by Marc Lee Shannon
Just like everyone, when the new year comes around, I am inclined to reflect, genuflect, and over-examine my character defects. This year is no exception, and I am a little tired of the memes in bold text and silly self-talk spinning in my head.
So, in 2020, I want to see and live more clearly with a new pair of Super-Soul glasses. Some new spiritual spectacles that help me see the world around me with a little more purpose. New virtual frames that can help me reframe.
New frames for reframing. Hmmm. Stay with me here…
Please indulge, if you will, another start-of-the-New Year list. I know this might sound like more soon-to-be-forgotten January wishing, wondering and whatever. But, here are three things I think will help me have a clearer, more meaningful sense of personal growth and direction as I look out over the brand new year.
- I want to be a more compassionate and kinder friend. In my sober community and beyond, I live and survive by the service of supporters of all types and degrees. I want to be better in my circle, from the casual friends to the close ones. Serve those friendships and speak words of uplifting encouragement. I can do better here, I know it.
- I want to use my voice as an advocate for those who suffer the unbearable pain that addiction brings into life. I want to shout out against the stigma. I want to help people understand that addiction is not the result of lack of character, and recovery is not simply a matter of willpower. I want to stand up and stand by those that are making it and show that this can be done. Tell those who will listen to forget what you have heard: people DO recover.
- More than anything, I want to practice the art of reframing. That ability to appreciate life’s flat-tire moments and use them to be more mindful. To live with more acceptance and not waste another second reliving past failures and the book of my regrets. To have faith that there are lessons in every low point.
The mental health and scientific communities consistently support the dialogue that one of the greatest influences on overall well-being and happiness is our perspective, the ability to experience positive feelings like gratitude. I see this in my life as the practice of reframing, as that sense that this happened so that could happen. Almost everyone I know living in a transformed life has examples of how this has been part of their new life awakening.
For me, one of the best things about living sober is that my resentments and my old lens — that stop-motion, wide-angle view of what happened during the dark drinking days — has been wiped clear. You see, I now know that what I thought was happening to me was more likely just happening. Sure, I was the main character in the film noir drama that was my miserable, problem-infested, socially isolated, chemically dependent life. But now I see that it was my thinking that was the real problem. It was my thinking, not my drinking, that made life so unbearable.
It’s possible that everything is happening right on time and for the right reasons, even though it is often not on my time or for my reasons. Some days, being a perfectly flawed human being, it can be a little difficult to get out of my head and see this. When this happens, I try to remember words that I heard during a sober gathering a few years ago. I listened to a raspy-voiced, well-seasoned recovering elder statesman say he was going to be OK today, because he could ask himself:
Will I have a meal today and fresh water to drink when thirsty? Yes.
Will I have clean clothes and a warm place to rest my head tonight? Yes.
Will I have a way to get around, transportation of some kind, to serve my needs? Yes.
Will I have a friend to share my burdens and joy? Yes.
Will I have a moment of pause and thanks for all of these things? Yes.
I can hear him say, “Then, for today, I have everything I need.”
Perspective. Reframing. New frames.
More of this, please, in 2020.
Reach Marc Lee Shannon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Angelo Merendino. Editor’s note: Marc Lee Shannon holds the trademark to “Sober Chronicles.”