A phrase that is often repeated in 12 Step meetings is learning to live life on life’s terms. At first, it sounds like a silly nonsensical saying, one of those things that pretend sages say in order to sound deep, but upon closer reflection, it becomes apparent that it is actually sound advice. In those five little words, live life on life’s terms, a way for living is exposed that has improved the lives of many and has helped millions of alcoholics and addicts overcome their entitlement issues, and learn to accept life for what it is.
Many addicts and alcoholics when they are using have a fundamental problem with accepting reality. They do not want to accept the fact that they have a problem and they want things in their life to be different. So rather than working towards these things, they do what addicts and alcoholics do, and they think about them. They think of how things should be or could be, but very rarely do they look at how things are. They construct scenarios in their mind about how they want their lives to look and then they live in that delusion until they are jolted awake by their own powerlessness.
Once they get sober, they are forced to face reality and in doing so, they begin to learn the meaning of living life on life’s terms. They begin to see that they are not capable of managing and controlling their own lives and when this occurs, they begin to surrender to something greater than themselves and go with the flow of life.
In the beginning, this is usually not that difficult and their lives become exponentially better as they no longer waste their energy attempting to control and manipulate every situation to result in their favor. They begin to settle into the stream of life and let it carry them where it may, which is usually a place better than they could have imagined for themselves.
But then they stay sober for a little while and troubles start to show up, life does what life does, and it throws problems their way. Things that could not have been foreseen, whether it was the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or any other myriad of problems that can arise in life and then they are asked yet again to accept life on life’s terms.
Doing this during times of trouble is never easy and most of our first reactions are to think this isn’t fair or why is this happening to me. We get angry when life shows up, especially when it seemed for a while that things were going in the right direction, and so we want to grasp control of everything again and attempt to manage the situation so we can avoid pain.
What usually happens when this occurs is more pain because we either harm others by trying to get them to act as we want, or we yet again attempt to control our reality by looking feverishly for outcomes that will result in us getting what we want. If we lost a job, we look for ways to get back at someone or to get the job back. If we lost a relationship, we do the same thing and in all of it, we are unable to accept what life is handing us and so we balk at it and cause more trouble for ourselves.
The reality is that life does not owe us anything. It does not owe us a job, a family, a boat, a house, or anything. Life is and we live it. It is a series of ups and downs, lefts and rights, and for the most part, we have very little control over what comes our way. We can make decisions that will lead us to or wants and desires, but even then what occurs is not entirely up to us. Understanding this makes accepts life’s terms for us that much easier, but it still isn’t always easy.
Now for a person without alcoholism or addiction, not accepting life for what it is, is perfectly fine. They will more than likely experience unhappiness a great deal of the time, but they won’t do what alcoholics and addicts do, which is drink or drug themselves to death. Now, a person not afflicted with these illnesses can continue to construct delusions around themselves without fear of a premature death, but for an alcoholic or addict, this is not an option.
An alcoholic or addict, who wants to stay sober and wants to continue to try to live a spiritual life must learn to live within the reality that is presented to them. They must not waste their mental energy attempting to construct delusions, because if they do, there is a possibility that they could drink or use again, and we all know what that means.
It isn’t always easy dealing with the things that life throws at you, but luckily with the help of a 12 Step fellowship and the friends that come along with it, doing so is not impossible. There is nothing that life can throw at an alcoholic or addict who is surrounded by friends and loved ones, that will break them. They have been through the worst already, so take comfort in the fact that you have overcome an impossibly difficult illness to treat and come out the other side. Take comfort in the fact that you got out and so whatever life gives you after that, just take in stride and know that this too shall pass.
Getting clean and sober from drugs and alcohol is the most important thing that an addict or alcoholic can do in their life. It is also the most anxiety producing and frightening thing that they can do in their life, but it doesn’t need to be.
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