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April 1976

Poor Me? Flip It Over!

We can learn to turn negative thoughts into positive ones

THINGS DID NOT go my way today, my AA birthday. From its start, I knew there would be no meeting, no formal celebration, none of the hoopla that greeted me on my first birthday. There would be no cakes or tokens, no flowers or gifts or telegrams. Even the telephone would not oblige by ringing off the hook with calls from well-wishers.

I had a sneak attack of stinking thinking. Within grabbing reach were all my old, reliable standbys: "Why me?," "Poor me," "You don't appreciate me," "I've been so good," "I never have any fun." I could still pout and snivel my way right down to "Nobody likes me."

But a string of 24 hours has taught me more than abstinence. Through the AA way of life, I have been handed some tools of simple living that have enabled me to live each day with relative peace of mind, if I so choose. I may still get that old thinking, but now I know what to do with it. I have learned to flip it over and turn a negative thought into a positive one.

That is what I did. Rather than wallow in self-pity about seemingly grave injustices, I took time to ponder this so-called ordinary day.

It was impossible to attend a daytime AA meeting, because I was called to work. I am a substitute teacher at our neighborhood school. With as little as ten minutes' notice, I can be at the school, ready to teach any grade from kindergarten to junior high, and any subject from science to gym. I'm not bragging; I'm only proclaiming a miracle. The credit is not mine, but that of a Power greater than myself.

An ordinary workday used to be an extraordinary nightmare. I did not take morning calls. My services had to be reserved in advance. This allowed me time to pull myself together and try not to drink. I drank anyway. And I worked anyway. Who ever heard of getting a substitute for a substitute?

I went to work with two constant companions: nameless fear and steadfast nausea. The very same voice that had said, "Just one more, just one more," the night before was always there the next day to answer, "Never again, never again." I worked, and left the classes unsupervised while I excused myself to vomit.

Transportation also presented a problem, since I was afraid to walk and afraid to drive. Usually, I opted to drive the enormous three blocks because I felt safer with an armor of auto. Other than that, there was little I feared--except the students, stairways, and second-floor classrooms. Through it all, there was only one consolation: I was not called often.

Remembering the way life used to be filled me with gratitude that left no room for self-pity. Once I became aware of the benefits of keeping my thinking straight, positive thoughts surfaced without effort.

On this special day, there would be no evening meeting, either. Looking at the reasons in the right light revealed more blessings. My husband had to work late on his new job--a job he had been trying to get for twelve years. He had finally received his long-prayed-for promotion, and on this day, he could see his efforts rewarded at last.

I waited at home, but not alone. I waited with my two healthy children, children who no longer share twelve-packs with their mother when Dad is late. Now that they are five and seven years old, they have no memory of toddling around with empty beer cans in a dark living room. How could I feel sorry that I had to miss my birthday meeting?

And then I knew I had learned a very important lesson. Birthdays In AA are for saying thank you. That is what I would miss this day. And that is why I decided to reach out to all the friends I have, but have not met. I wanted to thank AA all over the world.

Thank you for taking my shaky hands two years ago and telling me to forget about yesterday and tomorrow.

Thank you for showing me there is no more defeat, but only God pointing me in a better direction.

Thank you for my second year and my second life.

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