by Maryel McKinley, PhD
When we get sober, it is as though we have literally stepped out of the darkness and into the light. Our lives were full of misery, loneliness and despair. But by the grace of God we were able to have a glimpse of hope, as a lit match lightens a dark room.
It is important for alcoholics to remember “how it was”. That is why we hear other alcoholics share about their “war stories”. It is not to brag, or gain pity, but to help themselves and others remember “how it was” so we will never have to go back to that dark, desolate and painful place of hopeless addiction.
However, it is equally important to follow thoughts of “how it was” with thoughts of gratitude for the miracles that take place each day we are sober. No matter what happens, we have had a successful day if we have stayed sober.
Remember, quality sobriety is available for everyone. We don’t have to be controlled by events in our lives that appear harmful or negative. People, places and situations do not have the power to control our mood or behaviour. Nonetheless, if we perceive these outside enigmas to have power over us, then they have actually become our Higher Power. This inevitably brings relapse.
When we get out of the problem and into the solution, we move forward in recovery. When we stay stuck, we move backwards. We either have one foot in recovery or one foot in relapse. It is up to us how we choose to react or take action.
We are learning that life on life’s terms is about perspective. We ask God for the power to change the things we can. Attitude is one of those things we have the power to change. We can simply choose to change our old way of looking at things – to cast aside our old ideas and replace them with what Chuck C. called a “new pair of glasses”. This is solution-oriented living.
There is a huge difference between just staying sober and having a sober life that is happy, joyous and free like the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous promises. Yet in order to receive the promises we need to take action, as outlined in the Big Book. It is our compass and an instruction manual for living.
In taking action and staying in the solution no matter how we may feel, God will bring us results that are usually far grander than anything we could manipulate for ourselves even on our best day!
We will indeed receive a psychic change that is necessary for true sobriety to occur. Fear shall leave us. We will learn to walk through fear and see the positive in every experience. It takes a great deal of faith to know in your heart that nothing happens in God’s world by mistake and that everything happens for a reason. We need only accept what is happening, and then we can have the clarity to see the truth behind it.
What we would formerly call a tragedy, we can now see as a learning experience or even a preface to a miracle. The Big Book says that “we will no longer regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it”. Our past is the greatest asset we can have, as our experience, strength and hope may actually save someone else’s life.
Many of us have been in this program long enough to witness many miracles and positive changes in our own lives and in the lives of hundreds of other fellow alcoholics/addicts. Sadly, we may have also witnessed the tragic consequences that happen to those who chose to leave five minutes before the miracle. Too many of our fellows have died of this disease.
My hope for you is that you will keep coming back, and by doing so you will become a part of the solution. When you have what seems to be a problem, don’t focus on the problem. What we resist, persists. Rather, turn it over to the God of your personal understanding and take action. Try to see the light instead of the darkness, even if it is just a small flicker. Allow the sleeping beauty within you to be awakened by the sweet kiss of faith, hope and courage.
Don’t give up. Many times when I have thought sobriety was useless and that I should give up, by some miracle I chose to stay solution-oriented and went into prayer and service. Sure enough, every single time I seem to be at the darkest point of my life, a fabulous event soon occurs. This is what it means to stay in the solution no matter how bleak things get. As time goes by and as you exercise solution-oriented living, it becomes easier to accept life’s greatest challenges.
I find myself thanking God when so called “trouble” comes, because I know from experience that a huge blessing or gift from God will arise from what appears on the surface to be a tragedy. An attitude of gratitude is the strongest ally I have in my box of recovery tools against depression and negative thinking.
True sobriety occurs when we stay out of the problem and get into the solution. Try it. Watch others try it. You’ll be amazed, It really works!