So, I just took a quick long weekend trip to Key West Over the past few days. I never thought I was a fan of Key West. I had been there two times earlier in recovery and all I saw was drinking and debauchery everywhere. That’s what I always assimilated the island with.
Now, another decade later, and I went back to the island and had an entirely different experience. This is because of a shift in perspective. This shift in perspective that is required to live a healthy, satisfying sober life is something that I speak about often.
I recently shared a meme that said “Don’t let your own ice cream melt because we’re counting other people’s sprinkles”. This hits home for most of us. We get so caught up in this whirlwind of self pity, and/or comparing ourselves to others that we miss out on our own miracles. Instead of being grateful for what we do have, we are bitter about what we don’t have. This way of thinking is a victim mentality and leads to a very miserable existence. It is a mental prison.
It is amazing where our minds can take us. In early recovery all I saw everywhere I went was dope. Whether it was in a convenience store parking lot, or a street corner or a doctors waiting room. I would notice empty heroin pills on the ground, addicts shoplifting or nodding out. Every single place I went, it’s all that I would see. Other people around me were somehow oblivious.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I can still spot a junkie from a mile away just by their walk, and I can still recognize a caper going down around me at any given moment. My mind is still familiar with and trained to the streets, however it’s not subconsciously focused on them at all times. It’s not seeking out the negative around me anymore in order to play out this victim narrative in my mind. “Poor me, I can’t get high anymore. Poor me, everyone can drink and have fun except for me”. Instead, I’ve learned how to focus on myself and the path ahead of me instead of the negative distractions.
Key West is no doubt a drinking town. It is one big party. The people I was with were no exception to the rule. However, I was able to find what interested me, I was able to focus on the positive, and get everything out of this beautiful island rather than dwell in the pity party that everyone else could drink and I couldn’t.
On top of that, instead of looking at other people’s drunkenness judgementally, I was able to respect each of their paths and smile at the fun they were having. They are not me. Maybe their life is in order, maybe they won’t be so hungover and guilt ridden the next day that they’ll have to drink more to make it go away. Maybe they’re enjoying their one vacation a year away from their job and kids and if their drunken obnoxiousness or ignorance bothers me then maybe I need to look at myself to understand why instead of secretly hating them. I learned to shift my perspective awhile ago to focus on myself and stop worrying about others paths and it has enriched my whole experience no matter where I go.
The chocolate covered key lime pie on a stick tasted better (yes I trashed my diet), the scooter rides around the island were fun, the Tranny shows on Duvall St and people watching in old town was fun and no longer uncomfortable and life was just a lot more memorable. I had ice cream every single night (yes, I trashed my diet) and that ice cream tasted so much better now that I wasn’t counting anyone else’s sprinkles….or scoops…or chocolate sauce.
Recovery isn’t about white knuckling our way through life, miserable that we have some kind of disease that is anti-fun. Everyone gets to have fun but us. That’s not true, but is an easy trap to fall into in regards to our mindset. We must actively seek out the positive in everything until it becomes natural. Once our thinking changes then our life changes. Our experiences become richer when we focus on ourselves instead of others. This life was meant to be enjoyed to the last drop and the person that stops us the most from doing so is ourselves.
As they say in the step programs, shift into an attitude of gratitude. Think about where you could be as opposed to where you are now, and then focus on where you’re heading. Trust the process and enjoy it and everything else will fall into place.