The best things in life Aren’t things
I had my last drink on May 14, 1973. Perhaps the most valuable thing I ever heard in my first few AA meetings was that the desire I felt to drink was an obsession that couldn’t be pushed out of my mind by trying not to think about it.
The man who shared it said it was better to think it through. If I had the drink I was thinking about, it would be likely to happen later that day or the next. When I thought it through, thoughts of having a drink became less inviting and lived less often in my head.
I think it was mostly hope that kept me around in those early days, hope that I could have what others found in AA. I still find faith hard sometimes, but hope is easy. There’s always hope that things can get better in recovery, and none in going back to drinking.
I once heard a member say, “I can’t change my feelings, but I can change my attitudes, and the feelings tend to follow.” When my feelings are off, it usually means that my attitude is too. For me today, it’s more about staying sane, having the ability to adjust to reality as it comes along, and being content with a life spent doing all the things I need to do to stay sane and happy.
In the movie “City Slickers” there’s a scene in which someone asks, “What’s a midlife crisis?” They’re told it’s when you think that this is about as good as life gets…and it ain’t that good. When I was drinking, life was just good enough and it didn’t really matter if it got any better. But my life has gotten a whole lot better since I got sober. Spiritual contentment is not limited. And that reminds me of a sign I once saw that said, “The best things in life aren’t things.” I like that.
I spent nearly 20 years of my sobriety teaching English in Japan. I now no longer work, and I live in Devonport, a city on the north coast of Tasmania, Australia’s island state. I bought my 101-year-old house on my first day here. For a while, life here seemed too good to be true. It still is. After 16 years in retirement, I still love to get out of the house every day of the week for my AA meetings, lawn bowls and Scrabble. There’s nothing here I wish wasn’t and nothing not here that I wish was.
When I was living in Japan, I felt the need to get out of the country at least once a year to get to English-speaking meetings and preserve my sanity. Now I have no desire to be anyplace else. I’m more content in my old house than I would be in a five-star hotel anywhere else in the world.
One of the best sayings I ever picked up in my AA meetings here in town is, “If you can learn to laugh at yourself, you’ll have a lifetime of entertainment.”