I was rooting through my cabinet looking for my 90% chocolate (which tastes like vulcanized rubber, by the way, but helps me with cravings) when I stumbled upon my little dish of AA chips. It’s like a rainbow threw up in that bowl, the brightly coloured chips denoting the passing of time of my sobriety. Everything from my desire (or 24 hr) chip all the way to my 11 month chip. I even have a spray painted and stenciled Popsicle stick somewhere in there (one group here hands out Popsicle sticks – what ya gonna do? I wish the Popsicle was still attached when I received it). I also found my one year medallion. I don’t keep it out – it’s in a small plastic baggie, not on the mantle to be gazed at or admired (I don’t have a mantle anyway). But as I munched away on the chocolate (wincing, by the way), I started thinking about the engraving that I requested be put on the medallion. I hadn’t thought about it in a while.
“Wear the world as a loose garment, which touches us in a few places and there lightly” – St. Francis of Assisi
What this means to me now has changed a little bit since I last visited this way of approaching my life. What this means to me is that I no longer am attached to things as I used to be. I used to be attached to what people thought of me, attached to resentments that lingered for decades, attached to how I could control thing and people, attached to how I put others on pedestals, attached to a million other things little and big that weighed me down. I wasn’t free. I was choking on the expectations I put on others and myself. I couldn’t breathe. No wonder I drank. I needed relief from these things. And ironically, I became attached to the biggest detractor of contentment in my life – alcohol.
What I had to learn is that I need to detach, lovingly. This is something they talk about in Al-Anon (I am not a part of that fellowship, but do enjoy reading some of their literature). To detach doesn’t mean that I am uninterested or pull away from life. It doesn’t mean that I beg off from participating or just keep aloof, cloistered in my tower. It just means that I don’t emotionally, mentally or spiritually invest all of myself in something that I can’t control. I find that the rewards are found inherent in the tasks, and not in the result or non-result. What this boils down to is that for my fellow alcoholics, let’s say, is that I care about them, not for them. Big difference. AA says this another way – we carry the message, not the alcoholic. Another way of looking at it is that expectations can bring resentment. Resentment makes Paul sad and grumpy. Sad and grumpy Paul is no longer useful to others. And if I’m not useful to others, why am I here? (I also don’t like grumpy Paul – adds more lines to his face)
What I have also come to see is that we live in a society where we are meant to have goals, and there are ways to achieve those goals, dammit. Self-help books, gurus, timetables, plans…many ways to achieve, achieve, achieve. We set goals in stone and dance around ourselves and our innate sense of worth and what is best, and make sure that we hit those goals straight on the bulls-eye and then believe, finally, that we will be happy. Externals. I have always sought contentment through externals. Even goals like losing weight, or being a better spouse / lover /parent are based on externals – how others react to us, how we look, how we behave. Putting my faith and happiness on the outcome of something that is out of my control does nothing but bring me anxiety, worry and stress. Quite the opposite of what I’m looking for, yes?
I know that as I read what I just wrote, it sounds a bit airy fairy….like I’ve been reading too many of those kinds of books that have lily pads and swans and sunlit trees on the covers of them. But it’s really quite simple for me – I don’t have expectations or results of things that are out of my control. I do the work with love. But the outcome isn’t mine. It’s God’s. I spent too much time in my drinking trying to control those outcomes, come hell or high water, and it made things worse. Why do that now in sobriety? I like being free. I like being the feeling of peace without attachment.
My only wish is that my chocolate would attach itself to something yummier…