This is another one of the Alcoholics Anonymous slogans. To me it means to live my life as it unfolds and to not meddle in other people’s business. Basically, we are told to mind our own business. Alcoholics, sober and not sober have an uncanny knack for telling other people what they should do in any given situation. We are experts or consultants on any topic that may crop up in any given situation. Never mind that our life may be in shambles, we sincerely know what is best for you.
The Big Book of Alcoholics anonymous states that “nothing pays off like restraint of tongue and pen. We must avoid quick-tempered criticism and furious power-driven argument.” We need to learn that not every comment needs a response. At times we will respond when a response isn’t even necessary. Other people may be just venting or talking and have no expectation of a response or a would-be solution to whatever it is they are talking about. But we alcoholics think ourselves great fixers and respond anyway. This can cause tension between the parties conversing.
Another thing alcoholics are not big on is keeping silent. Mark Twain said, “it is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.” This is a very important lesson for alcoholics to learn. Silence can be a powerful tool. We let the other person know we are listening through eye contact and the possibility of nodding our heads. This shows that we are interested in what is being said. We don’t have to respond with a suggestion or solution to what the other person is saying. We can simply be there for them and show our empathy through just listening to them. We are not all knowing or experts on every topic in the universe.
The solution lies in cultivating mindfulness when communicating with others. We need to strive to remain in our serene state of mind. We also need to learn that not every pause in a conversation calls for a response. We need to resist the urge to fill the silence. If we find ourselves getting irritated during a conversation, we need to slow down and breathe. Don’s take things personally. We need to watch our body language and not get drawn onto the others conscious or unconscious agendas.
We need to live our best life possible. The number one thing we need to do is to remain sober. A practicing alcoholic is basically living an unlived life. They are just going through the motions until they can get their next drink, pill or fix. While using we are not much interested in what others have to say. We tend to want to do all the talking in a conversation and put forth our agenda. It’s no wonder that we end up with no friends while using. We are quite obnoxious even when not under the influence.
By living our best life, we are able to enjoy the big and small things in our lives. When sober we usually gain a few friends and learn how to be a good friend. We are invited to join others in different activities. We may even become likeable as persons! So there is great value in learning restraint of tongue and pen.