Good and Bad in Sobriety, a Thought about Boston.
Yesterday I was asked on twitter about my use of the word “different”, and how I seem to prefer it to “good” or “bad”. I thought it was a subject worth talking about a bit, because my perspective on things has absolutely changed in sobriety. Before I became sober, I was definitely someone who focused on how things affected me, whether the outcome was good or bad for me. I was selfish, and I was self-centered. I paid attention to how the world impacted me. That was my perspective: “Does this event make me happy or unhappy?”
It is something of a childish perspective, I think. Things are bigger than me, and their effect on me is not necessarily deliberate or relevant. It’s a happenstance of chance. I know some people like to say (and lots of AA people say) that “Everything happens for a reason”. And that’s comforting for many people. But I’m often comforted by the idea that things happen for no reason at all. They’re just things that happen. Sometimes they impact me, sometimes they don’t. But it’s not about me. The randomness of life is bigger and more important that I am.
In sobriety, I tend to see things much less as good and bad, because I look less at how things affect me, and more at how I can influence the things that matter to me. By embracing my powerlessness in life, by accepting the things that I have no control over, and thus are implacable with respect to my efforts, I am liberated in powerful ways. I can stop expending enormous energies trying to change the tides, and start focusing my energy on paddling with the currents. Suddenly, “good” and “bad” seem to fall away. But change and chance are constants. So there will always be “different”.
Obviously, some things remain unequivocally good or bad. But most things are simply things that happen that I get to choose my reaction to. That’s why we say that when I am upset, it is something in me. It’s not really about the outside world. It’s about how I respond to it.
And so when something unequivocally bad happens, like the bombings yesterday in Boston, of course I’m upset. I’m angry. I’m baffled. I’m sad. And I become determined. To do something, I don’t know what, to make my word better rather than worse. To engage with those I care about. To be kind to strangers. To be someone who does things that elevate people.
Yes, there are a few hateful lunatics among us. Yes, some of us will always bleed for their madness. But we are not made dimmer for brushing up against that blackness. The rest of us shine brighter, luminous in relief.