Paulelmo's Blog

Do the next right thing 2

Hard-working hands

This post is titled “Do the next right thing 2” because there is an earlier post on this site, which centers around this AA nugget, and I believe that one was titled “Do the next right thing.” So, this is the second post that centers around that advice.

Most people who have been to the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous have heard this phrase. The philosophy behind it is that we maintain our sobriety by doing the next right thing, and then doing the next right thing, and then we do the next right thing. We do this all day until we’ve pieced together a sober day, and then we wake up in the morning until we’ve pieced together another sober day. Rinse and repeat. We do the one simple and small thing enough times to make it a big thing. We piece together sober life, sober days and weeks and years, by continuously doing the small things, the next right thing, over and over again.

And what is “the next right thing”? The next right thing is anything that fills time we would otherwise fill with using. I was a drinker, so, for me, the next right thing is anything that keeps me from drinking. If someone’s habit or addiction was pills, the next right thing is anything that keeps him or her from popping pills.

The notion is based on this thought: Good life, stretching out years into the future, is based on well-spent moments.

It’s a good philosophy, and I highly ascribe to it. In time, however, my focus on those words became different from how I saw most people in the rooms of AA focusing on them. They placed the emphasis on the word “right,” while, in time, I found the advice worked best for me if I focused on “do.”

“Right” is such a subjective term. Yes, in this case, “right” can be defined as anything that isn’t the practice of our abusing lives, but it’s still a subjective word, and it’s still not always so easy to define.

“Do,” however, is much easier to define. Stay busy. Stay busy doing anything that has nothing to do with how you practiced your habit or your addiction. Stay busy with things that will occupy your mind and keep you from thinking about the things you don’t need to be thinking about.

These thoughts bring about thoughts of the old saying “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop.” If we’re busy doing the things that keep us from using, we won’t be free to use.

So, that’s the first part of these thoughts. Now I want to tie it into my post from yesterday. In that post, I said something about back in my drinking days and how I was always trying to the be the best version of myself. It could also be said that I was always trying to do what was right. I don’t live like that these days. I don’t try to be anything; I just am, and I am through doing.

These are not perfect thoughts, friends. I won’t have you thinking that I believe they are. Still, I’m nearly eight years sober, and I’m happy with the life I live every day. I do what needs to get done, I don’t second-guess myself, and I never feel the need to try to be something or someone I’m not. I say these things for this reason: You may not need these words; maybe nobody in this world needs these words. Still, I’ll tell you this: I wish someone would have said these things to me back when I was drinking, back when I was trying not to drink, back when I was both the guy who caused all the problems and the guy who thought he could fix them.

I do, and then I do what comes next, and then I do what comes next. At some point, the day ends, I go to sleep, and I wake up and start the whole process over again. It’s working for me, whether it’s right or not. My kids are taken care of, and my wife finds me tolerable enough, so I’ll stay the course. I feel certain it will serve me well.

Hope you took something from this, friends, and I hope to see you back here sometime soon.

Until then, be well and work hard.

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