“I amz what I amz and that’s allz that I amz.”
– Popeye T. Sailorman
For me, acceptance usually involves some discomfort. Defeat at the hands of alcohol was a victory not easily gained. On the surface, I was sure I had surrendered, yet hidden deep beneath all my bullshit, part of me hoped it wasn’t real. I knew I would be lost for a long time.
My journey into recovery couldn’t really begin until I accepted I was an alcoholic. It demanded that I burn the bridge back to alcohol. To the ground. Although more painful than I’d like to admit, it was necessary.
After many years of drinking, I wasn’t sure who I was when I got sober, but I had to shed the image that had been created by booze. Surely, the old me would drink again. There had to be a new me, and he would be introduced when the masks and old ideas were discarded. I had to stop trying to be what I am not, and stop trying not to be what I am.
“You’ve got to learn to live with what you can’t rise above.” – Bruce Springsteen
Stashed for years in my unwanted feelings bank was an extensive backlog of things I had to accept. A few were traumatic. Help was required from my sponsor to identify the working parts of the Serenity Prayer. Wiggle room be damned, it was I who would have to change and I who would have to accept. Everyone else was disqualified. “Could anyone ever change you?” he challenged.
There’s a good reason why some Twelve Step vendor hasn’t made millions hawking No Pain, No Gain bumper stickers. Nobody likes pain. And alcoholics and addicts drain vast amounts of energy trying to escape from any discomfort, large or small. Nevertheless, you can run, but you can’t hide. No matter how hard you try, sometimes you reach in a grab bag and pull out a turd.
“That’s just the way it is. Some things never change.”
– Bruce Hornsby
Accepting that my beloved old ideas were suddenly unusable was difficult. There were so many to let go of, namely: that I had all the answers, and that people would like me if I had all the answers; that if I was happy, everyone was happy. So many of my old ideas were balonious*. And I wasn’t sure how the new ones would work out in recovery.
Furthermore, what was important to me and what’s really important were two different things. I had things upside-down, inside-out and twisted. It was apparent I had missed some life lessons, and I had to play a quick game of catch-up.
“It’s always something.”
– Roseanne Roseannadanna
Recovery isn’t about learning how to get what I want, but learning how to live with what I get. I had to let go of getting my way, of trying to control. Realizing my limits, I needed to end my feeble attempts at playing God.
Naturally, I still had my conniptions when things were going badly. I was a spiritual good-time Charlie. Now and then, I wondered if God had a suggestion box. Occasionally, I had to send myself to my room and let the idiot run around inside of me; he always wears himself out eventually. That’s a good thing.
This cat didn’t always land on all fours, though. When things went way south, sometimes I got so mad at God I think I gave him an ear infection. Sorry.
“When will I ever learn to live in God?”
– Van Morrison
Consequently, the path of least resistance is a walk of peace. My emotional barometer, restless, irritable and discontent, warns me when I’m off the path, and it’s hard to ignore. When I stop fighting everybody and everything, the resistance subsides; when I accept God’s will, there is peace. It’s win-win.
Despite occasional discomfort, there is a magnificent gift I can accept as I continue on. I can live in the space between two drinks: the last drunk and the next first drink. Amidst the miracle of days, weeks, months and then years of sobriety, I discover something precious between those two drinks; something I had been missing: life. Mine.
* aka—full of baloney