The Power of Choice

9 Jul

Back in June of 2014, I wrote a piece called “Turn the Beat Around – Part II.” It was the second blog piece I wrote about music and how so many songs revolve around drinking. At the end of the piece, I was talking about the song “Choices” by George Jones and I mentioned Dr. William Glasser’s “Choice Theory.”   I postponed a more comprehensive discussion about choice until another day. Well, today is that day.

As open and honest I am in my writing, there’s obviously stuff that is off-limits and that I choose not to share here. Not now anyway. Maybe some day. Some of it is too embarrassing or shameful. Some of it would affect other people. Some of it I still need to process. Some of it comes as the layers of the onion peel away.

But as the saying goes, “you’re only as sick as your secrets.” So I have to somehow get these things out and deal with them so I can move on and get healthier. It’s not easy work by any stretch of the imagination, but it is vital. I’m not ashamed to say I go to therapy, I work with a sponsor, I work the steps of a twelve-step program, and I am blessed to have a few people in whom I can confide, safely and without judgment.

In my last piece, “How Big is the Damn Onion – Part II,” I talked about things bubbling up as I spent some quiet, contemplative time at the lake with my daughter. Stuff I had buried down in my subconscious. There’s a show called “Hoarders,” where they follow people who accumulate tons of stuff over the years and can’t get rid of it. Their houses are completely filled from floor to ceiling with stuff. I think I am an emotional hoarder. I hold on to so much crap that I don’t need. Not only do I not need it, it’s harmful baggage. I don’t want to be sick with secrets so I am choosing to let them go.

Dr. William Glasser, the psychiatrist who developed the “Choice Theory” stated that “it is almost impossible for anyone, even the most ineffective among us, to continue to choose misery after becoming aware that it is a choice.” Sounds simple but maybe not. How can it be impossible to choose misery if your life is falling apart? Besides, I suffer from depression. I don’t choose to be miserable…sometimes I just am. So I started doing some more digging on happiness and choice.

There’s a book called “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin. The subtitle is “Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle and Generally Have More Fun. She spent a year chronicling her quest to be happier. She gives the reader tips for different monthly focuses geared to help achieve happiness.

A friend told me today about another book called “Resisting Happiness” by Matthew Kelly. It’s tag line is “A true story about why we sabotage ourselves, feel overwhelmed, set aside our dreams, and lack the courage to simply be ourselves… and how to start choosing happiness again!” I’ve already ordered it and am very curious to find out why I sabotage myself and why I “resist” happiness. Well, maybe I used to, but as I said, I’m choosing not to any more.

Now, five years into my recovery, I’m finally beginning to understand that everything is a choice, starting with my choice to get sober and healthier. Every day I make a choice to stay sober. It is a daily reprieve based on our spiritual connection, as a friend says. I’ve been faced, many times over the past five years, with the choice to go ahead and pick up that drink or not. No matter how many days, weeks, months or years of sobriety I have, it can be gone in a split second with the wrong choice. Don’t get me wrong, the choice isn’t always so easy to make. Alcoholism is cunning, baffling and powerful. It constantly tries to influence that choice in its favor. The Drink Devil vs. the Sobriety Angel.

As for the choice to be happy, I’m not sure it’s quite that simple, but I am realizing that I have much more power than I thought. I can choose to do the next right thing, which can lead me to happiness. I can choose to let go of things which no longer serve me. I can choose to pile on the things I complain about or I can write a gratitude list. I can also let go of things I cannot control by reminding myself of the Serenity Prayer.

My message when I speak to people is that it’s never too late to turn things around. First, however, you have to make the choice to do so. And if somehow, you don’t know what the right choice is, ask for help or guidance. I’m guessing that deep down you may know the answer, but if you’re like me, you’ve got too much old baggage to see clearly down there. That’s why we say “Let go and let God.” Get rid of what no longer serves you and turn it over to your higher power. That’s a huge step right there toward happiness.

I used to think I could find happiness in a bottle. I can tell you definitively that you cannot. I also used to think I could avoid unhappiness by pulling the covers over my head and hiding. That doesn’t work either. Neither of those things allowed me to stand up and be present in my life, one of the most important pieces of advice I ever received.   If you make the choice to stand up and be present, things may not be easy, but you can look back and always feel like you gave it your best shot.

“Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.”  – Aristotle






4 Responses to “The Power of Choice”

  1. Bob Hisel July 9, 2017 at 10:32 am #

    My son traveled with a Non-profit to Africa to support their program to bring drinking water to remote African tribes. He marveled at how happy these people were who “had virtually nothing”. He concluded, very wisely, that it is not what you have, but it is being happy with whatever it is that you do have, that makes you happy.

  2. Paul S July 12, 2017 at 5:18 pm #

    Fantastic post. I often have to switch my thinking from victim to one of power of choice. I DO have a choice to be miserable or not. My shame comes from the fact that I sometimes choose the misery. But that’s my bed and I lie in it. It’s not fun. So I do what I can to make the mental adjustment. It’s not always easy because misery is my default! Even 6+ years on, it’s a struggle. But there is progress and hope. There always is, and when I choose light, I look back and wonder why I chose darkness.

    Thanks for this uplifting post.

  3. Barry July 17, 2017 at 11:28 am #

    Circles of Sober Alcoholics

    Come with a story and take your turn as
    One of us welcome within the circle
    Meeting every morning for an hour and
    When we’re done we’ll disperse to our lives with

    A renewed sense of purpose because it’s
    Not about beating the obsession with
    Alcohol for most of us but about
    Living differently finding confidence

    Discovering the inspiration to
    Be useful and productive and once in
    A while I’m pleasantly surprised because
    I realize how much I’ve changed from the

    Miserable drunk with a splitting head
    To an optimist exploring today.

    It’s our purpose with
    stories to encourage those
    obsessed with drinking
    to show it’s possible to
    overcome the urge to drink.


  4. Patrick Tuohy August 22, 2017 at 11:37 am #

    I have enjoyed this piece, as all I’ve encountered. I met you while on vacation in the Berkshires, at noon. I work in mental health & substance abuse because I am a member type of deal. I know how it feels. I often ask myself, “Jeez, how many layers will I need?” 8 years later, and it seems the real roots are just being revealed, at the top of a thousand steps! This task seems daunting but on a daily basis, I feel free from the chains. The moments of depression only grip for small moments until I regain my traction. It has been a pleasure meeting you and obtaining your card to follow this Blog. Thank you.

    Patrick Tuohy

Leave a Reply to Barry Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: