In The Eyes Of The Beholder – Grapevine Article August 2006 by Dennis W.

Learning how to see straight, one day at a time

When I first came to Alcoholics Anonymous, I had opinions on everything and knew for certain which was the right or wrong side of an issue. The longer I am in Alcoholics Anonymous, the more I am like our Tenth Tradition, without an opinion on outside issues.

AA gave me the ability to see both sides of many issues. I realize that although my viewpoint may be valid, it may not be reality. I tend to see the world through Dennis-colored glasses.

When I am absolutely sure that my viewpoint is right, I get into trouble. The minute I start trying to convince the rest of the world that the way I see things is really how they are, I am in conflict with someone. Even if I keep it to myself, it still usually leads to resentment. It is not that my viewpoint isn’t good, it is just that there are many ways to see one situation. I prefer finding a viewpoint that makes me feel good instead of resentful.

When I find myself in an uncomfortable situation, I know that I have three options. First, I can get out of the situation by quitting or walking away from whatever is making me uncomfortable. My second option is acceptance. I can accept the situation however I may see it. My third option is my favorite. I can change the way I see the situation so that I am no longer uncomfortable.

Sometimes I feel like a traffic cop on the highway of life who judges and separates everything coming down the pike: “Ah, this is a good thing, put it over here,” or “Oh no, this is bad, you go over there.” I want to judge everything that happens in my life. But many things I thought were bad turned out to be good and vice versa.

My first great lesson in this came over sixteen years ago when God first got me sober. Like many of us, God had to give me plenty of rope before I finally asked for help. I faced a four-year sentence in federal prison and was on the run from a federal fugitive warrant. My life was in chaos. I couldn’t stand it anymore and I had nowhere else to turn. For the first time in my life, I asked God to help me.

The federal marshals caught up with me the very next day and took me away to prison. I looked at my situation and decided that this was the worst thing that had ever happened to me. But, to my great surprise, it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life because I found Alcoholics Anonymous.

So, I don’t really know what’s good or what’s bad. I don’t know what the outcome of any action will be. I only know what I want, and I am sure that if I always got what I wanted, I would soon find myself lying in the gutter, again, with a bottle in my hand. I have to trust that each day God gives me just what I need.

The Steps have taught me how to see things from another’s perspective by giving me simple spiritual tools to use. It is amazing how quickly my attitude changes when I apply spiritual principles.

One time, my boss called me in and told me–forcefully–what a terrible job I had done on a project. Talk about feeling uncomfortable! Immediately, I became angry and defensive. Then, my sponsor’s training kicked in and I started applying spiritual principles.

I told myself that this wasn’t typical behavior for my boss and wondered if something might be wrong. It occurred to me that she might be having a tough time, and I decided to check and see if I could help. I stopped feeling persecuted. This was no longer my problem.

I asked her if something was wrong and there was. She had had a rough day and felt much better after she told me about it. After our talk, I said that I would make the necessary corrections on the project. We both felt much better.

That incident showed me how easily I could change my attitude by applying spiritual principles and looking at things from the other person’s perspective.

Applying spiritual principles to my family life is always the most difficult and requires the most effort. It’s helpful for me to observe that my reactions to the same situation are sometimes different and depend upon how spiritually fit I am on a given day.

When my children were younger and still liked to jump up and down on the furniture, sometimes I reacted by shouting, “How many times have I told you kids not to jump on the furniture? Now get off of there!” But when I was more spiritually fit, I looked at them laughing and playing and realized how beautiful they were, and how much I loved them.

How life looks to me depends on how I look at it. While this sounds simple, just like everything else in Alcoholics Anonymous, it requires continual practice in order to get good at it. I get better at it as each year passes. I am grateful that Alcoholics Anonymous is teaching me how to see straight, one day at a time.

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