SOMEWHERE along the line, I bought a bill of goods that said I should never have to be uncomfortable. I bought it as a child and used the things of children to make it so. Later, I used alcohol to make it more so. Alcohol failed, and I had to find a substitute. I came to Alcoholics Anonymous.
All my life, I had been a problem-solver. Usually, that activity had been directed toward keeping me comfortable. “Avoid discomfort at all costs” was my motto, and I carried it over into AA. Once I was dried out, I began using much of AA as a pain-reliever rather than a program of living. Now that I was being a good guy and staying sober, I shouldn’t have to hurt anymore. Right?
Uncomfortable, distraught, fearful? Throw another iron into the fire; run ten ways at once; don’t look–maybe it will go away. Some of those moves–or, especially some AA-oriented moves–would work long enough to pour a little oil over the troubled waters; but the calm never lasted.
One of my more sophisticated games was to try to analyze and think my way through a problem. There is no more pathetic sight in the world than I am when thinking through a problem. What I mistake for thinking is really the playback of old ideas and fears recorded on my tapes of past failures. It amounts to using gasoline to put out a fire.
My concept of positive thinking was another method I would use to make me feel good. Somehow, I got the idea that positive thinking is pretending that you aren’t where you are or that you are not hurting–and by magic, you will be where you’d like to be, and the hurt will go away. It could also be called wishful thinking, which I had practiced fervently while I was drinking. It doesn’t work–drunk or sober.
Fortunately, as with alcohol, all my quick, pat answers began to fail. Problems and situations that I thought were long solved began resurfacing. I had no answers. I didn’t even know the questions.
So started the endless journey of growing up and learning how to live sober without the need of games or chemistry.
It was amazing what I heard and what was shared with me, once I had become willing to listen with that same type of newcomer innocence that had helped sober me. People began sharing their lives, the good and the bad, with me. For the first time in my life, I was happy for others’ good fortune. Mostly, I was awed by their ability to handle painful problems and even tragedy without losing their positive attitude toward life.
Nobody has a free pass on living–that was their message. We all pay our dues; even I must, regardless of being a “good guy” and staying sober.
Pain, fear, and anxiety, whether based on fact or on fantasy, are real experiences and a part of life, and to deny them is to prolong their ordeal. Sometimes, pain is a necessary part of life if a change is to be made. But I can change only what I am first able to see and accept.
Most difficult of all, I had to accept the fact that for some problems, there are no immediate, pat answers. Only time, with its quiet change, could heal them, I found.
The AA Fellowship gave me the courage to look at my life with a little self-mercy and without the guilts, the fears, and the reruns of past failures. AA members showed me how to deal with life on its terms, without having to fight or flee from it, just by accepting it as it is.
Most of all, through their love, patience, and acceptance of me when I was unable to believe, they gave me the first glimmer of a higher power. Whether it be the God of my childhood, they told me, or my belief in the innate goodness, potential, and power of all men, it would stay with me; I would never again have to battle alone with the problems of living and growing up, nor try to escape the beautiful reality of life.