Please Don’t “Should” On My Life
Every time I hear the word “should,” I am reminded of a woman I knew years ago. She had way more sobriety than I did, way more life experience than I did, and the only time she ever used this word was to ask people not to throw it at her.
She never told me I should do anything. Which I was so grateful for since so many other people were looking at me with ‘that look’ and starting off practically every sentence with
…go to meetings, at LEAST once a day. Unless you want to die.”
…stay out of a relationship in your first year of sobriety. Unless you want to die AND be responsible for the death of another alcoholic/addict.” Because, as we all know, a tiny fairy comes and sprinkles you with “ready to be in a relationship” dust on your 365th day of sobriety.
…pray to the God of your own understanding, on your knees.” (this one always baffled me). What if my God doesn’t want me to kneel down to pray to Him? What if the God of my understanding wants me to feel EQUAL to Him and know that He is inside of me, in all things, all the time?
…call your sponsor before making any decisions.” After all, we’re all so stupid when we get sober, right? How did I ever make the decision to go to detox without someone else telling me I should? Oh yeah… I reached a bottom in my alcoholism and IT beat me into submission. I was READY to go and get well because I WAS SICK OF BEING DRUNK.
…not date that guy.
…not hang with that girl.
…not wear that skirt.
…should, should, should.
I’m sure we can all agree that the list of “should” could go on forever.
One day I asked my friend what I “should” do about something. I wanted her help in making a decision because I was struggling.
Do you know what she said?
“I’m not going to tell you what you should do because I don’t have to live with the consequences and I’m certainly not going to enjoy the benefits.” WHAT???
She told me that she would be happy to sit with me, and help me figure out what I already knew was the right course of action. She would ask me some questions, and help me choose the path that would lead to the results I desired.
She did not try to scare me with the threat of death or relapse, but we did talk about the possibilities of both during our conversation; IF I chose and continued down a path that wasn’t healthy for me or conducive to my recovery. She told me that she would respect my decision no matter what I chose to do. She reminded me that God’s plan will always win out…even if I fight it and Him. When I asked her how I would know God’s will, she answered very matter-of-factly and said, “When we’re aligned with God’s will, things in life run smoothly.”
This was one of the most amazing conversations of my life, and not once did my friend tell me what to do or do any of my thinking for me. Instead, she taught me how to think for myself and empowered me to make some tough decisions with knowledge I already had. Over the years I have learned that my “gut feelings” are God’s way of reminding me that I have the answer.
When I was newly sober, it was important to run my “drinking thinking” by someone else. Like, if I thought it was a great idea to meet up with old drinking buddies, head to our old haunts, and “just drink soda.” These thoughts were natural at first and at times seemed like good ones. I needed other sober people to redirect those thoughts and help me realize the thoughts were my way back to a drink. I did not need to hear the word should in any of those conversations.
It’s like that old proverb about giving a man to fish, and teaching a man to fish.My friend did not give me a “should” and/or try to solve my problem that day. Instead, she taught me how to feed my soul for a lifetime. It’s been over twelve years since we had that conversation, and it STILL comes to mind when I’m struggling with something, someone, etc. If my life isn’t running smoothly, I turn inward for the answers, and talk with other sober women that don’t “should” on me. We help each other move forward, or change paths and direction, and we don’t “should.”
I have made almost every mistake and bad choice one can make in sobriety without drinking. I have caused myself and others pain, and I have suffered many torturous consequences. I have learned things about myself that I would never have known and been able to own if it had not been for some of these choices. These life lessons have helped me to make better decisions over the years. and have shaped the woman I am today. I am not sorry for them and I do not wish to rob anyone of these lessons.
If someone comes to me with a problem, I cannot let my fear for them dictate the conversation. I know today that I am NOT in charge, and I don’t wish to play God for anyone. If it is true that “pain is the touchstone of spiritual growth,” who am I to stand between you and it. No, my job as a friend is to support the people in my life and respect them and their choices, even if I don’t necessarily agree with them. I have no idea where their choices will take them and what lessons they will learn, but I do know that I will be there with hugs and a pat on the back when they make the right decisions for them.
So please, don’t “should” on my life.
Julie Maida lives in Massachusetts with her amazing husband and three children. She has been in abstinence-based recovery since May 2, 2000.
Julie is eternally grateful for all the gifts of recovery and fiercely determined to advocate for, and connect ALL women with the appropriate support and resources necessary to achieve their personal recovery goals. She writes about mothering with mental illness at juliemaida.me.