The past few weeks have been somewhat trying — not so much in terms of not drinking but in terms of feeling overwhelmed by life. It’s just been plain busy and hectic.
This has led to some re-evaluation on my part. I haven’t figured it all out by any means but I am coming to question many things about the 12 step program.
Lots of people seem to suggest that the key is acceptance and surrender — that the key is to stop struggling. I get that but it is counterintuitive.
Life is struggle.
Life is suffering.
These are truths.
If you give up the struggle, aren’t you giving up life?
3 thoughts on “Stop Struggling?”
In my opinion, life itself is not a struggle, but how I respond to it. I let problems become problems if I allow them. Not to say that if the sink clogs up and I have to pay $100 to fix it that if I don’t think of it as a problem, then the sink will drain itself. What I mean is that to me it’s a situation, rather than a problem. When I look at the negatives, then the problem looms larger. It’s really about perception for me. Like this morning, my kids got up at an ungodly hour, I went to find my fridge leaked all night and my kitchen was a puddle, and I had some other things crop up. A part of me wanted to scream “why me?” but I realized it would have poisoned my day, so I just got the kids breakfast, cleaned the water and did a few things and just launched into my day.
As for the “truths” of life as suffering, then there isn’t much point to this life, is there? Other than the opportunity to grow and detach from suffering. Suffering is attachment to things. Read Anthony De Mello’s “The Way to Love” and he talks a lot about this. I see life as challenging at times, but not suffering. Suffering is optional! But that is coming now from almost 5 years of recovery and seeking. These lessons don’t come so quickly sometimes.
And I know you mentioned something about Step 3 issues – free will and all. And you are right, we do have free will. And I exercise it all the time. But what the program talks about (and many other spiritual paths) is aligning our will with our HP’s. With the universe, or whatever it is you think of a power greater than ourselves. So even if you don’t believe in a power greater than yourself, think about principles like love, honesty, forgiveness, etc. When my free will goes in that direction, things are less difficult, I am freer, I am of more service, and I have more serenity. Does that make sense? We are surrendering to our addiction – not life.
Anyway, just my thoughts 🙂
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When I speak of suffering and struggle here I’m thinking about the Buddhist understanding of life.
At a very basic level life is a struggle to survive – we are well insulated from this in the modern age, but it remains true – we need to eat, we need to rest, we need shelter and clothing, etc…
From a suffering perspective, there is a great deal of suffering in the world. My suffering is very different from that of a refugee, but it’s real nonetheless.
You make a good point though that life is what you make of it and it is our choice to embrace the suffering and struggle or to work to transcend it.
Ive got lots more thinking to do on these subjects.
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I’m not in a program and I also had an issue with admitting powerlessness- but then something clicked for me: I’m not powerless in life, just against addiction. For me that means there’s no way to keep my lifestyle (drinking) and NOT be someone who abuses alcohol. What I needed to stop struggling with was the notion that I could somehow continue to drink and control it. I can’t. It’s over. There’s nothing I can do about that. So I choose not to drink and life is easier for me.
I think life is only a struggle if you go through it feeling like you need to prevail in every situation, that you need to convince others that’s you’re right, that you never let anything change your opinions. And all of that will surely lead to suffering (discontent as defined by Buddhists). Some years ago I started asking myself, “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?” That has caused me to carefully pick my battles and really let a lot of unimportant things go.
I think Paul has the right idea with leaning towards positive virtues as a way to be freer and happier: whenever you feel you don’t have a enough, give more, that sort of thing.
I hope this next month goes a bit smoother for you:)
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