A couple of things automatically come to mind when I ask myself what it means to “live like I mean it”. One is that scene in the movie ‘Dead Poet’s Society’ where Robin Williams stands on the desk and says to his students…
“I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way. You see, the world looks very different from up here. You don't believe me? Come see for yourself. Come on. Come on! Just when you think you know something, you have to look at it in another way. Even though it may seem silly or wrong, you must try! Now, when you read, don't just consider what the author thinks. Consider what you think. Boys, you must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation." Don't be resigned to that. Break out!”
The second thing that comes to mind is that song by Tim McGraw where he sings…
I went skydiving, I went rocky mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu
And I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I'd been denying
And he said someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dyin'
It’s funny how things just zip in and out of awareness.
Like a train that doesn’t stop at this depot… here they come… and there they go. They just pop to the surface at random, and roar off like a blur into the distance before I even have a chance to figure out what they mean.
Maybe my brain is capable of much more than just those things of which I am consciously aware.
I know that this little melon on my shoulders controls my breath and the rhythm of my heart. I don't have to focus on these things... they just happen.
Albert Ellis once said, "People have motives and thoughts of which they are unaware."
Are these mental images a glimpse of thoughts and motives of which I am unaware?
Maybe living like I mean it means learning to identify, and trying to understand, those parts of me that I have not yet fully examined and have yet to understand. Maybe it’s much simpler than that.
I think that most people, like myself, who’ve had traumatic experiences with Alcoholics Anonymous believe that a breakthrough came with the realization that there was no need for further self-examination—it was okay to believe in themselves with all of their faults-- they were worthy of existing just because they existed. I’ve had many of these moments of clarity myself. At first it was difficult to roll with them. There was always that inner stepper yelling at me from the back of my brain, “You see? You’re just like they said! Your rebellious alcoholic personality deceives you! Your disease is trying to trick you into believing that you are normal!”
My first breakthrough was when I read Jack Trimpey’s “The Small Book.” It all seemed so clear cut and precise. It was like I had been reintroduced to reason after having wasted years castaway on the islands of misfit thought. I felt like I was coming home to the life I had lost long ago.
But, soon that inner stepper was at work again. I still had lots of life problems to deal with, and I was still in contact with AA members who insisted the idea that I was gonna be okay was insane. I began to challenge these ideas a little bit at a time, and the more I did this, the more I opened myself up to the legitimacy in believing I was never as morally reprehensible as the people at AA had suggested.
It was as if I was one of Robin William’s students in the quote above. I felt uncomfortable getting up and standing on the desk, but once I got up the guts to do it, I’d see everything from a different perspective… Then I’d become afraid and take my seat like a good little AA student again. The more I challenged AA’s ideas, the more capable I felt. I no longer wanted to live that life of quiet desperation… There was something inside of me telling me it was time to break out, so I kept getting up on that desk, and I kept getting up on that desk until I finally became grounded in the reality that up on the desk is the place to be.
There is a Russian proverb that says, “Repetition is the mother of invention.”
I decided that I wanted to reinvent my life philosophy and base it on ideas and principles that were very different from the one’s I had learned at AA. I read about this new life philosophy idea in Chris Prentiss’ book “THE ALCOHOLISM AND ADDICTION CURE”
I made a point of surrounding myself with new ideas, and challenging AA dogma over and over so that I could solidify my new beliefs and prove once and for all that AA was wrong. I had failed miserably for 18 years at putting the bottle down using AA’s 12 steps. It was three years or so after reading Trimpey’s book before took the big plunge and put my best effort into quitting drinking without AA. That was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
With the bottle out of my hand I was stuck with a daunting list of life problems that still needed to be solved. Sometimes that inner stepper would show up again with questions like, “If you’re doing so well without AA, why are you homeless?” Although I had pretty much mastered my philosophy as far as drinking went, I still had a pretty persistent negative internal dialogue haunting me with the idea that I’d never amount to anything in the real world, so I made a comprehensive list of all of my life problems and decided to take action to solve them one at a time. I’m still working on that list to this day.
I’m not at the point in my life yet where I can go sky diving, or Rocky Mountain climbing. I’m still working on challenging negative internal dialogue, improving my organizational skills, and building a new life for myself one brick at a time.
I’m no longer homeless. I’ve repaired the damage my family relationships had suffered as a result of my drinking. I’ve worked hard to fix the damage that years of drinking caused in my life. To this point, I think I’ve been pretty successful… much more successful that I had ever been while I was involved with Alcoholics Anonymous.
Maybe someday I will go sky diving, or Rocky Mountain climbing… who knows? Right now I’m pretty much content with accepting life’s challenges as they come, and believing that, rather than burdens, life’s challenges are opportunities to better myself. That’s what I call living like I mean it.
Written by Donald T. Quinn (Gunthar2000) – X-AA community member
BIG FAT THANKS GUNTHAR!
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