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First, we try living in the now just in order to stay sober and it works. Once the idea has become a part of our thinking, we find that living life in hour segments is an effective and satisfying way to handle many other matters as wel. A person with a food alergy of this kind can go around feeling a lot of self-pity, complaining to everyone that he or she is unfairly deprived, and constantly whining about not being able, or alowed, to eat something delicious.
Obviously, even though we may feel cheated, it isn't wise to ignore our own physiological makeup. To stay healthy and reasonably happy, we must learn to live with the bodies we have.
See a Problem?
One of the new thinking habits a recovering alcoholic can develop is a calm view of himself or herself as someone who needs to avoid chemicals alcohol and other drugs that are substitutes for it if he or she wants to maintain good health.
We have as evidence our own drinking days, a total of hundreds of thousands of man- or woman-years of a whale of a lot of drinking. We know that, as the drinking years went by, our problems related to drinking continualy worsened. Alcoholism is progressive. Oh, of course, many of us had periods when, for some months or even years, we sometimes thought the drinking had sort of straightened itself out We seemed able to maintain a pretty heavy alcohol intake fairly safely.
Or we would stay sober except for occasional drunk nights, and the drinking was not getting noticeably worse, as far as we could see. Nothing horrible or dramatic happened. However, we can now see that, in the long or short haul, our drinking problem inevitably got more serious.
Some physicians expert on alcoholism tell us there is no doubt that alcoholism steadily grows worse as one grows older. Know anyone who isn't growing older? We are also convinced, after the countless attempts we made to prove otherwise, that alcoholism is incurable just like some other ilnesses.
It cannot be "cured" in this sense: We cannot change our body chemistry and go back to being the normal, moderate social drinkers lots of us seemed to be in our youth.
No medication or psychological treatment any of us ever had "cured" our alcoholism. Further, having seen thousands and thousands of alcoholics who did not stop drinking, we are strongly persuaded that alcoholism is a fatal disease. Not only have we seen many alcoholics drink themselves to death dying during the "withdrawal" symptoms of delirium tremens D. And probably the majority of us never came near the horrible last stages of chronic alcoholism. But we saw that we could, if we just kept on drinking.
If you get on a bus bound for a town a thousand miles away, that's where you'll wind up, unless you get off and move in another direction.
What do you do if you learn that you have an incurable, progressive, fatal diseasewhether it's alcoholism or some other, such as a heart condition or cancer? Many people just deny it is true, ignore the condition, accept no treatment for it, suffer, and die. But there is another way. Then you can find out what can be done, if anything, to keep the condition "under control," so you can still live many happy, productive, healthy years as long as you take proper care of yourself.
You recognize fuly the seriousness of your condition, and you do the sensible things necessary to carry on a healthy life. This, it turns out, is surprisingly easy in regard to alcoholism, if you realy want to stay wel. And since we AA's have learned to enjoy life so much, we realy want to stay wel. We try never to lose sight of the unchangeable fact of our alcoholism, but we learn not to brood or feel sorry for ourselves or talk about it all the time. We accept it as a characteristic of our bodylike our height or our need for glasses, or like any alergies we may have.
Then we can figure out how to live comfortablynot bitterlywith that knowledge as long as we start out by simply avoiding that first drink remember? A blind member of AA said his alcoholism was quite similar to his blindness. But when I do not act within the knowledge that I cannot see, it is then I get hurt, or in trouble.
It's easy as long as you remember the new facts about your health.
And instead of persisting in drinking, we prefer to figure out, and use, enjoyable ways of living without alcohol. We need not be ashamed that we have a disease. It is no disgrace.
No one knows exactly why some people become alcoholics while others don't It is not our fault. We did not want to become alcoholics. We did not try to get this ilness. We did not suffer alcoholism just because we enjoyed it, after al. We did not deliberately, maliciously set out to do the things we were later ashamed of. We did them against our better judgment and instinct because we were realy sick, and didn't even know it We've learned that no good comes of useless regret and worry about how we got this way.
The first step toward feeling better, and getting over our sickness, is quite simply not drinking. Try the idea on for size. Wouldn't you rather recognize you have a health condition which can be successfuly treated, than spend a lot of time miserably worrying about what's wrong with you?
We have found this is a better-looking, and better-feeling, picture of ourselves than the old gloomy selves we used to see.
It is truer, too. We know. The proof of it is in the way we feel, act, and thinknow. Anyone who wants it is welcome to a "free trial period" of this new concept of self.
Afterward, anyone who wants the old days again is perfectly free to start them all over. It is your right to take back your misery if you want it. It, too, is yours by right. Of course, one reason it has been said over and over for years is that it has proved beneficial in so many ways. We AA's make some special uses of it to help us not drink.
It particularly helps us cope with people who get on our nerves. Reviewing once more a little of our drinking histories, many of us can see how very, very often our drinking problem appeared to be related somehow to other people. Experimenting with beer or wine in our teen-age years seemed natural, since so many others were doing it, and we wanted their approval.
Then came weddings and bar mitzvahs and christenings and holidays and football games and cocktail parties and business lunches In all of these circumstances, we drank at least partly because everybody else was drinking and seemed to expect us to.
Those of us who began to drink alone, or to sneak a drink now and then, often did so to keep some other person or people from knowing how much, or how often, we drank. We rarely liked to hear anybody else talk about our drinking. If they did, we frequently told them "reasons" for our drinking, as if we wanted to ward off criticism or complaints.
Some of us found ourselves argumentative or even beligerent toward other people after drinking. Our drinking caused many of us to choose our friends according to how much they drank. We even changed friends when we felt we had "outgrown" their drinking styles. We preferred "real drinkers" to people who just took one or two. And we tried to avoid teetotalers. Many of us were guilty and angry about the way our family reacted to our drinking.
Some of us lost jobs because a boss or a coleague at work objected to our drinking. We wished people would mind their own business and leave us alone! Often, we felt angry and fearful even toward people who had not criticized us. Our guilt made us extra sensitive to those around us, and we nursed grudges.
Sometimes, we changed bars, changed jobs, or moved to new neighborhoods just to get away from certain persons. So a great number of people besides ourselves were in one way or another involved in our drinking, to some degree.
When we first stopped drinking, it was a great relief to find that the people we met in AArecovered alcoholicsseemed to be quite different. They reacted to us, not with criticism and suspicion, but with understanding and concern. However, it is perfectly natural that we still encounter some people who get on our nerves, both within AA and outside it.
We may find that our non-AA friends, co-workers, or family members still treat us as if we were drinking. It may take them a little while to believe that we have really stopped. After al, they may have seen us stop many times in the past, only to start again. A, and everywhere else, who sometimes say things we disagree with, or do things we don't like.
Learning to live with differences is essential to our comfort. It is exactly in those cases that we have found it extremely helpful to say to ourselves, "Oh, wel, 'Live and Let Live.
However offensive or distasteful it may seem to us, it is certainly not worth drinking about. Our own recovery is too important. Alcoholism can and does kil, we recall. We have learned it pays to make a very special effort to try to understand other people, especialy anyone who rubs us the wrong way.
For our recovery, it is more important to understand than to be understood. This is not very difficult if we bear in mind that the other AA members, too, are trying to understand, just as we are. For that matter, we'll meet some people in AA or elsewhere who won't be exactly crazy about us, either. So all of us try to respect the rights of others to act as they choose or must.
We can then expect them to give us the same courtesy. In AA, they generaly do. Usualy, people who like each otherin a neighborhood, a company, a club, or AAgravitate toward each other. When we spend time with people we like, we are less annoyed by those we don't particularly care for. None of us can remember anyone's forcing us to drink alcohol. No one ever tied us down and poured booze down our gulets. Just as no one physically compeled us to drink, now we try to make sure no one will mentally "drive us to drink," either.
It is very easy to use other people's actions as an alibi for drinking. We used to be experts at it But in sobriety, we have learned a new technique: We never let ourselves get so resentful toward someone else that we alow that person to control our livesespecialy to the extent of causing us to drink.
We have found we have no desire to let any other person run, or ruin, our lives.
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An ancient sage said that none of us should criticize another until we have walked a mile in the other person's boots. This wise advice can give us greater compassion for our felow human beings. And putting it into practice makes us feel much better than being hung-over.
But some of us find just as much value in the first part of the slogan: "Live"! When we have worked out ways to enjoy our own living fuly, then we are content to let other people live any way they want If our own lives are interesting and productive, we realy have no impulse or desire to find fault with others or worry about the way they act.
Can you think right this minute of someone who realy bothers you? If you can, try something. Postpone thinking about him or her and whatever it is about the person that riles you. But for right now, why not put it off while you read the next paragraph?
Be concerned with your own living. In our opinion, staying sober opens up the way to life and happiness. It is worth sacrificing many a grudge or argument. Okay, so you didn't manage to keep your mind completely off that other person. Let's see whether the suggestion coming next will help.
So it is with drinking. Simply trying to avoid a drink or not think of one , all by itself, doesn't seem to be enough. The more we think about the drink we're trying to keep away from, the more it occupies our mind, of course.
And that's no good. It's better to get busy with something, almost anything, that will use our mind and channel our energy toward health. Thousands of us wondered what we would do, once we stopped drinking, with all that time on our hands. Sure enough, when we did stop, all those hours we had once spent planning, getting our drinks, drinking, and recovering from its immediate effects, suddenly turned into big, empty holes of time that had to be filed somehow.
Most of us had jobs to do. But even so, there were some pretty long, vacant stretches of minutes and hours staring at us. We needed new habits of activity to fill those open spaces and utilize the nervous energy previously absorbed by our preoccupation, or our obsession, with drinking.
Recovered alcoholics often say, "Just stopping drinking is not enough. That is clearly demonstrated by our experience. To stay stopped, we've found we need to put in place of the drinking a positive program of action. We've had to learn how to live sober. Fear may have originaly pushed some of us toward looking into the possibility that we might have a drinking problem. And over a short period, fear alone may help some of us stay away from a drink.
But a fearful state is not a very happy or relaxed one to maintain for very long.
So we try to develop a healthy respect for the power of alcohol, instead of a fear of it, just as people have a healthy respect for cyanide, iodine, or any other poison. Without going around in constant fear of those potions, most people respect what they can do to the body, and have enough sense not to imbibe them.
We in AA now have the same knowledge of, and regard for, alcohol. But, of course, it is based on firsthand experience, not on seeing a skull and crossbones on a label. We can't rely on fear to get us through those empty hours without a drink, so what can we do? We have found many kinds of activity useful and profitable, some more than others. Here are two kinds, in the order of their effectiveness as we experienced it.
Activity in and around A. You don't need anyone's permission or invitation. In fact, before you make any decision about a drinking problem, it might be a good idea to spend some time around AA Don't worry just sitting at, and observing, AA meetings does not make you an alcoholic or an AA member, any more than sitting in a hen house makes you a hen.
You can try a sort of "dry run" or "dress rehearsal" of AA first, then decide about "joining. We might call these things "ice breakers," because they make it easier to feel comfortable around people we do not know. As most AA meetings end, you'll generaly notice that some of those present start putting away the folding chairs, or emptying ashtrays, or carrying empty tea and coffee cups to the kitchen.
Join in. You may be surprised at the effect on yourself of such seemingly little chores. You can help wash out the cups and coffeepot, put away the literature, and sweep the floor.
Helping out with these easy little physical tasks does not mean you become the group's janitor or custodian.
Nothing of the sort. The results we have felt from doing these tasks are concrete, beneficial, and usualy surprising. In fact, many of us began to feel comfortable around AA only when we began to help with these simple acts. And we were even more at ease, and much further away from drinking or the thought of it, when we accepted some small, but specific, regular responsibilitysuch as bringing the refreshments, helping to prepare and serve them, being a greeter on the hospitality committee, or performing other tasks that needed doing.
Simply by watching other people, you'll learn what needs to be done to get ready for the AA meeting, and to straighten up afterwards. No one has to do such things, of course. In AA, no one is ever required to do, or not do, anything. But these simple, menial chores and the commitment only to ourselves to do them faithfuly have had unexpectedly good effects on many of us, and still do.
They help give some muscle to our sobriety. As you stay around an AA group, you'll observe other tasks that need undertaking. You'll hear the secretary make announcements and see the treasurer take charge of the contributions basket.
Serving in one of those capacities, once you get a little accumulation of nondrinking time about 90 days, in most groups , is a good way to fill some of the time we used to spend drinking. When these "jobs" interest you, leaf through a copy of the pamphlet "The AA Group. There are no classes or strata or hierarchies among the members.
There are no formal officers with any governing power or authority whatsoever. AA is not an organization in the usual sense of that word. Instead, it is a felowship of equals.
Everybody cals everybody else by first name. AA's take turns doing the services needed for group meetings and other functions. No particular professional skil or education is needed.
Even if you have never been a joiner, or a chairman or secretary of anything, you may findas most of us have that within the AA group, these services are easy to do, and they do wonders for us. They build a sturdy backbone for our recovery. Now for the second type of activity that helps keep us away from drinking. Activity not related to AA It's curious, but true, that some of us, when we first stop drinking, seem to experience a sort of temporary failure of the imagination.
It's curious, because during our drinking days, so many of us displayed almost unbelievably fertile powers of imagination.
In less than a week, we could dream up instantly more reasons excuses? Incidentaly, it's a pretty good rule of thumb that normal drinkers that is, nonalcoholics never need or use any particular justification for either drinking or not drinking! When the need to give ourselves reasons for our drinking is no longer there, it often seems that our minds go on a sit-down strike.
Perhaps this is because we're just out of the habit. Or perhaps the mind needs a period of restful convalescence after active alcoholism ceases. In either case, the dulness does go away. After our first month's sobriety, many of us notice a distinct difference. After three months, our minds seem still clearer. And during our second year of recovery, the change is striking. More mental energy seems available to us than ever before.
But it's during the seemingly endless first dry stretch that you will hear some of us say, "What's to do? It isn't very thriling or adventurous, but it covers the kinds of activity many of us have used to fill our first vacant hours when we were not at our jobs or with other nondrinking people.
We know they work. We did such things as: 1. Taking walksespecialy to new places, and in parks or the country. Leisurely, easy strols, not tiring marches. Readingalthough some of us got pretty fidgety if we tried to read anything that demanded much concentration. Going to museums and art galleries. Exercisingswimming, golfing, jogging, yoga, or other forms of exercise your doctor advises. Starting on long-neglected chorescleaning out a bureau drawer, sorting papers, answering a few letters, hanging pictures, or something of the sort that we've been postponing.
We have found it is important, though, not to overdo any of these. Planning to clean out all the closets or the whole attic or garage or basement or apartment sounds simple. So our advice to each other is: Cut down the plan to a manageable size. Start out, not to straighten up the kitchen or clean out those files, but simply to clean out one drawer or one folder. Do another one another day. Trying a new hobbynothing expensive or very demanding, just some pleasant, idle diversion in which we do not need to excel or win, but only to enjoy some refreshingly different moments.
Many of us have picked up hobbies we'd never dreamed of before, such as bridge, macram, the opera, tropical fish, cabinetmaking, needlework, baseball, writing, singing, crossword puzzles, cooking, bird-watching, amateur acting, leathercraft, gardening, sailing, the guitar, movies, dancing, marbles, bonsai, colecting something or other.
Many of us have found we now realy enjoy things that we wouldn't even consider before. Revisiting an old pastime, except you-know-what. Maybe, stored away somewhere, there is a watercolor set you haven't touched in years, a crewel kit, an accordion, table tennis or backgammon equipment, a tape colection, or notes for a novel. For some of us, it has been rewarding to dig these out, dust them off, and try having a go at them again.
If you decide they're not for you any more, get rid of them. Taking a course. Have you always wished you could speak Swahili or Russian? Enjoy history or math? Understand archaeology or anthropology? Correspondence courses, instruction on public television, or adult classes for pleasure, not necessarily for credit that meet about once a week are usualy available somewhere.
Why not give one a try? If studying gets to be a drag, though, don't hesitate to drop it. You have the right to change your mind and quit anything that is more of a hassle than it's worth. Being "a quitter" can take courage and make very good sense if we're quitting something that is not good for us, or adds no positive, pleasurable, or healthy new facet to our life. Volunteering to do some useful service. Many, many hospitals, children's agencies, churches, and other institutions and organizations desperately need volunteers for all kinds of activity.
The choice is wide, from reading to the blind to sealing envelopes for a church mailing or gathering signatures on a political petition. Check with any nearby hospital, church, governmental agency, or civic club to find out what volunteer services are needed in your community. We've found we feel much better about ourselves when we contribute even a small service for the benefit of our felow human beings.
Even the act of investigating the possibilities of such service is in itself informative and interesting. Doing something about your personal appearance. Most of us let ourselves go pretty much. A new haircut, some new clothes, new glasses, or even new teeth have a marvelously cheering effect. Often, we had been intending to get around to something like that, and the months when we first started staying sober seemed a good time to look into it. Taking a fling at something frivolous!
Not everything we do has to be an earnest effort at self-improvement, although any such effort is worthwhile and gives a lift to our self-esteem. Do you like baloons? Bubble gum? Marx Brothers movies? Soul music? Reading sci-fi or detective stories? If not, find something else nonalcoholic that rewards you with nothing but sheer enjoyment, and have some "dry" fun.
You deserve it Fill this one in for yourself. Let's hope the list above sparked an idea for you which is different from all of those listed It did? Go to it. One word of caution, though. Some of us find we have a tendency to go overboard, and try too many things at once. We have a good brake for that, which you'll read about on page It's caled "Easy Does It. AA did not originate it. Versions of it seem to have been used for centuries in various faiths, and it is now widely current outside AA, as well as within the Felowship.
Whether we see the Serenity Prayer as an actual prayer or just as a fervent wish, it offers a simple prescription for a healthy emotional life. We've put one thing right at the head of the list among "the things we cannot change": our alcoholism.
No matter what we do, we know that tomorrow we won't suddenly be nonalcoholicany more than well be ten years younger or she inches taler. We couldn't change our alcoholism. But we didn't say meekly, "All right, I'm an alcoholic. Guess just have to drink myself to death. We didn't have to be drunk alcoholics. We could become sober alcoholics. Yes, that did take courage. And we needed a flash of wisdom to see that it was possible, that we could change ourselves.
For us, that was only the first, most obvious use for the Serenity Prayer. The further away we get from the last drink, the more beautiful and the more packed with meaning these few lines become. We can apply them to everyday situations, the kind we used to run away from, into the bottle. By way of example: "I hate this job. Do I have to stick with it, or can I quit? Besides, here I am six weeks sober, and my AA. Okay, I can't change the job right now.
But maybe I can change my own attitude. Let's see. How can I learn to accept the job serenely? In fact, if serenity meant apathy, bitter resignation, or stolid endurance, then we didn't even want to aim at it. But we found that serenity meant no such thing.
When it comes to us now, it is more as plain recognitiona clear-eyed, realistic way of seeing the world, accompanied by inner peace and strength.
Serenity is like a gyroscope that lets us keep our balance no matter what turbulence swirls around us. And that is a state of mind worth aiming for. Like fatigue, hunger, loneliness, anger, and over elation, these old routines can prove to be traps dangerous to our sobriety.
When we first stopped drinking, many of us found it useful to look back at the habits surrounding our drinking and, whenever possible, to change a lot of the small things connected with drinking.
To ilustrate: Many who used to begin the day with an eye-opener in the bathroom now head for coffee in the kitchen. A change in brands of toothpaste and mouthwash be careful about the alcohol content!
We tried a little exercise or a few quiet moments of contemplation or meditation before plunging into the day. Many of us also learned to try a new route when we first left the house in the morning, not passing by a familiar watering hole. Some have switched from the car to a train, from the subway to a bicycle, from a bus to walking. Others joined a different car pool. Whether our drinking was in the commuter bar car, the neighborhood gin mil, the kitchen, the country club, or the garage, each of us can spot pretty exactly his or her own favorite drinking locale.
Whether we were the occasional bender-thrower or the round-the-clock wine sipper, each of us knows for himself or herself what days, hours, and occasions have most often been associated with our tippling.
When you want not to drink, it helps to shake up all those routines and change the pieces around, we have found. Housewives, for instance, say it helps to shift shopping times and places and rearrange the agenda of daily chores. Working people who used to sneak out for a snort on the coffee break now stay in and realy have coffee or tea and a bun.
And that's a good time to call someone you know who's also off the sauce. During times when we used to drink, if s reassuring to talk to a person who has been through the same experiences. Those of us who began our sobriety while confined to a hospital or a jail tried to change our daily paths so we would not encounter the institution's bootlegger so often.
For some of us, lunchtime was usualy an hour or two of liquid refreshment. Testing your wilpower," in a matter involving health, seems pretty sily when it is not necessary. Instead, we try to make our new health habits as easy as possible. But I have copied the few notes I made of visits to persons, as they respect parties quite too good and too transparent to the whole world to make it needful to affect any prudery of suppression about a few hints of those bright personalities.
His face was so handsome, and his person so well formed, that he might be pardoned, if, as was alleged, the face of his Medora, and the figure of a colossal Achilles in clay, were idealizations of his own. Greenough was a superior man, ardent and eloquent, and all his opinions had elevation and magnanimity. He believed that the Greeks had wrought in schools or fraternities, -- the genius of the master imparting his design to his friends, and inflaming them with it, and when his strength was spent, a new hand, with equal heat, continued the work; and so by relays, until it was finished in every part with equal fire.
This was necessary in so refractory a material as stone; and he thought art would never prosper until we left our shy jealous ways, and worked in society as they. All his thoughts breathed the same generosity. He was an accurate and a deep man. He was a votary of the Greeks, and impatient of Gothic art. His paper on Architecture, published in , announced in advance the leading thoughts of Mr.
Ruskin on the morality in architecture, notwithstanding the antagonism in their views of the history of art. I have a private letter from him, -- later, but respecting the same period, -- in which he roughly sketches his own theory. Landor, who lived at San Domenica di Fiesole. On the 15th May I dined with Mr.
I found him noble and courteous, living in a cloud of pictures at his Villa Gherardesca, a fine house commanding a beautiful landscape. I had inferred from his books, or magnified from some anecdotes, an impression of Achillean wrath, -- an untamable petulance.
I do not know whether the imputation were just or not, but certainly on this May day his courtesy veiled that haughty mind, and he was the most patient and gentle of hosts. He praised the beautiful cyclamen which grows all about Florence; he admired Washington; talked of Wordsworth, Byron, Massinger, Beaumont and Fletcher. To be sure, he is decided in his opinions, likes to surprise, and is well content to impress, if possible, his English whim upon the immutable past.
No great man ever had a great son, if Philip and Alexander be not an exception; and Philip he calls the greater man. In art, he loves the Greeks, and in sculpture, them only. He prefers the Venus to every thing else, and, after that, the head of Alexander, in the gallery here. He prefers John of Bologna to Michael Angelo; in painting, Raffaelle; and shares the growing taste for Perugino and the early masters.
The Greek histories he thought the only good; and after them, Voltaire's. I could not make him praise Mackintosh, nor my more recent friends; Montaigne very cordially, -- and Charron also, which seemed undiscriminating. He pestered me with Southey; but who is Southey?
On Friday I did not fail to go, and this time with Greenough. He entertained us at once with reciting half a dozen hexameter lines of Julius Caesar's!
He glorified Lord Chesterfield more than was necessary, and undervalued Burke, and undervalued Socrates; designated as three of the greatest of men, Washington, Phocion, and Timoleon; much as our pomologists, in their lists, select the three or the six best pears "for a small orchard;" and did not even omit to remark the similar termination of their names. Landor despised entomology, yet, in the same breath, said, "the sublime was in a grain of dust.
One room was full of pictures, which he likes to show, especially one piece, standing before which, he said "he would give fifty guineas to the man that would swear it was a Domenichino. H, one of the guests, told me that Mr. Landor gives away his books, and has never more than a dozen at a time in his house.An easy book to read, albeit difficult to put down once you get going.
Why 'not drinking'? Used - Very Good. No one has to do such things, of course. Amid the flying paintballs and flowing Shiraz even the most cynical admit the organisers have pulled some surprises - stalkers in the forest, power cuts in the night, mass mobile phone thefts, disappearing staff, disappearing guests: there's nothing can bring out people's hidden strengths or break down inter-personal barriers quite like not having a clue what's going on and being scared out of your wits.
His annoyance at business people that complain about the banks not lending to them.