Sunday, July 31, 2011

“Letting Go Of People”

One of my favorite books is “Illusions” by Richard Bach, the same author that wrote “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”. I first read it when I was about ten years old and I still keep it handy because there is so much powerful, amazing wisdom in it. I recommend the book to all my sponsees, have bought copies for ex-girlfriends, and tell anyone seeking deeper spiritual understanding about it.

It’s a short book, written in a first-person narrative, and the story is fantastic. It’s about a spiritual master who was going to become a modern-day savior, but instead changed his mind and quit. The plot of the book follows the author as he meets this almost-savior and learns the advanced spiritual wisdom he knows. As the book progresses, the author learns more and more from the master, ultimately becoming one himself.

There is a moment near the end, where the master is quizzing his pupil, pretending to be a seeker searching for deep knowledge and understanding. The author gives a long-winded reply and the master chides him about needing to keep it short, that he will lose his entire audience if he can’t learn to keep his responses brief. The author sort of throws up his hands and says something like, ‘so what? I know what I know and you asked so if you don’t like the answers, tough--no one’s forcing you to listen.’ The master then laughs and congratulates his student, telling him he’s just graduated. “How does it feel?” The master asks. The author replies, “frustrating as hell.” His teacher laughs again and counsels him that he’ll get used to it.

I think about that passage from the book sometimes. Like when I’m frustrated with people in the program who won’t listen, or when I hear about addicts who still drink or smoke pot, or when I feel down about how more people don’t follow this blog. There’s a little voice inside me that wants to shout, “hey! I’ve got some seriously profound shit to say over here that will literally change your life!”

But I can’t control others, I can’t make them listen, and even if I could, who is to say that what is right for me is right for them?

It always comes back to boundaries. My sponsor tells me from time to time that I care too much. And he’s not saying, ‘Zach, be more of a dick,’ he means that I’m taking ownership of stuff that isn’t mine. Even with my sponsees, it’s not up to me to make someone else ‘get’ the program. That’s an impossible task anyway. And even if someone else does get it, that has very little to do with me and much more to do with them, with their choices, and their insights.

I key into the 12-step program on the spiritual level. That’s where I ‘get’ it, where I relate to it and process the wisdom it teaches. But not everyone is looking to have a deep, meaningful spiritual experience. Some people are just looking to not get loaded anymore, and that’s fine. For me, that’s what freedom means--by not getting fucked up anymore, I am allowed to have a profound spiritual life. Part of that deal is allowing others to not have that if they don’t want it. How other people live their lives, how they work the program, none of that is for me to decide. I get to decide for myself how I live, how I work the program, and that is enough.

Letting go of other people is a big part of the program. Forget about trying to control our using; accepting our powerlessness over substances? That shit is piecemeal compared to learning how to stop trying to control others.

There will always be other people in our lives who don’t live the way we think they should. There will be people who think differently, who act differently, who feel and say things other than what we wish they would. Letting go of others is not an art I’ve perfected, just another thing I keep working on, and it’s a catch-all category that covers just about everything.

From an active addict who always flakes, to a battered woman who won’t leave her boyfriend. From a coworker who drinks too much, to a fellow in recovery who hasn’t yet learned to stop being an asshole. From an ex-friend who never returns messages, to a woman I might be interested in that only wants to be ‘just friends’.

Other people get to make their own choices, and I get to let them. Whether I think they’re bad or good is irrelevant. If I try to control other people, I go right back to being as insane as I ever was when I was using. My life goes right back to being unmanageable. My serenity is dependent upon letting go, upon my not trying to control other people.

If we want to truly recover, we have to let go of everything that isn’t ours. We don’t have to agree with how other people live their lives, the things they do and say, and we certainly don’t have to like it, but we do have to accept it. Because that’s What Is.

No comments:

Post a Comment