Starting With Me

I was told from a young age that having both Irish and Dutch roots, I would be doubly stubborn. I’ll let those around me decide if that is true or not. For my part, I do know that I haven’t always agreed with the status quo and have tried things just a bit differently. I wasn’t a trail blazer, but did things my own quiet way and I lived a lifestyle that differed greatly from my family’s. I was different not just to be different because the pressure to conform was great. However, I knew that I wouldn’t be happy living the way that was ‘expected’ of me.

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In both career and lifestyle I chose my own path. It wasn’t without it’s challenges and I am sure that part of the pressure that I felt led me down a dark road that, fortunately also led to the doors of a recovery program a little over ten years ago. And also fortunately, I was not told how be or act, but was given suggestions that I was free to follow in order to begin living life on a more balance keel. These ‘suggestions’, the twelve steps of recovery, were up to me to follow and implement in my life at my own pace. I was still quite stubborn and this way of applying the program suited me well. And while I am hardly the poster boy for recovery, I have learned to live life on life terms, one day at a time.

I think that recovery has worked for me because it isn’t forced: nothing used to arouse me more than telling me what I ‘had’ to do. This is the philosophy of ‘attraction, rather than promotion’. I was given suggestions, the members shared their own experience, strength and hope, and I could take it or leave it. There is a lot of wisdom in this philosophy, with a far greater reach just that of sobriety.

Gandhi told us: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” You can’t force people to change, but you can give them the option of living life another way. Telling people what to do rarely works. Showing them how to do something has a much better chance at success. Letting others see what you are doing and how you are living allows them to make a choice. If, indeed, the changes that one makes in their life are attractive, others will follow suit and make similar changes in their own lives.

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I know there are a lot of problems facing the world: economics, climate change, and health challenges have such far reaching effects that as a rather stubborn individual, I have little chance of making any impact upon. In truth, few people ever do. However, I can live the changes I would like to see in the world. I can put out my recycling. I can live a healthier lifestyle. I can respond with kindness and compassion to situations. I can share. It may not seem like much to pick up one bottle off the street when there’s litter everywhere, but I am living my beliefs. And I am making my little part of the world just slightly better. Perhaps your neighbour will see what you have done and decide to help. Even if that neighbour doesn’t change, I have still made my world, and therefore, the world a whole, just an iota better than is was yesterday.

I can’t control what others do. I have learned that my circle of control has a radius that only stretches a few centimeters beyond the tip of my nose. I can’t tell people what to do or how to do it: many are just a stubborn as I am and just as intransigent to change. But they may be attracted to make a change when they see positive results in others. Demonstrating changes and offering suggestions won’t instantly move the world but it does make a small difference. And if the only difference is a little less stubbornness and a bit more peace of mind, then that’s fine with me.

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At my home group there’s a guy who gets dropped off . He comes into the room, sometimes he uses the washroom. When he’s sure the car that dropped him off has gone, he takes off up the road. Several have tried to talk to him but he’s evasive and declines all invitations to stay and listen.

There’s often one. You know who it is. The one who sits at the back of the room. He comes and goes without regard for others. He doesn’t say much if anything at all. Sometimes he comes in with eyes glazed over and slight smirk.

It’s easy to feel sorry for folks like this. It seems that they just can’t get it. Or they don’t know where to begin. Sometimes we say they just ‘aren’t ready’, or if they would only sit down for a bit, they might hear something that they could use to help them stop.

Recovery is a slow process for us. Before it begins, most of us ‘hang around’ recovery a bit to see how it might fit us. Before I came into the rooms of a Twelve Step recovery program, I tried many other options: meditation, counselling, self control, medication, even acupuncture. None of these had lasting effects. I called the local hotline to hear about meeting locations and read the announcement about local groups in the paper. And finally, one Monday morning, I arrived, entered and began the process of recovery.

We can’t sell this stuff; it can’t be promoted. It has to be desired. I remember what I used to think when someone said I should ‘slow down’. In my insanity, I would take it as an insult and use it as an excuse to get fried. An full scale intervention probably would have just given me one more excuse to really ‘show them!’  I had a lot of preconceived ideas about recovery and meetings. I didn’t want to admit that I was ‘one of them’. I wasn’t ready until I was ready, until I had the desire.

It’s kind of like buying a car. We go to the lot when we know it’s closed and walk around and look at the selection of vehicles. Maybe we’ll come back to a particular lot and test drive one or two. Some people check out the reviews for the model. Some folks rent a similar model for a weekend. Many of us take time to make the final decision. Meanwhile we are still driving around in the old one and we’re used to it’s clunks and shimmies and maybe we think the price to pay for a new one is too much.

We arrive at recovery when we arrive and some never arrive. We aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. I am grateful that when I finally arrived I was greeted with a smile. I was welcomed and I was invited back. If you’re the guy who’s sitting at the back or who doesn’t stay for a meeting that’s fine. Take your time. Check things out. Kick the tires. One day, when you have the desire, please come in and listen. We’ll share what we’ve discovered.