Changing Perceptions

Changing Perceptions

The problem of the alcoholic, as they say, centres in the mind. My basic flaw was that my mind would never let me adopt a sane and healthy perspective on life, which is another way of saying that people, places and things hacked me off and that I was riddled with fear. To say that I had a negative outlook on life is an understatement. I think most of us were aware that a better, more accepting view on life would be good for us, but didn’t know what to do to achieve that simple aim. For example, I knew that I probably should have had a more understanding perspective on my mother-in-law’s little known religious affiliations, but every time the subject came up it just made me angry. I felt that what people said about these things was just so much preachy nonsense. I knew best.

My perception of me and the world around had to change, or I was a dead man. Why? Because drinking had been the only thing that seemed to change my perceptions, and drinking was going to kill me. I didn’t know all this the way I do now, but I did become willing to do certain actions that to me seemed irrelevant to ‘fixing’ me, although it was a healthy realisation that I needed fixing! More experienced people, principally my sponsor and other old-timers, would suggest actions that were designed to alter my perceptions. Doing service was one; doing jobs for my home group changed my perception of meetings that seemed (and can seem now) a drag, into a place where time passes quickly and people are more pleasant. All this required trust; I trusted my sponsor and the principles he presented me with, mainly because he was doing these things himself.

They say truthfully that we can act our way into a better way of thinking, but we can have better thoughts, too, that change our perception. I went to look for a new car the other day and couldn’t help thinking that all car garage types are nasty rip-off merchants. However, on this occasion I actively thought, ‘think no evil, fear no evil’ and it worked – I wasn’t charged with negativity and all was well. Even here, though, AA actions play a very important role by suggesting that I take spot inventory beforehand and that I practice Step 3 (it’s up to God whether I come away with new wheels).  

And my perceptions need to keep on changing, and being challenged, because that is growth in the life of the spirit. The alternative is that my perceptions morph back into the unhealthy variety I had before. This doesn’t mean that a changed perception is necessarily going to make me feel happy all the time. What does happen, though, is that each time I am willing to adopt a different outlook, and each time that works, I get more used to doing it next time. I have an alternative to the tide of negative emotions that constantly wash across the shores of my consciousness. Trust in my sponsor and the AA principles are the key. I’ve lost count of the times my sponsor has said or done something that seems ill-advised or ‘wrong’. Invariably I have come round to see that he was right and that he thinks more about what’s good for the group (and for me) than I know for myself. When I recovered from this ‘disease of perception’ I went round to see my in-laws. Mother still spoke about those religious things but instead of getting my hackles up I found myself nodding in agreement. What happy circumstances, these!

                                                                                                                                       Jon F, Road to Recovery Group, Plymouth