put chairs up after the meeting and help clean up.” – “Okay.”
“There’s a lady who needs some help moving a bed in her house today.” – “Okay.”
“Maybe you should get a sponsor.” – “Okay.”
“Maybe you should do the steps.” – “Okay.”
“Give it everything you’ve got for six months. After that, if you don’t like the results we will gladly refund you your misery.” – “Okay.”
“Okay” is a powerful powerful response. It’s far more open than always responding with “no.” The word okay opened me up to trying new things and hearing new opinions. I was able to show up, work the steps, and call my sponsor every day. “Okay” was the beginning of my willingness. My willingness was the beginning of my recovery.
I’m glad I said “okay” to saying “okay” because today I have over four years of continuous sobriety. I have a sponsor who has a sponsor, and I’ve worked the Twelve Steps. I have the honor of taking other people through the steps and being able to help. I can be present, I can show up and I can help another person.
Eventually I found the word yes; “yes” to showing up and loving life. I said “yes” to allowing the good things into my life and being genuinely okay with that. Today, recovery includes serenity and peace. I have opportunities that help rather than hurt. I have a loving beautiful girlfriend that I love with all my heart. I have a close meaningful relationship with my family.
Saying “okay” to staying for the meeting turned out to be saying “okay” to to freedom and happiness. I suggest everyone try it. Everything’s going to be okay.
Written by Karen VanDenBerg based on interviews with Dan Sanfellipo