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A cute pink elephant arms wide to greet you
Don’t Think of Pink Elephants — Image from



In 12-Step recovery, you may hear someone say, “I belong to the ‘No Matter What Club!


What they mean when they say that is that they don’t do                     (whatever their addictive substance or behavior or pattern is), no matter what.


No matter what life brings, they abstain... for an hour, for a minute, for a day.


In those early days of recovery, what we’re trying to do is not do something – to avoid a drug, a cigarette, a half-gallon of ice cream, a scratch-off ticket or some other addictive behavior that causes us trouble.


A necessary stage on the journey toward the light, the first thing we must do is flee the darkness. In the beginning, it’s all about resisting, escaping, fighting our way out of whatever dark hole we’ve dug for ourselves.


In recovery they say that, when you find yourself in a deep hole, the first thing you must do is stop digging! Sounds logical. Belonging to the “No Matter What Club” isn’t easy.


And you would be surprised at how many people (me! maybe you?) refuse to acknowledge that we are even in a hole.


Or, if we see the hole, we swear that it’s not our fault. My spouse, my boss, politicians, the economy, God, etc. are the problem. It’s their fault I’m in this situation.


The problem gambler throws good money after bad, in the fantasy that their fortunes will turn around. The food/drug/sex addict has an uncomfortable feeling, and habitually turns to their addiction in the vain hope that this time they will find relief – permanent relief.


While the concept of “no matter what” is a necessary beginning, it also approaches spiritual growth through a negative lens. It’s a very effective way to start for someone new to recovery, but it is an unsustainable strategy for a lifetime.


Eventually, not doing something becomes a joyless grind. And, paradoxically, focusing on what we don’t want sooner or later makes the craving stronger.


It’s the old game: Don’t think of a pink elephant.


What’s in your head in the millisecond after you read that sentence?


A pink elephant.


The process of learning how to live a spiritually based life is about much more than avoidance. It’s about abundance, prosperity, service to others… It is about being happy, joyous and free.


It quickly should become less about fleeing the darkness and much more about heading toward the light.


So, a way to reframe “no matter what” is to say, “no matter what….”                               And fill in the blank with a positive action, a positive affirmation.


No matter what,


I will be happy, joyous, and free.

I will help others.

I will do my best.

I will smile.

I will give away what was freely given to me.

I will take care of myself, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.


No matter what, I will strive to be happy, joyous, and free.


But of course, life happens. Dogs die. Cars break down. Bad weather spoils plans, or floods basements. Partners leave. Checks bounce. Kids disobey.


In recovery, slips can happen and we’re back in the hole again.


An old recovery trope is, The Hole In The Sidewalk by Portia Nelson.


Titled, Autobiography in Short Five Chapters, it describes the stages of growth and change with beautiful simplicity, and goes something like this:


Autobiography in Five Short Chapters


I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalkI fall in. I am lost … I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes me forever to find a way out.


I walk down the same street.There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I am in the same place but, it isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.


I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in … it’s a habit. My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.


I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.


I walk down another street.


The moral, of course, is we get better over time. In recovery we often say, life doesn’t get better, but we get better.


And the amazing beauty of the process is that, as we get better life does get better too. (See my recent blog post, Perception is a Mirror) When our insides change for the better, everything and everyone around us miraculously changes for the better too.


So, no matter what, today is going to be a good day. A day of promise, of joyous surprises, of beauty, or small gifts and great moments. A day of hope. A day of excellence.


No matter what….


Happy Sunday,





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