Flexibility: The Key to Long term Sobriety

By Ken Wells - 06/19/2020


“I was desperately unhappy trying to adjust to the world” – Al Purdy

One day I watched a 10 year old boy who loved PBJ’S (peanut butter and jelly sandwiches). From the shelf, he grabbed his jar of creamy peanut butter and from the fridge he reached for his favorite strawberry jam. He noticed the jar of peanut butter had diminished to a point of being able to see light at the bottom of the jar. So he threw the jar into the garbage and reached for the backup jar on the pantry shelf— only, to discover his mom had failed to pick up another jar at the grocery! Faced with a dilemma of having no back up, he walked away from the kitchen with disappointment written all over his face. This would be a day he would experience with no PBJ to start his day.

His father noticing the dilemma, called for his son to come back to the kitchen. He pulled the jar of peanut butter that was thrown into the garbage. He made sure that the jar did not have any garbage or gunk on it and then scraped the sides of the jar and provided enough peanut butter for a 1/2” thick rather than the usual 1” thick peanut butter his 10 year old was used to. He then slapped the slice of bread with the strawberry jam and Walah!- his son had his PBJ. The young boy took the sandwich and left the kitchen — eating it on his way out. His father called to him and said— “you were willing to do without- but, when you take what is and spread it around you had exactly what you hoped for- a PBJ sandwich”

When it comes to long term sobriety with addiction, I often think of this story about the peanut butter sandwich. Long term sobriety requires an addict to be flexible and to make adjustments. Rigid thinking with an inflexible attitude will break you.

Most days I wake up with a bad attitude. It’s not always noticeable, but it’s true. My body often hurts, I don’t really want to throw my run clothes on and go for a morning run. I don’t want to get ready to see a bunch of people, be bothered with answering e-mails and for God sake face the reality that I am an addict! Yet over time I have learned to lean into what I don’t want to do and in short time can shift my attitude and make an adjustment from what I don’t want to do to what is. Training myself to adjust to what is has been an extremely important life skill toward long term sobriety in my life.

The compelling reality about recovery is that life is so daily! It just keeps coming at you. One of my son’s athletic trainers once said “that anyone can do what champions do once, but true champions do it every day”. Well, my “jock” days have long since been over. Yet, being able to make daily adjustments in my attitude about obstacles in the presence of testing times has proven invaluable to establishing long term sobriety.

Sometimes, situations in life can become so intolerable and annoying. There’s just no avoiding the hassles and unfair treatment that can occur in business, life at home and how I feel about myself. Cultivating a flexible spirit requires that I surrender to the powerlessness of any given moment. When I do I discover that I am not void of the helpful resources that assist me to adjust and break the forces of addictive craving. I don’t always do it right and sometimes with plenty of grumble. Yet, when I take what is and spread it around, it is amazing how I am able to become content with what is in the here and now. This is the attitude that conditions me to do the next right thing about addiction and everyday life choices.  This only happens when I commit to the everyday conditioning toward cultivating the attitude of making adjustments. No matter how impatient you may feel or undesirable attitude you may have, you can become flexible and condition yourself to make every day adjustments that will help you take what is and spread it around and make it enough. Conditioning and training your heart and mind to make attitudinal adjustments is a part of destiny that will help you achieve sobriety today.

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