A wise sage once told us, “Do, or do not: There is no try.” He may have been a fictional character, but Yoda’s words in “The Empire Strikes Back” are powerfully resonant when it comes to recovery, and to life itself.
Think about it: How often do we say, “I’ll try?”
“Are you going to a meeting today?” “I’ll try.” “Are you going to the gym today?” “I’ll try.” “Are you gonna call your mom today?” “I’ll try.” “Are you going to finish up that assignment today?” “I’ll try.” Sometimes, it seems we’re doing a whole lot of “trying” but very little “doing,” and that can be a dangerous place for all of us.
For those of us in recovery, the Third Step teaches us that our newfound way of living encourages us to make a decision; not just to turn our will and our lives over to a Higher Power, but in all areas of our lives. For too long, we were paralyzed by indecision; we lived in fear of “what if,” and we let the worst-case scenarios prevent us from taking any action at all. However, we justify our inaction by claiming that we’ll “try” to do something, when in reality we have no intention of even attempting it. Once we get clean, we may earnestly intend to carry through on our intentions, but if recovery teaches us anything, it’s to pay attention to the power of language.
For example, read the First Step carefully: “We admitted we were powerless over our addiction/alcoholism, that our lives had become unmanageable.” The emphasis on those italicized words is palpable: We were powerless. Once we embrace a program of recovery, we are given power — not over our disease, but over the unmanageability caused by it. We begin the process of restoration to sanity in the Second Step, and we make a conscious decision in the Third Step, and so on; the benefit of time and willingness leads us to a place where we are powerless no longer over our decisions and our actions, and the unmanageability of our active addiction and alcoholism becomes a thing of the past — hence the use of past tense in that First Step.
The language of the Steps are beautiful things, and once we begin to see and appreciate the nuance of them, we can also pay attention to the everyday language we use with others. We no longer “try,” because we know that we will either choose to do something or choose not to do it. In addition, we reevaluate our use of the word “can’t.” Clearly, there are things we “can’t” do — if we jump off of the roof of our house, for example, we “can’t” fly. But when someone asks us if we are going to a meeting, and we say, “I can’t,” what we’re really saying is, “I choose not to.” And that’s OK — sometimes, we choose to make other things a priority for a valid reason. If we’re going on vacation with our family, for example, it’s a perfectly acceptable reason as to why we can’t make our regular meetings. But being cognizant of the language we use helps us to better understand our own motives.
And that’s a realization that serves all of us, those in recovery and those of us who aren’t. It’s so easy to get swept up in the flotsam and jetsam of life’s demands and feel like we’re being pulled against our will down a mighty river of circumstances beyond our control. And sometimes, the things that happen to us have nothing to do with the choices that we make. But how we react to those circumstances, those created by our own doing and those that come at us out of nowhere, can set the stage for how we feel about them.
Helplessness, hopelessness, despair … those emotions do not serve our lives. They contribute nothing except misery, and if there’s one thing I try to hold on to these days, is that while pain is unavoidable, misery is optional. Life will throw some challenges our way, and some of them are going to hurt like hell. But the choices we make — the ones we actually make and not the ones we “try” to make — can make all of the difference in the world.
What are we doing today to rid ourselves of suffering? What are we “trying” instead of doing? By paying attention to everything, including the phrases we use, we can focus our actions on results. Things will happen to us, but we can make things happen as well — to better our circumstances, improve our situations and make the world a little better, for us and the people with whom we share this little corner of Planet Earth.
Here's your Friday motivation, friends.