“fear of people…will leave us”
Once I got sober I quickly found that I could drop many the things that I feared. I was no longer trying to hide the facts of my alcoholism. I was making positive changes that had big and immediate impacts on my daily life. I slept better, which meant I felt better. I quickly found that everyday pains and gut issues were subsiding. The physical wellness that arose out of my sobriety is a wonderful gift. And yet, there have been other, more important gifts – loss of shame, less irritation with life, less anger. Perhaps the gift I’m most grateful for is that the fear of people left me.
I recall hosting meetings for my team in my hometown about three weeks after I surrendered. I was nervous for sure. I couldn’t take the guys out to the best bars in Annapolis. I couldn’t drink with my team. I knew that would be difficult, and it was. I remember the team dinner seemed to drag on and on, well after I was ready to call it a night. But I also remember talking with the valet parking attendant at the hotel for about twenty minutes before dinner. I had no room at the hotel because I was going home to my house. I had no business grabbing a drink at the hotel bar and it was nice outside so I’d gone out to catch some fresh air while the team got ready to go to dinner.
I don’t recall the specifics of the conversation but I do remember that I recognized that I was actually connecting with this young man. I hadn’t felt that common connection in a long time. I’m sure that the conversation resonated much more deeply with me than with the valet, but I also know that he was surprised that a guest was actually talking with him – maybe it resonated more deeply with him than I recognized.
I’m currently sitting in the airport in my way to the same meetings – this year in Portland, ME. Over the past year, I’ve noticed that I’m much more likely to thank someone for a service, the bus driver, the baggage handler, the waiter, even the TSA agent. And the response is always warm.
I stopped to pick up a bottle of water before my flight and the gentleman at the news stand was named Jeet according to his name tag. He called me brother. I felt that we were brothers in this human race. As he rung me up he asked, “How are you? Everything good?”
I answered honestly, “Yes things are good, How are you today?” And he told me that it had already been a busy day and that but would be a long day. Was he complaining? Not at all. He was joyous and exuded happiness. And it made me smile. It made me think of how important those three words are.
So often they are rote words that we utter in passing, and yet if we pause and really listen we can learn a lot about our fellow human beings. When we ask others how they are, and mean it sincerely, when we are willing to give our time to listen to how someone is actually getting on in this crazy world we provide something that so often is lacking in our modern connected yet disconnected world.
I know, if you’re anything like I was (and can still be more often than I’d like to admit) you’re probably thinking, “But I don’t have time. I don’t want to hear the worlds problems. I cant fix things for anyone else.” And you might not have a great deal of time, but it needn’t require much time – my transaction with Jeet was delayed perhaps five additional seconds. You may not want to hear other people’s problems. Dan you don’t have to become a sponge with which others wipe their problem from their brow. You certainly can’t fix anyone else, or their problems. But you can listen, even for just a moment. Not only will it lift up the other people in your life, it will lift you up as well, for it is in giving that we receive.
Take some time today to ask another human being how they are, and then listen, ask a few more questions. Extra credit if it’s someone you don’t know. Give them you time. These three words, “How are you?” are life changing for those of us in recovery — and very likely for many who are not in recovery. If you practice this regularly you will begin to reap rewards that you didn’t know you were missing.