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The Meaning of Life

Old 05-05-2015, 08:36 AM
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The Meaning of Life

In today's (Tuesday, May 5, 2015) New York Times Op. Ed. Section p.A-21) there is a column by David Brooks where he states that in recent times there has been revived interest in the meaning of life, although perhaps not in the traditional sense of listening to the preaching of old graybeard sages. If this is so, those of you who have attained some sobriety may be willing to share whether life has been given new meaning and what that meaning has been for you. Brooks has done the same by inviting his readers to look on the website of his book "The Road to Character", click on "First Steps" and send in a comment, which is then posted on the site's blog called "The Conversation". The results, he says, will be reported in one or two later columns by him.
Perhaps we could do something similar on this SoberRecovery website. The meaning of life for those in early recovery is to attain sobriety. With sobriety life has new meaning. What is that new meaning for you?

W.
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Old 05-05-2015, 08:50 AM
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The "new" meaning for me is that I feel that I have a second chance at life. I squandered many years in the bottom of a bottle feeling sorry for myself and hating the world. I was not contributing anything to the world. Just consuming - air, space, time, and basically waiting to die. In my second act, as a sober person, I have found that life has meaning again. That everyone is not out to get me, that I actually have some value add to the world. I am only a few months sober, but the difference has been amazing. I am thankful rather than resentful. I can see color where there once was a stark black and white landscape that was very bleak. I am not as afraid of things as I was when drinking. It is a wonderful new (and old) life and I want to be able to pay it forward somehow.
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Old 05-05-2015, 09:21 AM
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The "meaning of life" has always been a tough one for me, probably why I was soo content in drinking my life away without a second thought.

When I was growing up my faith in anything evaporated to the point I don't practice any faith, the other thing that may have allowed me to have some meaning would be family/children etc, but I'm not married and don't have any kids, so I used to have the thought that if I died or drank my life away, who would miss me? or what would it matter?

Now in Sobriety I'll not lie, sometimes I can still have those thoughts, but now I'm not prepared to drink them away, the reason? I guess my "meaning in life" is life itself, enjoying the here and now, not numbing away feelings/emotions, taking responsibility for my life and my actions, experiencing everything that life has to offer and the enjoyment that comes with that.

I remember watching a documentary years ago on viruses (it was a slow evening) and the scientist guy on the program posed the question, why do they attack humans or other organisms? and his answer was they live because they can, they procreate because they can, they have no higher purpose other than to exist and populate, in other words they do their thing because they can, they don't sit around drinking themselves to death because they don't see any meaning in where they are in the scheme of things, not sure on the science of his statement, but it has struck a chord with me till this day!!
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Old 05-05-2015, 09:54 AM
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I worked at the student union in college, 30 years ago. The help desk that I staffed prided itself on being able to answer virtually any question asked of us by the student body. And in the pre-internet era, that was sometimes a challenge. So, in addition to giving out student phone numbers, and other mundane information, we were sometimes asked more challenging questions.

One Saturday night, a student called and asked, quite sincerely, what is the meaning of life? We weren't sure if he was drunk, depressed or otherwise struggling, but we wanted to try to give a sincere answer to his seemingly sincere question. So we commissioned an informal poll of the students and staff in the student union that night and came up with this: Do stuff.

It isn't particularly cerebral. And it doesn't necessarily prepare you for the afterlife, or explain life's problems. But, over the last 30 years, I have fallen back on that answer many times. Do stuff.

Perhaps when I get (even) older, some other, more profound secret of life will present itself to me. But, in the meantime, "Do stuff" has served me pretty well.
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Old 05-05-2015, 02:56 PM
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Firstymer:
Yes indeed! And from my own university experience for 39 years the students have indeed continued "doing stuff" in endlessly creative ways. They vary in their versions of "stuff". One friend of my son's made his contribution: "If you feel like doing anything and this doesn't hurt anyone, just go ahead and do it!"

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Old 05-06-2015, 06:38 AM
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P.S. The "Meaning of Life" may sound a bit pretentious but it can be many things to many people. To some, possibly many, it may be mere survival. Indeed this is the bedrock of existence and is likely to have dominated our ancestors millennia ago. One must be able to eat and have shelter, be safe from enemies, before having the luxury of speculation about some possible deeper purpose. I am surprised that no one has said, "The meaning for me is that I must be able to put food on the table, provide shelter for my family and prepare my kids for the challenges which they will face." And if one manages to survive, then perhaps there will be time and opportunity to help others do so as well. Lots of possibilities here. Lot's of "stuff" to do.

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Old 05-06-2015, 12:51 PM
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I try to learn and do God's will.
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Old 05-06-2015, 01:03 PM
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Originally Posted by wpainterw View Post
I am surprised that no one has said, "The meaning for me is that I must be able to put food on the table, provide shelter for my family and prepare my kids for the challenges which they will face."
Yeah, without a wife or kids, that's the bit that used to make my life seem a bit pointless, as I know I'll be fine on my own, I'll survive, I've been doing it on auto pilot now for years, so I have to look elsewhere.

Though I totally agree having those things are a meaning, providing for others is a meaning to life!!
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Old 05-06-2015, 01:37 PM
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Hello Painter...maybe I missed it cos I read the thread super quick...but I wondered what has changed for you that may have added new meaning or something like that...that you feel you can share here? ...it being your thread...
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Old 05-06-2015, 01:47 PM
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Your thread made me think of this http://www.soberrecovery.com/forums/...rituality.html
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Old 05-06-2015, 01:51 PM
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One thing my sober life has taught me is that I have value. I mean something. I count for something in the universe.
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Old 05-06-2015, 02:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Littlebear View Post
Hello Painter...maybe I missed it cos I read the thread super quick...but I wondered what has changed for you that may have added new meaning or something like that...that you feel you can share here? ...it being your thread...
I didn't want to start out with the impression that I was "preaching" or better than any other recovering alcoholic. A drunk is a drunk as Gertrude Stein might have said. However, now that you ask, when alcoholism started to take a hold of me it interrupted a path which I might have taken. Originally I planned to be a doctor but decided that I did not have the necessary qualifications for that profession. I then became interested in philosophy and looked forward to teaching that subject. After my sister's illness and eventual death my alcoholism increased and became sporadically severe. I gave up philosophy, ostensibly because I thought myself ill fitted for the subject as it was developing into largely linguistic analysis. I ended up in the law and, despite my illness, managed to make a decent career. I was a moderately good teacher although perhaps even better in writing and research.
In the years after my sobriety began I continued to teach but retired after open heart surgery and have done little in the law since. But, now that 26 plus years of sobriety have gone by, I find myself picking up where I left off so many years ago, reading more philosophy, books on spirituality, cultural history, travel, adventure (jungles are my special concern since in a sense my life has often been a jungle). I have written extensively about my memories, my thoughts so that i can leave something for my children, grandchildren, etc. when I go. I have done some volunteer teaching for the retired and elderly on subjects such as English and American Literature and Financial History. I am not sure what will happen to me when I die, that is whether there is an afterlife. But if there is not, I hope that I may have made a difference. In WW2 the military often scratched on a wall, "Kilroy was here". If all I have done is scratch on the wall that I was here and, hopefully may have helped someone who has had trouble like I have then that will be enough for me. I'd like to see my sister again, my dad, my mom, my granddad, my cousin who died at an early age back in 1946 and whose picture is on my wall. But if I just vanish, but if I have made a difference then that will be enough for me. I could have done better but when the illness abated I tried to do what I could to make up for it a little bit.

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Old 05-06-2015, 02:40 PM
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It is IMPERATIVE to overcome addictions to find Meaning to your life!

If we do not have purpose in life! Aims! Direction! We drown!

It has taken me years to find Sense why do I want to Live for!!!

I started to drink/drugs when I was a teen bcos I did not have any expectation in life or meaning! No guidance! No purpose in Life!
To me the meaning was the weekend partying and taking the more the higher the better...

Then I move countries unconciously really...
And woke up and quit!
Then the meaning of life was Work/Study that was what I lived for and my alcohol for relaxing at night!

Then got back to Spain, got what I always thought life was about!
U name it, a great Job, a house, health, Bursting wardrobe,... All MATERIAL
But yet again I was empty...

I had a lot of stress at work on top
And starting to drink more then mixing with benzo + pot to relax + emptyness... = Dessaster!!!

Now 9 months clean and 2 years medication.
Thousands spent in psicos...
To find out that all I want is LOVE!

Share life... Travel... Hug watching the Dusk...
And be happy to be awake!!!
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Old 05-06-2015, 02:40 PM
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Making A Difference, Counting For Something

Originally Posted by least View Post
One thing my sober life has taught me is that I have value. I mean something. I count for something in the universe.
I see in today's N.Y. Times that they have discovered a gigantic galaxy which existed shortly after the "Big Bang", that is 13 billion years ago. According to current theory the universe has been expanding exponentially ever since and, if this galaxy exists today (something which cannot be determined if the speed of light is limited to 186,000 miles per second) then it is probably 30 billion light years distant from us (and thus can be observed from earth only 30 billion years from now, which seems highly unlikely since the sun will have burned out long since and earth will either not exist or if it is still here, civilization will have vanished).
So we are, have been, and will continue to be but grain of sand. But as the poet Blake said, "One can see Eternity in a grain of sand." If this is so, despite the immensity of it all, you count for something, you have made a difference. In this respect, space and time are irrelevant.Congratulations!

W.
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Old 05-06-2015, 03:33 PM
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Painter...glad you were able to say something of your own... Your words sounded true for you and at some depth. Poignant. Thanks, and hope you didn't mind me asking.

For me, I usually find 'meaning' questions a bit unwieldy, tricky...somehow too difficult to spill out, you know? In my own life, any stabs at considering meaning have of course changed depending on where I've found myself in life at any one time. These days in early sobriety, (my first ever attempt - cos I have never wanted to stop before) - I am learning something about the qualities in myself I live with and offer those around me. Those that i've developed over a lifetime (now in my 50s). What I am noticing is that some of them (like the strength and ability to cope I developed from early life living street homeless in Glasgow) although 'a good thing', has i think been at the expense of crafting other qualities like, being tender towards myself. To others, yes I can do this; be this...i have reaped much meaning already from this making it my life's work so far... but rarely has it reached towards me in any important way. So, i am finding some meaning at this time in beginning to see that my development as a human being has been kind of lop-sided, or incomplete...to date?

Now that I am finally 'sobering up' I think my journey might be heading towards seeing how I can now maybe strive towards learning to integrate the psychological and spiritual sides of me and my life into something with a better sense of balance. Something more harmonious.

Thanks for the thread...nice to think out loud a little...and hear others' thoughts...
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Old 05-06-2015, 05:14 PM
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Thanks Littlebear:
Good luck and every good wish on your path to sobriety. It's really amazing what can happen. Even in the past year I have felt myself changing. Becoming more confident, less dependent, less fearful, even after two heart operations. Have just turned 88. I am not the person I was, not even what I was two years ago. Things seem to be happening very fast now. Is someone up there speeding me up because my time now is limited? Am I now in the Last Act, towards the final quartette, etc. before the curtain comes down? Hope not! And, after the curtain falls, what then? Do we all come out under the spotlights to make a curtain call? Is the audience hall empty?

W.
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Old 05-06-2015, 05:41 PM
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I don't know that there is any inherent meaning to life - it is what we do with it that gives it value and significance... find or create joy in the moments you have been given, and give thanks by your actions. Mother Teresa said: "In this world we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love."
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Old 05-06-2015, 06:24 PM
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Eddie - I think I might be in your head space (albeit directionally, maybe not exactly). I think the meaning of life is to actually start living. Face fear, savor the moment, be present, embrace change, and truly love it all. It has taken me a while to come to the conclusion that I don't want to "do god's will", but rather to embrace the glory he created in this world.

Some of my first memories of sobriety:
-Looking at trees and thinking - holy cow.
-My family and I moved from one city to another in sub-optimal living conditions, with a sub-optimal job, with a sub-optimal school experience for the kids. We as a family could never have been happier.
-I trusted in myself, and stayed the course professionally: it worked out
-looking at a family restroom at the airport and feeling a sense of unity with society. Anecdotally, think about it. Such a bathroom only comes about by people who have preceded us. At some point in the past, a family with young children needed to use the facilities but had issues with watching their children or space, etc. Those bathrooms were given to us by our forefathers. I get that this concept applies to anything and everything.....but doesn't society's transcendence just overwhelm you? (I know I'm wacko)

Even with all the pain, suffering, laughs, smiles and cries, Alcohol prevented me from living.
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Old 05-06-2015, 06:32 PM
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Thanks for the thread!

So, I don't want this to sound like I am wearing robes and chanting - but my life today has markedly changed from one of material wants to one of a spiritual discovery. Part of it is probably age, I guess and the realization of beginning later life's seasons. That's ok, and I embrace it - but my perspective is different today.

The meaning of life for me today is being in the present with whomever and whatever is put in front of me. I greatly enjoy conversation with just about anyone regarding topics from mundane to "heavy". I sort of feel like the character played by Robert De niro in the movie Awakening.

I embrace the simplicity and warmth of basic human life.

Probably sound chezzy, but there ya go!
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Old 05-06-2015, 08:53 PM
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To be happy.
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