The Optimistic Outlook

“When a man or a woman has a spiritual awakening, the most important meaning of it is that (s)he has now become able to do, feel, and believe that which (s)he could not do before on her/his unaided strength and resources alone. (S)he has been granted a gift which amounts to a new state of consciousness and being. (S)he has been set on a path which tells her/him (s)he is really going somewhere, that life is not a dead end, not something to be endured or mastered. In a very real sense (s)he has been transformed, because (s)he has laid hold of a source of strength which, in one way or another, (s)he had hitherto denied her/himself. (S)he finds her/himself in possession of a degree of honesty , tolerance, unselfishness, peace of mind, and love of which (s)he thought her/himself quite incapable. What (s)he received is a free gift, and yet usually, at least in some small part, (s)he has made her/himself ready to receive it.”–‘AA Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions’, pages 106-107

We read the above excerpt as part of the chapter on Step 12 in the Tuesday night Twelve Step meeting I go to each week. That last sentence hit home to me especially: “What (s)he received is a free gift, and yet usually, at least in some small part, (s)he has made her/himself ready to receive it.” During the month since my last relapse, a change has come over me, which I now recognize to be a spiritual awakening. All I knew is that I was tired of being cynical and bitter and going through the motions, so I began praying to God each night when I woke up for work that He’d give me an optimistic outlook on life. I’d always prayed for a positive attitude at work, but it was lip service most of the time and more confined to when I had to deal with difficult guests, instead of life in general. I can honestly say that this has made all the difference. Instead of trying to buy happiness or find it in dating, I’ve been realizing it can only come from within, and that I have the choice each and every day to decide to be optimistic, even when things aren’t going my way. Along with this has come a renewed peace of mind, and I’m also finding that I’m choosing my words much more carefully. I used to spew out very harsh words without giving them a second thought; now–even when I’m thinking to myself–I think about my words before I say them to make sure I’m saying things in a way that’s more uplifting to myself and to others. 

I’ve also been letting go of the baggage I was still holding on to. This last relapse was brutal: I pulled a stomach muscle from vomiting so much, as I should have after the 10 or so drinks I had in one day. (Coupled with the back pain I was already experiencing, I could barely move at times in the weeks following.) But I realized that one of the things I was holding on to before this last relapse was my “right” to still drink if something “bad” happened to me. I’d been feeling sorry for myself about a certain aspect of my life, and though that’s not at all the reason I relapsed, that had been my ace-in-the-hole in case I ever felt like drinking. I’ve let go of that. First, because I don’t ever want to feel the way I felt a month ago. And second and most importantly, because I don’t need to be holding on to such negativity. Self-pity and self-deception are both manipulative monsters if we allow them to creep in; I was deceiving myself into thinking I was “owed” a slip-up one day soon for this situation I’d been pitying myself over. Such is not the case, nor should it be. I realize now what negative, defeatist thinking that was; I was absolutely setting myself up for failure. God has allowed me to move beyond that with this optimistic outlook on life.

So that’s about it for this week. I’m taking a break from working the steps with my AA sponsor per my own request. It’s been nice to just get to meetings and clear my head a bit without the lectures about getting to more meetings. (The last time I spoke with him, my sponsor told me he knows I’m going to die from the disease if I don’t get to more than two meetings a week. Yeah, that’s a little too intense for me.) There’s another guy in our group whom I might ask to be my sponsor; I actually sat by him at the Tuesday night meeting but I just wasn’t ready to ask him yet. It’s not unusual for people to switch sponsors; I just want to make sure I’m doing it for the right reasons. Speaking of AA, my favourite current show on the air is back on for its second season, and Nashville is doing an excellent job again this year of portraying AA and the process of sobering up in a positive light. Here’s Deacon (played by Charles Esten) in an AA meeting on last night’s episode. He relapsed in the season finale and is getting his life back together this season.

I’ll end with that last sentence from the excerpt one more time. Don’t waste another day waiting to be happy, or looking for happiness in all the wrong places. Ask God for an optimistic outlook and He’ll allow you to unclutter your heart and your head and find it inside yourself, where it was hiding all along.

“What (s)he received is a free gift, and yet usually, at least in some small part, (s)he has made her/himself ready to receive it.”


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