Life Is Hard Because…

“Life is hard. We make it that way.”

I just had a conversation with a recovering drug addict and he was reminding me that when life is hard, it’s often because of something I’ve chosen in my life. How true.

Until AA it was so much more comfortable for me to retain my growing up perspective that life is hard because of my siblings, the small town I live in or maybe it’s hard because I live in Iowa. It took no imagination whatever to believe my life was hard because my dad was my coach, my PE teacher and even my principal in high school. I just wanted to get out of school, get married and move away.

Since then, I’ve graduated from college, had a family, got divorced, changed careers several times, quit drinking, bought an RV and moved away from the Midwest . My Mom just had neck surgery, I talk to her everyday and my dad, is about to start radiation therapy for cancer. I’m still me and life is still hard sometimes.

What is surprising to me, at almost 60, is that all those same character defects that got me in trouble at age 6, still tries to pull me into trouble at this age. I sometimes react and become demanding of myself and others.

Ironically, it usually starts with my avoidance of pain and suffering. Wouldn’t you think that’s just healthy self-protective behavior?

Before AA, my life was consumed with avoiding pain and problems whenever possible. Until now, our lives have been largely devoted to running from pain and problems. We fled from them as from a plague. We never wanted to deal with the fact of suffering. Escape via the bottle was always our solution. Character-building through suffering might be all right for saints, but it certainly didn’t appeal to us. ~ page 74 Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

Some days I still think life is hard, although not as hard as it once was. Because of AA, it’s a lot easier. I know now that the pain of life is something I have to live through, even embrace somehow. Now that I don’t drink, I have to find ways to face the pain of life, whether caused by unavoidable circumstances, my past actions or by my current choices. I can’t just turn away from problems but have to find ways to deal with them productively (meaning not hurting myself or others in the process).

The key being, I must deal with the avoidance behavior brought on by fear and self-centeredness. I have to be willing to face it and turn it over to God, asking Him to remove these traits because I’m helpless. I want to have the humility to ask over and over every time they crop up in response to a new fear.

God has removed my obsession over drinking and taking Step 6 & 7 has helped with my reactions a lot, but I’m not cured. It’s a battle, still. A daily choice of whether I access God’s grace through asking Him to remove my character defects or not. Sometimes I am more comfortable staying in the pain of my usual reactionary self. Sometimes I want to blame others for making me feel badly.

But I know better.