Blog > Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Dean Dauphinais
| July 3, 2014

In 1997, a psychotherapist named Richard Carlson published a little book called Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and It’s All Small Stuff: Simple Ways to Keep the Little Things from Taking Over Your Life. The book became one of the fastest-selling books of all time and spent over 100 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List. And I bought a copy.

Back in 1997 I was a textbook “Type A” personality who sweated all the small stuff. I thought maybe reading Carlson’s book could help me change and live a less stressful life. I put the book in the bathroom—great “bathroom reading” I figured—and there it sat. Seventeen years later, the book still sits in my bathroom and I’ve read exactly 36 pages.

When I picked up the book this morning (July 3rd) in preparation for writing this blog, I decided that I’m finally going to finish reading it. I think 17 years is way too long to read a very brief 246-page book. But I’ll only be finishing the book so I can say, “I did it,” because over the last several years I finally learned to not sweat the small stuff.

I didn’t need a book to learn how to let the little things go; my son’s addiction taught me how to do it.

This past week, three things happened that would’ve set the “old” me off like Fourth of July fireworks. Two of them even occurred on the same day. Lord only knows how the “2002 Dean” would’ve reacted to these things. (I’m sure if you asked my wife she’d tell you it wouldn’t have been pretty.)

A few nights ago, my one and only laptop computer—the computer with all of my photos, music, important Word documents, and everything else one keeps on their computer—decided to die. The motherboard self-destructed and as a result I couldn’t get my precious data off the hard drive, which I hadn’t backed up. Ever. (I know; lesson learned.) Fortunately, the next day a local computer repair place was able to retrieve my data for a mere $70.00. No reason to sweat.

Then yesterday I went to an urgent care clinic to be seen for a nasty sinus infection that had been lingering and wearing me down. For whatever reason(s), from start to finish my visit lasted 3.5 hours. The total time spent with the doctor was maybe 3.5 minutes. But I got a prescription for an antibiotic and am starting to feel better already. No reason to sweat.

When I got home from urgent care, I had a voicemail message from FedEx telling me they had attempted to deliver a package to my house but that the address was wrong, so could I please call and give them the correct address so they could try to deliver it again. I appreciate FedEx’s concern, but the “incorrect” address they read over the phone was my correct address. I’m not sure who decided it wasn’t, but after a couple of phone calls they brought my package to me a couple hours later. No reason to sweat.

It was in between the urgent care and FedEx debacles—on the drive home from the clinic—that I realized something way more important than any of those three examples of “small stuff”:

It was July 2nd, my son’s sober anniversary, and he was celebrating two years.

Two years of sobriety.

Two-and-a-half years ago I couldn’t even imagine my son being two years clean and sober. After approximately seven years of addiction, several rehabs and sober living houses, etc., etc., etc., my son turned the corner and is now in long-term recovery. He’s living his life and enjoying it, without drugs or alcohol. And you know what? That’s something that matters. That’s “big stuff,” not “small stuff.”

Having a child who suffers from addiction definitely wakes you up. Sure, addiction in the family can be—and more often than not is—a roller coaster ride. But it can also help you prioritize your life. It can help you learn to live in the moment and appreciate the positive things that happen each day. And it can teach you to let go of the small stuff and place your focus on the most important thing in your life: your family.

My son’s addiction has helped me understand what life is really all about, and I am grateful for that every day. I am no longer a “catastrophizer” (feel free to Google that) and don’t sweat the small stuff like I used to. Things that used to drive me crazy and send me into a panic just don’t anymore. Because I realize that in the grand scheme of things, they’re just little blips on the radar that is life.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Live and enjoy your life. Don’t let the little things hold you hostage and bring you down. If I can break free, anyone can.

P.S. If you need any more convincing, consider this: The last passage in Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff is entitled “Live This Day as if It Were Your Last. It Might Be!” Author Richard Carlson died on December 13, 2006, from a pulmonary embolism while on a flight during a promotional book tour. He was 45 and left behind a wife and two teenage daughters. Don’t. Sweat. The. Small. Stuff.

“There are some things that I believe/Like if you’ve got nothing you’ve still got your family…” –Kathleen Edwards, from her song “Good Things”

Note: If you are in recovery, or if you have a loved one who is in recovery, please consider sharing your story on the Heroes in Recovery website. Real recovery begins with real people. And real stories. By sharing, you can help BREAK THE STIGMA.

You can share your story in one of two ways:

1.) Go to the Heroes in Recovery page, share your story directly, and let them know Dean sent you.

2.) Contact me on Facebook (Dean Dauphinais) and I can help you through the process. Or we can talk on the phone and I can help you write your story.

Also, please feel free to share this blog post or leave comments below. I want to know what your thoughts are on this subject. All feedback is appreciated.

Go forward, be brave, and keep the faith.

–Dean

  • Lydia Emmet Winkeller

    This is great Dean – it’s amazing how much easier life is when you don’t sweat the small stuff. I used to be Type A too, and while I didn’t have anything as hard as son who’s an addict to make me stop sweating the small stuff. Four kids, an incredibly patient husband, and going through two years of dying parents has made me realize what is important and what’s not. While I confess I woke up this morning saying “I AM SO TIRED OF THIS FREAKING CAST” on the other hand, my arm doesn’t hurt, and if I fall on the Avon Walk I won’t break it AGAIN. and in two weeks it come off (smelling ever so lovely) and the real fun of PT begins – but I get to take a shower with two arms again. Don’t. sweat. the. small. stuff.

    • DeanDD

      Thanks, Lydia. Sometimes I wish we could learn the big life lessons earlier on than we do…but better late than never, right?! 🙂

  • Pam Adams Katchuk

    Boy, truer words were never spoken. Folks like us who have lived through the addiction of our children know perhaps better than anyone that 99% of the things that happen are small stuff! If someone isn’t dying or dead, it’s small stuff, IMHO. It’s hard to get me upset any more. Funny how tragedy wakes you up to the reality of what “bad” really is. So happy for your son and very proud of him!

    • DeanDD

      Thanks, Pam. I agree. It might even be *more* than 99%. 😉

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