I actually saw someone do this to themselves today.
I listened to them work themselves up to a rant, like an old locomotive gaining speed; their mind chugging and whistling along until what had started as good news was nearly overwhelmed with fear and suspicion. Certainly that's possible for anyone to do, but alcoholics seem especially prone to this kind of anxious over-thinking.
Listening to them I felt my arms pebble with goosebumps and I had butterflies in my stomach -- butterflies of gratitude, actually (I know how insipid and cornball that sounds, but truly, that's what it was) because listening to that poor soul create anxiety out of thin air I saw how clearly AA and the 12 Steps have helped me straighten out my thinking, and perhaps more importantly, become aware of how I think.
Drinking is the symptom of alcoholism; thinking is its home.
Scars -- as many before me have wisely and sometimes poetically observed -- are less a disfigurement than they are, when one thinks clearly about them, symbols of survival.
And, as is obvious to anyone who has seen real struggle in life (and certainly alcoholics, addicts and their families qualify) there are so many kinds of scars because there are so many kinds of wounds.
But when it comes to struggle AA has given me a lot of perspective over time. It has given me the body of sober experience to see that, if I can stay sober for 24 hours I can handle anything for 24 hours.
It has given me tools to determine whether pain is needless suffering, brought about by my own fears and ego, or if it is a healthy and inevitable part of life's rough passages.
AA has helped me develop a personal connection to a Higher Power -- as giddy and silly as that can sound out of context sometimes -- which leaves me with a sense of trust and acceptance.
So those difficult, painful and rough patches in life? Those things which will wound a loving heart, bruise a sometimes-still-touchy ego and leave their marks as my other foolish mistakes and passages have before?
They won't be easy, but I don't fear them as I used to.
I welcome my future scars. They're continuing proof of my ongoing growth.
That's no small thing when you live with addiction.
I can read a quote like that and it can both inspire a firm nod of agreement yet also (greatly) annoy me. It is a good truth and it is also a terrible oversimplification. Regardless of where that sentiment lands on my reaction spectrum, sometimes changing my attitude is important.
Sometimes changing my attitude is crucial.
What helps is to remember that black-and-white thinking can be a subtle thing.
When it comes to changing my attitude I don't have to instantly snap from despair to elation, or swing breezily from stubborn defiance to effortless willingness -- and to (unconsciously?) expect that's how it happens is a prime example of that subtle, unrealistic, limited this-or-that mind set.
In fact the key to having an open mind is to begin with the word "maybe." (And dear God, that was an important thing to learn.)
Perhaps the key to changing an attitude is somewhat the same.
Certainly there is much to be said for "acting as if" I have a different attitude -- I can often behave my way into different thinking/feeling very effectively.
But sometimes that core of defiance can be so, so intractable. Sometimes, although I know I need to change my attitude, I don't really want to. I'd rather wallow and, rather than curse the darkness, curse the light.
When that's where I find myself, I need to come back to maybe -- although in this case it's "maybe if I pray about my shitty attitude, even though I actually don't want it to work, it will work a little bit. Enough to get me into forward motion." Because the truth is, the solution to an attitude problem -- as is the solution to all my problems, ultimately -- is a spiritual one. Asking The Universe for a little shift inside, and then trying a little bit of contrary action.
Stay out of black-and-white "If I don't instantly feel completely different right away then this probably won't work at all" expectations and instead ask God to help you believe "Well, maybe this won't COMPLETELY suck."
Sometimes that mildly snarky stance is actually forward motion.