My phone rings off the hook the week after New Years. Some will be folks who have taken stock of their lives and decided they need a fresh start. Others will be folks who are simply tired of listening to their loved ones complain about their drinking. Either way I’ll ask, “What are you willing to do to make your life better?”
It’s a pretty simple and straight forward question that usually leaves people staring blankly at me.
I can tell a lot about how much a person has suffered by how readily they answer. As my friends in recovery will tell you, the healthiest answer is, “Whatever it takes.” Three beautiful and powerful words that have the capacity to launch one toward freedom and a life second to none.
We all know that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. What we tend not to notice are the conditions we put on getting better. I’ll use myself as an example: I would like to lose weight. It’s the new year. Everyone wants to lose weight.
Overall, I eat pretty healthy, drink lots of water and I walk daily. I’m willing to give up everything except: cigarettes, espresso, chocolate, ice cream, chips, dry roasted everything, and Red Bull. Oh, and if you see me at a gym, you should assume that something has seriously gone awry with my mental health.
This is simple and brutal honesty. I’ve explained an intention and given my counselor parameters as to what my willingness is. It’s darkly amusing to me is to consider just what the hell they are going to advise me to do.
Here’s how that story will be presented to me next month with alcohol:
“I’ve just always been someone who likes to have a few drinks and unwind. I’ve never considered it a problem but for some reason my (partner/spouse/children/parents and/or friends) do. Drinking hasn’t caused much of a problem for me. I mean, sure, I’ve made a few mistakes, got that one OUI and have the occasional hangover, but who doesn’t?”
Ok, so what do you want to do? “I dunno, maybe cut down or go on the wagon for a while.” I see. And you need to talk to an addictions counselor to be able to do that? “Well. You know, I don’t know. I say this every year and then I don’t do anything about it.” Oh, so you need accountability? “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m a very responsible person.” Right You just don’t trust yourself not to drink…
I’m a huge fan of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s a great instruction manual for changing your life (not just getting sober but actually transforming). It’s filled with simple and profound wisdom. It says things like, “Half measures availed us nothing.”
Pursuing a better life in a half assed fashion is something millions of us do. We just don’t do it honestly. Whatever your goals are for the coming year, write that shit down and share it with others. Get honest with yourself about what you are and are not willing to do.
Do what you will, but do it on purpose and with passion. Everything else is shit anyway.