Shirley, who died a few years ago, wrapped her recovery around me when I was new and scared. She’d say, “Now honey, you’re gonna be alright. All you have to do right now is stay sober and God will take care of everything else. Just keep it simple, sweetie.”
An acronym of love
I don’t think KISS–originally known as Keep It Simple, Stupid–is talked about much anymore. I never liked that version of the acronym anyway. Shirley’s version–Keep It Simple, Sweetie, is much gentler and more loving.
When you’re new to recovery, keeping things simple is a really, really good idea (not a bad plan for long-term recovery either!) but attaching a derogatory term like stupid only emphasizes a recovering person’s low self-image and esteem.
Instead, using sweetie eliminates the negative connotation. It’s softer and helps me take it easy on myself.
Most recently, Keep It Simple, Sweetie has opened my eyes to the beautiful surroundings of working the 12 steps all over again with a woman who reminds me a little bit of Shirley.
Step One: Powerlessness and Unmanageability
Working through the steps with a couple of decades of sobriety is an interesting proposition. For instance, I didn’t really understand that honesty is involved in becoming aware of my lack of power and seeing how my life is unmanageable.
Digging into what honesty means is daunting. Think about this one: Dishonesty includes the delusion of control.
Being honest implies telling the truth which is fairly easy until you begin to consider all the lies we tell ourselves, like: we’re happy when we’re not, we’re satisfied when we’re not or we’re okay when we’re not.
So, are you completely honest today?
Acceptance is the key
The trick is to do this work with no judgment. Any thought I have like, I should know this already with 24 years in recovery needs to exit the head space.
Instead, I keep it simple, sweetie. Go easy, be loving, be gentle. Listen to the words of Melody Beattie as you say then aloud:
We do not move forward by resisting what is undesirable in our life today. We move forward, we grow, we change by acceptance.
And these words:
Overcome not by force. Overcome by surrender.
Just as I never really thought about Step One including honesty, I also didn’t realize that it included acceptance.
I’ve always just plowed through the first step as it’s written: I am powerless over alcohol and my life is unmanageable.
There’s a fairly famous story in the book Alcoholics Anonymous called “Acceptance Was the Answer” (fka “Doctor, Alcoholic, Addict”) in which the author describes finally getting to the core understanding of how it is possible to stay sober.
Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept my life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.
Indeed, acceptance is the necessary response to all my problems–real or perceived–today.
Now that’s what I call keeping it simple, sweetie.
Photo courtesy of scottsann