I can’t control the direction of the wind, but I can adjust the sails.
Getting ready for the New Year, the holidays and general coldness here in Minnesota has me thinking a lot about my sobriety. I hear phrases like “New Year, new me” and wonder what it means. I am relatively happy with where I’m at. Sure, I could save a little more money, be more physically active, and reach out to more people. Like many addicts and alcoholics, I have had feelings of being “less than” or not good enough. However, if sobriety has taught me one thing, it is that I am enough. Today, I can honestly say that I am okay with me.
This wasn’t an overnight transition. And it certainly wasn’t a New Year’s resolution. I spent a lot of time looking inward to discover I am not who I thought I was. I learned I can be who I wanted to be. Looking back, I was able to figure out that it required what I call a “three-pronged approach” to acceptance.
First, I had to accept my past. I still get down on myself about my past. I am not a bad person, I just made bad choices. My default setting in active addiction was to lie, cheat and steal to get what I wanted. I was good at it. I had friends in my life and they all served a purpose. As I saw it at the time, their purpose was not to provide love, support and guidance for me or each other. Instead, it was “What can you do for me, for what price and at what time?” I came to realize that this mentality is a side effect of my disease. I am a selfish, self-centered and self-seeking alcoholic.
Secondly, I had to accept my present. For me this meant that I had to be okay with being okay. I stake a lot of my self-worth in my career. I was successful in the restaurant industry while in active addiction. I had the chance to travel the country opening new restaurants, meet high level people in the industry and live in several states. I felt needed and important. I wanted to go back to this life, and these feelings, immediately after getting sober. I wanted all of the rewards of recovery. I took six months off of work to focus on recovery when I first got sober and began working an entry level job in insurance when I decided to go back to work. I have bounced around trying to find my place, but each job and created opportunity and given me valuable skills. I am okay with not being the star of the show, for now. I have come to believe that I am where I am supposed to be. Accepting my present, has put a lot less stress and worry on my future.
Finally, I had to accept other people do not necessarily share my agenda. My old selfish mentality made me want others to act in MY best interest. I wanted people to cater to my needs and recognize my importance, as I saw it.
Like a child, I have learned that the world does not revolve around me. If I approach daily life with an empathetic and compassionate mindset toward others, I have a better chance of happiness. I have learned to evaluate a situation from a “How can I help?” point of view. I can help others and in turn feel good about myself. Accepting life on its own terms puts a lot less pressure on the outcome. If I continue to work on myself and being the best I can be those around me may choose to reward me with whatever respect I have actually earned. You simply cannot demand such respect from an egocentric perspective.
My New Year’s resolution is to take each day step by step, doing the next right move toward helpfulness and empathy for others. That’s how I can be the best me I can be.