While enjoying a recent Zoom 12 Steps meeting, I was impressed with the insight a fellow shared when he said the following: “When I started my new job at a hospital on their maintenance crew, at first I felt sour about having to walk the perimeter of the hospital property early each morning checking for any problems. I thought it was just some grunt work they were giving me as the new guy. But pretty soon—after sharing this with my sponsor and hearing his input to ‘avoid judging prematurely’—I started appreciating the fact that I was getting to watch the sunrise over the bay, which butted up to the property. I began taking a few minutes to just observe the beauty and majesty in front of me, say a short prayer of gratitude, and then continue with my grounds check.”
The point being, we all have a choice, don’t we, at any given moment as to whether we’re going to judge something that’s arrived on our plate (“life showing up”) as “bad” or “good,” a “curse” or a “blessing.”
The truth is, whether we’re in recovery or not (but this is particularly valuable for us formerly hard-headed, willful, self-centered sorts), it’s vital we recognize that how we perceive a situation, as well as the attitude and emotional tone we bring to it, plays a major role in determining what we’re carrying around with us in our heart throughout the day and the quality of life we live.
Last week, I found myself staring down a similar opportunity to either judge something as or pull back from judging it at all and simply let it unfold, without judgment. In this case, one of my sisters was asking for help with her attempts to quit drinking, but was simultaneously being obstinate about following through on any of my suggestions (which included her contacting the only treatment center within a hundred miles of her place in Northern California… I’d told her their phone number and address, as she doesn’t use a computer or the Internet).
Whenever I’d “get myself involved” with trying to get the outcome I wanted—her making a call to them to find out about their available outpatient addiction treatment programs—I’d inevitably feel anxious, “concerned” and even distressed by her inaction, day after day. Talking with my sponsor about it, he quoted Marcus Aurelius, former Emperor of Rome:
“Choose not to be harmed — and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed — and you haven’t been.”
My sponsor explained, “Your sister is an alcoholic and those with the disease of alcoholism naturally crave a drink. When she’s had enough, when the pain is sufficiently great, then she’ll be more likely to try something different… but not before she’s ready.”
So, maybe you can see where this is going? Yep, within two weeks of me stopping how I’d been engaging with her, imploring her in both words and tones to, “Just try my suggestion,” my sister went ahead and made an appointment to talk with one of the counselors at the treatment center about her lifelong alcohol use disorder.
And while I’m grateful she began taking action to address her alcoholism, the real gift (for me) was the freedom I found in my “letting go and letting God” – that anxiety, worry and fretting all vanished immediately and was replaced by greater peace of mind, once I’d opened myself up to a new point of view: that is, looking at my sister’s journey with recovering from chemical dependency as her business, not mine.
In other words, just like the fellow who shared in our recovery meeting about his shift of perception while on the job, I can attest to the power of having the willingness and open-mindedness to change a point of view I’ve held and the benefits that have come pretty darn swiftly from it.
Indeed, I’ve also seen how learning to shift my judgmental point of view to one of more acceptance, tolerance and humility—and seeking equanimity, whether or not others are doing what I’d prefer them to do do—actually strengthens my commitment to recovery and reminds me to allow my Higher Power’s will/plan/guidance to be “part of the equation” of my life, one day at a time, one moment at a time.