I hate clichés. Don’t want to write them. Don’t want to say them. Don’t want to be one. I’ve always fancied myself a hard-core champion of originality, to the point that I can’t even bring myself to write “Happy Birthday” on someone’s Facebook page, because what’s the point of saying the same damn thing others have written 100 times already? If you can’t find the inspiration or time to give them something unique, might as well not bother!
Whew. Well, getting the f*ck over myself is a topic for another day.
Today we’re talking about clichés, because dammit, even though it’s difficult for someone like me to accept, clichés are often absolutely true and perfectly meaningful. You want to get all overthink-y and complicate things (and by “you,” I mean “I”) but in reality, a simple statement uttered and written a gazillion times throughout human history can really be the key to a happy life — if you internalize the message and turn it into action.
Take “One Day at a Time,” for example.
It’s one of the clichés — maybe the main one — you hear in A.A. The explanation for this is pretty obvious: If you sit there with a drinking problem and stare into the great uncertain, frightening abyss of the future, ruminating on the fact that YOU CAN NEVER DRINK AGAIN AS LONG AS YOU LIVE, you’re screwed. That’s a recipe for anxiety and depression, two things that I’m pretty sure none of us, alcoholic or not, needs help cooking up.
Worrying about what hasn’t yet arrived and what you can’t control, be it tomorrow or the day after that or when you’re going to the Phillies-Cubs game next month and you never don’t drink at baseball games or when it’s your niece’s wedding in like 20 years and “Fun Aunt Jen” can’t dance sober…
Shit like that is the reason I developed a drinking problem in the first place.
Focusing on “one day at a time” is a way to not just survive this journey I started 20 singular days ago (that’s my tally there on the left, kept vigilantly on the whiteboard in my home gym). It’s a way to actually thrive, in a way I’ve never known in 41 years on Earth.
Another A.A. mantra is “Just For Today,” which is basically the same concept. And since obsessively replaying the past over and over while desperately fearing the future is not the way I want to live anymore, I’m on board with anything that helps me learn to be present in the moment and only concern myself with what is right there in front of me, within my immediate control. Maybe you have an inkling of how difficult this seemingly simple skill can be to master?
And that brings me to the picture at the top of this blog. I was presented with a 24-hour coin this morning at my A.A. meeting, and I was both honored and surprised, because I thought 30 days was the first “official” milestone. I basically ran/skipped up to get it in front of a room full of people I don’t know, and I hugged the guy who gave it to me. I held it in my sweaty hand (yeah, I still get pretty nervous at meetings) for the rest of the hour.
From a distance, yes, 24 hours is an insignificant amount of time. A drop in the bucket. But even people who have years and years and years of sobriety got there by making it through the first 24 hours, then waking up the next day and tackling another 24 hours, and so on, learning and growing and facing problems as they came, one day at at a time. There eventually came a 24-hour period, from what I’ve been told, where they finally felt at peace and didn’t always want to crawl out of their skin or punch someone to fill the void alcohol always used to fill…
For the record, my sobriety has involved no violence. I’ve just been anxious and annoyed a lot.
My point is, this “chip” means a lot to me. As far as I’m concerned, I won’t get one that’s the same kind of meaningful, no matter how many whiteboards I fill up with hash marks. Not only is the coin a symbol of the necessary shift I need to achieve in the way I think, but it’s a validation of what’s always been inside me that I never want to lose.
“To Thine Own Self Be True,” it says. And dammit, I am! I’m writing these blogs and I’m sitting in those rooms and I’m taking this journey because that is what I honestly want to do. It’s what my brain, my heart and my soul — which are still there and still functioning despite all my efforts to drown them in tequila — have been telling me to do all my life. This is not just about quitting drinking, it’s about…
…being the best me I can be!
Ha. Yeah, that was on purpose. I’m going all in with the theme of this post, and why not? Dismissing wise words just because they’ve been repeated over and over for centuries and they’re not your own unique words is arrogant and dumb, and right now, all I am is grateful.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go check Facebook to see if anyone I know is having a birthday. 😘