Two Words That Can Save Your Sobriety: So What?

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Scott Brassart

Life happens. No matter how well we plan and prepare, we constantly encounter challenges and obstacles. Sometimes it seems like one darn thing after another after another until we just can’t take it anymore. When that happens, I suggest that we might want to ask ourselves a very simple question: So what?

This may sound like I’m suggesting we simply ignore or dismiss the situation in which we find ourselves. Believe me, I’m not. That’s what we did in our active addiction, and it didn’t work very well. What I’m really saying is that we need to say to ourselves, “OK, this is what it is. Now what am I going to do next? How can I make things better?” Basically, instead of wallowing in self-pity, we can say “So what?” and then we can move forward, taking steps to fix the situation as best we can.

If we’ve applied for a job we really want and we did our best to get it and then we find out they’re going in a different direction, we can get angry and feel sorry for ourselves and shut down, or we can figure out what happened, learn whatever there is to learn from the experience, decide what’s next, and move on. Getting angry and feeling sorry for ourselves keeps us stuck in the muck and mire of self-pity. Saying “So what?” helps us push through the setback so we can look for the next opportunity.

I find that in recovery, pretty much every obstacle, disappointment, and challenge is a “So what?” situation. We can’t control the world around us, but we can control ourselves. When things don’t go as we would like, we can try to control and micromanage and force the world to behave our way instead of its way – which never works – or we can accept things as they are and move forward with decisions based on reality as it is, not as we’d like it to be.

When sobriety and other elements of our lives present us with challenges, we can wallow in self-pity or we can embrace those challenges, viewing them as learning experiences and ways to grow and become better.

But that’s not human nature, of course. Especially for addicts. Human nature is to blame someone else and, for addicts, to numb the pain and shame and disappointment with an addictive substance or behavior. You know the drill. “They probably hired the boss’s nephew. I never had a chance. I don’t know why I even tried. Poor me. Poor me. Pour me a drink.”

Well, let’s change the drill. Let’s ask, “So what?” Then we can learn from the situation and get back in the game. If we can say “So what?” when things don’t go our way, we can reframe our disappointments as opportunities. “I didn’t get that job, which means my Higher Power must have something else in mind for me. I wonder what that is. I’m excited to find out.”