Life: It’s All In How You Take It

"Life is 10 percent what you make it and 90 percent how you take it." – Irving Berlin, American composer and lyricist, of Jewish heritage, widely considered one of the greatest songwriters in American history (1888-1989)

We should learn one thing early on in recovery – and in life in general. That is that life is going to be uncertain, never guaranteed as to a particular outcome. We aren’t fortune tellers and thus are not able to predict with 100 percent certainty how things are going to turn out.

This can be pretty scary, especially when we are facing a lifetime of recovery and aren’t really all that sure to begin with if we’re equipped to handle what may – and probably will – come our way.

Here’s a little secret that the old-timers in the rooms of recovery know: You learn to take it as it comes, to remain flexible and become resilient to the buffeting winds of change.

Some change is undoubtedly going to be like a soft and caressing summer breeze. Those kinds of changes should be embraced with joy and appreciation, as well as savored. They may be few and far between. But other changes may bring with them feelings of regret, or even pain, as we metamorphose ourselves, transforming our behavior into healthy and sober and productive ways of living this new life we have freely chosen.

Even with painful change, unexpected change – and, doesn’t a lot of what happens seem like it just arrives out of the blue? – life can be meaningful and reinforce our goals as long as we look at life in a positive light. This means that we don’t automatically assign blame if we don’t quite live up to our expectations in certain situations, or if we fall a bit short in achieving our goals. There’s always today that we can address the issue, work harder or smarter on the task, find additional resources to help us master what we need to learn or become more skilled at tackling the work.

We always have a choice. We can bemoan our fate, feel miserable that we haven’t gone beyond where we are right now, look longingly on the past when all we did was numb ourselves and shirk our responsibilities, living to use and not really living at all. Or, as we seem to be veering toward, we can accept that certain things have happened, largely as a result of our own doing, and we are making necessary changes to our life that will allow us to live in a happier, healthier, more productive, and certainly more stable, manner.

It won’t always be easy. There will always be the temptation to take a hiatus from our recovery work, to put things on the back burner instead of plowing ahead to the next task, the next step, or the next goal on our to-do list. We do have a mental picture of ourselves living in sobriety, but it may not fit with what we’ve accomplished to-date. For one thing, we may be selling ourselves short. We may be trapped still in memories of our past, unable yet to make the transition into feeling like a productive and welcome member of society.

This will change over time, as long as we allow ourselves the freedom to experience success. Yes, we do need to give ourselves permission to accomplish goals. Many of us are not willing or able to accept that we do deserve a good life yet. We need to be told, repeatedly, in some instances, that life is going to be what we make it, and even more important, how we take it.

There are resources at our disposal as we embark upon this journey of discovery, for that’s what life in recovery is. Our primary resource is likely to be our sponsor, augmented, of course, by our fellow group members in the rooms of recovery. They’ve been down this road themselves and know the uncertainties and pitfalls that often accompany the early days, weeks and months of sobriety. They can serve not only as our support system, encouraging us along the way, but may offer useful anecdotes and helpful tips and strategies for dealing with issues so common to newcomers.

At first, we may not be ready for all this. That’s okay, we’ll get there in time. We need to allow ourselves time to acclimate, to get used to being sober, for one thing, and to become more comfortable being around others who have also embraced recovery. For some of us, this is particularly difficult, but it all gets back to how do we want to live our lives? Do we want to just exist? Or do we really want to go for it, to experience all the joy and happiness and success possible?

Start with realistic goals and be flexible going forward. Keep a positive attitude, even in the face of minor disappointments. Be with people whose interests we share and whom we like to be around. Live in hope. This is the 90 percent: how we take life, on our own terms.

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