Nice people with good intentions say dumb things. They’ll tell you to cheer up, buck up and to look on the bright side. This is generally unhelpful. Instead of showering us with clichés, acknowledge where we’re at and meet us there. Validation helps. It goes against the grain of most folks to recognize when people really are screwed and affirm it. Sometimes there is no fixing it because “it” is “me”. People in Recovery are not problems to be solved. We are people to be loved.
When we don’t know what to say or do we experience powerlessness. It’s like when people we care about experience the death of a loved one and all we know to say is, “I’m sorry for your loss.” These words are sincere and yet they feel hollow to speak. Sometimes words just don’t work. Sometimes we just bear witness to the suffering of others and there’s nothing to say or do but hug them and be present. People in Recovery understand that this is often what it means to “be there” for someone. People in Recovery don’t tell you to get over it. If you tell us about something that sucks we will validate you by saying, “That sucks.”
“Shared joy is increased, shared sorrow lessened.” – Spider Robinson
The path of Recovery is not the yellow brick road and it’s generally not a straight line. We don’t just get better and better. We overcome obstacles. We clean up wreckage from our past and we move in circular patterns, rotating around the next life lesson and heading slowly toward the point of acceptance. We experience a lot of déjà vu and we become endlessly frustrated with ourselves each time we realize we could have learned the lesson sooner and less painfully. This is what we strive for. If you learn how to do this let me know. I have found exactly two motivators for making major life changes and for Accepting that which I find to be Unacceptable and they are my Higher Power and Suffering.
For even the best of us in Recovery there are times when we’re just walking around in a daze and we can’t find our ass with both hands. Sometimes we’re just screwed and we don’t know where to even start. When we’re overwhelmed we get stuck and we need help getting out of our own way. This is natural and accountability is still key. When we don’t know what to do what we most often do is nothing. Reaching out and Connecting is the first step in making plans to return to sanity.
Learning to deal with Life on Life’s Terms is not a once and for all lesson. No matter how manageable you make your life, the reality is – shit happens. My religious friends tell me that “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” That may be true but Life does and that’s why I follow the advice of my dear friend Ardis, “You can always go back to Step One. Sometimes Life becomes unmanageable no matter how good your program is. Sort it out – what do you have control of and what don’t you?”
When we’re up to our ass in alligators, it’s time to clean out the swamp. We are most likely to change when we’re sufficiently sick and tired. The best successes we have seen are when people receive the Gift of Desperation. The Gift is something you can only really grasp if you have truly suffered. The Gift creates opportunities and willingness to pursue them at any cost.
The thing about effed up people like me is that as long as I can tolerate it, there’s a very good chance that I will. I have learned this lesson ten thousand times – the God of my understanding does not wish for me to suffer. It is my lack of receptiveness to what my HP puts in my path that causes me to suffer. It is my ego believing that I’m so damned clever that surely I can Find A Way Out Of This. I have learned that surrendering is something I need to do daily. I have learned that the Serenity Prayer works and the 3rd Step prayer and the 7th Step Prayer work and most of all I have learned that my HP is often telling me, “Jim if you could just manage to chill out, I have something way better in mind.”
Spirituality in the World According to Jim is most often the experience of listening to God laugh. May each of us learn to laugh at ourselves in a way that isn’t mean. It helps. I for one am endlessly amused.