Wear the World As a Loose Garment


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…

16 Comments Add yours

  1. Thank you.

    This was incredibly helpful to read as I seek to discover greater detachment, and what exactly that means. You wrote about it very well and gave me a lot to think about in terms of what this means for me.


  2. Hi Celeste. Thank you for the note – it’s very much appreciated, believe me. Detachment is something that I still need to practice, but it has certainly helped in many situations. All the best and cheers 🙂 Paul

  3. Mrs D says:

    I’d love to be gathering chips so I could have a bowl that looked like a rainbow threw up in it (!!). It’s funny how those little things become so meaningful. I’ve got a couple of tiny shells that I found on the beach the day I admitted to myself that I was an alcoholic (it was a hugely significant moment for me, deeply personal and profound). And I’ve got my silver necklace that I wear with my sobriety date on the back of it. Oh you’re sounding in a good place.. like you’re settling into a way of being which is comfortable and content. Lovely. xxxx

    1. The chips were something that I really looked forward in getting – those who say they don’t care much for them are liars! (my opinion of course 🙂 ). Having said that, near the end I started to forget about them – life was turning around, so I was focused on that then adding to my little pile. But I got them nonetheless. I love the idea of tiny shells on the D-Day of yours. That probably has more meaning than a poker chip! I think many people, in or out of AA, have some sort of symbolic thing going on.

      Always a delight to hear from you, Mrs. D 🙂

  4. Number 9 says:

    i love this post! ahhh… if only i could consistently wear the world like a loose garment how peaceful life would be. you are funny. i like the analogy of rainbow throw up. My bowl of chips would look more like a big white cloud (lots of white chips) with some color sprinkled in for when I got some time. My one year medallion is so important to me. But I didn’t get mine engraved–that is such a good idea! have a great day, Paul.

    1. I have heard many people say they could start their own group with the amount of chips they had in their junk drawer. But it doesn’t really matter in the end. Symbolism carries only so much cachet with me, and as long as you’re sober and happy then that’s the important thing.

      As for the medallion – for some reason up here it’s a thing you almost have to do. Everyone gets theirs engraved – and at 5 yrs, 10 yrs, etc. But I do hold a special place for the medallion as you do. It’s fun to think of what to put on it…what would be yours? think, think, think…

      Thanks for taking the time to write 🙂

      1. Number 9 says:

        Mine will read but for the grace of God go I!

  5. Amy says:

    I started humming “Kumbayah” while I was reading this. Just kidding. I know what you mean about all those soul-help books. You sort of feel like you should be wearing a loose robe. And a tiny hat.

    And cheering. Out loud.


    1. Funny…I couldn’t imagine getting that far into things. Can you imagine? Oh dear…lol.

      Thank Amy – you made me laugh!

  6. byebyebeer says:

    Ha, I almost bought a bar with 90% cocoa at the grocery store but declined. I did wind up getting coconut/almond milk with 6g of sugar that is disgustingly sweet. Wish these experiments were more fun.

    I have some of my coins but not all. I have no idea where some of them are and every time I think about this I feel very irritated with myself. If I ever go back to a meeting, I’ll donate the ones I do have, but will always keep my 1 year coin. It’s special.

    I feel like I’m in a similar place right now. I crave freedom from the destructive habits (and people) I’ve surrounded myself with over the years. There is selfish motive to this, but still I can’t stop looking for approval and trying to please everyone. I need freedom from myself most of all.

    Thanks for another thought provoking post. I’m glad you’re blogging.

    1. 6 gr of sugar is pretty good, actually. Barely sweet, but you know it’s still a bit naughty. You would probably like the 90% if you found 6 g too sweet!

      I like the idea of donating them back. Why not? I am not sure what I will do with mine. I might do the same down the line. I don’t want an attachment to them…ha ha. Yeah, the one year coin isn’t going anywhere. Yet.

      What you said about selfish motive and looking for approval…wow, very true for me too. I have to remember that I lived a certain way for a long time and just because I stopped drinking, it won’t turn overnight…my sponsor hammers that into me often. So I think we need to be gentle with ourselves.

      Thanks for the kind words on the blog. Yours was one of the first ones I found and helped me look at my writing differently. Thanks to you and everyone who’s paved the way! 🙂

      1. byebyebeer says:

        It tastes way sweeter than 6g. Something about the coconut I think. Think I’ll just go back to regular milk.

        Maybe selfish motives aren’t the worst thing in the world. As you said, we can’t change overnight just as we can’t (and probably shouldn’t) try to change every single character defect.

  7. dbp49 says:

    Thanks for the great words of encouragement (and for the warning about the chocolate).

  8. Hey Paul! I know this is an old post, but I just wanted to tell you that I Googled, “Wear the world as a loose garment,” after coming across the phrase in Mary Karr’s memoir LIT, and this post was one of my first results! Pretty amazing in the vast Internet to be returned to a blog I’m already following. A lot of serendipitous things like that have been happening lately. Anyway, I haven’t been blogging for a while but hope to do more soon and look forward to reading your posts. (Are you still eating 90% chocolate? I’ve noticed my chocolate preferences have been getting darker since I quit drinking, but still nowhere near 90% 🙂

    1. Howdy stranger! I was going through my blogs the other day and saw yours. Was hoping that things were going well with you (you know what we think when someone disappears for a while – we worry!). Anyway, glad to hear from you!
      Yeah, funny how you ended up here. It’s still one of my fave lines. I love when serendipity rolls around – to me it usually means the universe is trying to reveal something to me!

      As for chocolate – I am back to “regular” chocolate and sweets, but I am much better at regulating it (doesn’t mean I don’t have my moments!)

      I hope you return to the blogosphere – would love to see how you’re doing 🙂


  9. Diane says:

    I also googled ‘wear the world like a loose garment’ and read a quote by Ajahn Chah that said ‘Do everything with a mind that lets go’, which gave me food for thought. I then followed that by reading your post, which has also given me ‘food for thought’, thank you. Diane.

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