The Way Things Ought To Be

Every addict I’ve ever met has, in one way or another, had the same answer to his or her own happiness: If (he) (she) (they) (it) (the world) would just do things our way, that’s what would save the world and make us happy.

Those of us with fake self-esteem (the noisy ones) let everyone else know our solutions. If we’re the doormats — the ones who always seem to get hooked up with the noisy ones — we may not explain it to the world, but we still have our own ideas about what would “fix” our problems. All of these visions of The Way Things Ought To Be (TWTOTB) have one thing in common: they all depend on things outside ourselves, “the things we cannot change”.

The big problem is that things outside ourselves are often under the control of someone else, and some things, at least in theory, are under no one’s control — certainly not ours. Just as there can only be one boss in the workplace, whose ideas of TWTOTB most likely differ from ours and who may not want to listen to our counsel, so can there only be one, or at most a few, winners of the lottery. If we pray to win the lottery we are, in effect, praying for millions of othe people to lose. Many of those may need to win more than we do. Disregarding the likely failure of a millions-to-one gamble to provide a solid financial future, most folks of our kind who have won have failed to prosper regardless of the millions of $$, ¥¥, €€ or whatever, and such windfalls have been the downfall of many an addict.

Monetary solutions to most addicts’ problems are no solution at all, because we’ve proven by our failure to effectively run our lives (Just bad luck — not our fault at all, right?) that we can’t handle that kind of prosperity. The same is true of all problems that originate outside ourselves. If we insist on thinking that our version of TWTOTB is the answer to handling problems and stress, we will never find relief.

That’s pretty obvious. Most of us with any recovery to speak of give lip service to the idea. Nonetheless, many remain caught in the circle of this-is-wrong, I-have-the-answer, if-they’d only listen to me, and the other self-centered expressions of our inability to look squarely at reality. The fact is, there are at the time of this writing about 7.6 billion other people in the world. Virtually all of them think they know how things ought to be, and every one of their ideas is at conflict with ours to one degree or another. It couldn’t possibly be otherwise.

It should be obvious: that’s an insoluble problem. We are never going to get our way when, in order to do so, we have to control other people’s desires. Essentially, that is what TWTOTB is about: running the world and other people’s business. We may well know the way things ought to be, but that doesn’t matter to the rest of the world, and as long as we cling to that way of thinking, we’re living outside reality. No matter how “good” our morals and ethics, no matter how “correct” our thinking, to imagine that our rules matter much to anyone else is simply insanity. We might be able to impose them by force, but we’re not going to change anyone’s mind. No wonder we’re loaded with stress! We’re looking for life’s answers in all the wrong places.

The Serenity Prayer has become a cliché, especially in the rooms of recovery. We say it frequently, but we don’t pay attention. Still, it’s the answer to all our problems. The AA folks will say that “acceptance is the answer to all my problems today”, but isn’t that the same thing: accepting the things I cannot change (everything outside myself) and changing the things I can?

Other than that, the best we can hope for is exerting some helpful influence, and that requires that we be good examples, and that requires that we first get our own shit together. That’s what the Steps, especially four, five, eight, nine and ten, are about. If we are honest, open and willing to do something about our self-centeredness — when we realize that whether or not we think we know The Way Things Ought To Be doesn’t matter to anyone else — then it will be easier to put down the burden of running the world in our own heads.

That’s what brings happiness, and it doesn’t cost a $, a ¥, or a € — it’s free! But, unlike the “pleasures” of acting out, it takes a while to relieve the stress. On the other hand, it’s real, lasting relief instead of a momentary burst of dopamine and serotonin. The catch is that it takes willingness, work, and self-discovery. The last is most likely what we’ve been trying to avoid for years by our addictive behavior, so the work part is cut out for us. The willingness we have to bring to the party ourselves.

Looking at reality instead of dreaming about running the show is scary, and making the changes that reality demands is even scarier. But if your idea of The Way Things Ought To Be is working for you, relieving your stress, and making you “happy”, why did you bother reading this far?

2 thoughts on “The Way Things Ought To Be

  1. look4joy

    Well, isn’t that something…EXACTLY what I needed to be reminded of today! Acceptance is always the answer, and when I actually practice it instead of preaching it, life goes much more smoothly. Thank you :)


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