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  • Perspective: Great Expectations

    by Tokio (Munro 2009)

    When I take an Advil for a headache I Expect the headache to go away. The “solution” I have just swallowed is Expected to solve my problem of pain. When I pay my rent every month I Expect to be able to keep living in my apartment. When you hurt me I Expect an apology and when I screw up I Expect you to forgive me.

    These are everyday things for me. My Life is full of LIFE and hence riddled with Expectations … sometimes GREAT Expectations … Elephant-sized EXPECTATIONS. Like when I went to rehab I Expected to be Cured. And so did my family.

    We were all so pregnant with Expectation that it seemed there would be no chance of failure. Relief from this awful alcoholism would be delivered in 21 days. We all thought all I had to do was just STAY in rehab and the alcohol problem would be solved.

    The problem was that I was the problem and I was 43 YEARS old … you can’t solve 43 Years old with 21 new Days.

    We know that now, but back then when I picked up a drink 72 hours after leaving rehab it was devastating. That one liquid drink smashed my expectations like a solid iron sledgehammer … maybe that’s why they call it “getting hammered.”

    You see, I Expected everything to add up. And things might have if I had done something besides Time. I Expected something for nothing. I sat in a chair in the places I was told to go and I opened my mouth but kept my ears and mind locked up like Fort Knox. I made no effort to understand or participate and I Expected my efforts to be banked. And they were – I put zero effort in and I got zero sobriety back. In actual fact I did get something out of it … I got drunk.

    It took four years to figure out that by doing some work as opposed to having expectations I could make capital gains in my recovery. I can leave the bars and the “rapacious creditor” of alcoholism and go where we exchange the currency of “The Bank of Bill and Bob.” What I get to gain is “interest in others.” What I get to save is my relationship with my daughter. And there are no services fees. I’m just given the opportunity to do service so I can keep what I’ve gained and saved. It’s a sweet deal. I challenge you to find a better one.

    One of the perks that comes with this deal for me, and anyone who is willing to go to any lengths, is the relationship with a sponsor. I couldn’t stay sober until I got one that I was willing to work with. Several agreed to work with me but I wasn’t willing. I wasn’t ready yet to become willing to be willing to be willing … I hadn’t lost enough YET.

    When “yet” arrived in the form of losing everything I cared about, my marriage, my relationship with my daughter and family, my house, my career and my friends – when I lost enough, I became more than willing to shut my mouth and open my heart and mind. And especially open my ears. And into my open ears my sponsor deposited the words expectations are resentments waiting to happen.

    I had expected so much of people and they let me down. And I had many times over returned the favour. Then one day in a meeting I heard someone say, “people will let you down … that’s just what they do.” I was shocked. I mean, I know that concept as a reality and experience, but in my family you are pure Failure and plain Stupid if you let others down. That “letting down” of something besides your hair becomes family legend and tales are told of your failure around the fire. As a sensitive alcoholic this story time was torture, as I was often the main character.

    But by chance or heredity I’m an alcoholic and by destiny I’m lucky enough to be in the rooms and my ears have been opened by the force of pain and the soothing words of “people will let you down … that’s what they do” pour in.

    And those words are followed by, “people are always just doing the best they can.” Double wow. So even when I’m screwing up and you’re flipping out, we are both just doing the best we can. What a relief. Way better than Advil for a headache or alcohol for a heartache. I no longer have to Expect you to do anything but the best you can. I no longer have to resent you because you are doing the best you can … And so am I.

    About the Authors

    Renascent Alumni
    Members of Renascent's alumni community carry the message by sharing their experiences and perspectives on addiction and recovery. To contribute your alumni perspective, please email alumni@renascent.ca.