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We were all sitting around a big booth table in a coffee shop in a suburb south of Chicago.  A man in his early twenties was talking about his new job, and the anxiety he felt about getting along with his co-workers.  An older woman was part of the group, and as he talked, she watched the snow falling outside the shop, coating the silver fir trees in the park across the street.  The man paused to drink some coffee, and the woman turned to him and said, “What they think of you is none of your business.”

We were all friends, so the young man knew she was giving advice.  He smiled and said, “So I shouldn’t care how I come off to them?”

She shook her head and answered, “That’s not what I said.  You are responsible for how you act, and for your attitude toward them.  You’re not responsible for what they do with all that.  In fact, it’s none of your business.  You can’t control it, you can’t make them see you a certain way, you can’t predict how their morning went before they met up with you. You have no idea what is happening in each individual life.  So, be kind, admit your mistakes, and try to be useful.  The rest of it is not your problem.”

We were all impressed, and nobody spoke for a minute.  The conversation turned to the Bulls, and how hard it is to get your feet warm in winter, and why the Chicago River must be dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day.  The young man seemed to be a little less stressed about his new job.

It seems like an obvious thing—we really can’t control what other people think of us.  In fact, we could dedicate every waking moment of our lives to managing our “image,” or what our coworkers, friends, and family say about us when we’re not present.  It wouldn’t work.  There are too many factors, too many opinions, and too many agendas out there.  We would be wasting our lives on a project that can never be completed, or even evaluated.  If you want to negatively affect how others see you, just bombard them with a constant stream of questions about what everyone thinks of you.

The sane approach to relationships is to take full responsibility for your behavior.  That means being honest with yourself about those moments when you weren’t at your best.  It means acting with good will, as often as possible.  It means apologizing and trying to clean things up, when you know you haven’t done the right thing.  It means letting go of trying to control everyone’s opinion of you.  It may mean caring a lot less about how you look on Facebook or Instagram.

Your good friends can tell you if you’re off track.  There are times when a tough choice comes along, and advice is always good.  The recovery programs teach that getting advice is crucial to sobriety.  Take the advice, do the right thing, and then stop worrying about what people are saying about you.

Are you struggling with an addiction that damages your relationships?  Do you wish you could get some sane, honest advice that would help you get back on track?  Would you like to go to bed at night with a clear conscience?  Call Sobriety Matters at 713-904-4699.  We are here to help you get back to being you!