The year is 1993, barely, and I’m sitting in a church basement in the midst of a lot of guys that had been sober a whole lot longer than I had. I maybe had three or four months… I’m whining about how tough it is to keep from drinking, how tough it is back in my parents house, how it’s not fair that I hadn’t gotten my license back, and a bunch of other whiny stuff.
An old guy, probably mid 60’s (he died long ago unfortunately), hands me a napkin with K.I.S.S. scratched on it in black ink. I had no idea what the hell that meant, at first I thought he was gay or something, hitting on the fresh meat. I looked over at him with a puzzled “WTF” look on my face (this is obviously way before WTF, but you get the idea).
He looks me right in the eyes and says, “Keep it simple, stupid”. Well, let’s just suffice it to say the look on my face changed from “WTF” to “STFU” in a hurry. He picked up the KISS note and wrote in descending order from each letter, K.eep I.t S.imple S.tupid and handed it back. Then he explained what that meant specifically. My life, at three months sober, was still, obviously, a train wreck. I had a lot of mess to clean up. Keep it simple stupid meant one thing at a time there, whippersnapper. Then he said, “Look, if you really want to get drunk, go do it. Just make sure you come back when you’re good and done”. That may sound harsh, but that’s the way the grown-ups do it where I grew up. I explained that I didn’t want to actually get loaded, I was just having a tough time obsessing about it. He laughed and said, “Well we can work with that, it’s a good place to start. Next time why don’t you explain yourself a little better”. That very well could have been the last time I really whined about something right there because once I sat through that lesson, it changed the way I look at life’s problems forever. I’m certainly not perfect, but I’m a lot more open to solutions rather than staying stuck in the problem.
That old guy gave me my 6 months sober coin shortly thereafter and when he did, he looked me right in the eye, the same exact way and said, “Keep coming back. If you do, before you know it you’ll be standing there wondering how it could possibly get any better… Keep coming back after that, and it will”.
That was more than 19 years ago and that has happened, many, many times over.
P.S. He said “better”, not “easier”. There is a very big difference.