Early in my career in Illinois, as a member of the administrative team for the school district, when offering a solution to an issue we were grappling with, I said, “I might could solve our problem.” In a demeaning retort, our superintendent said, “What does that mean? Might could? Really?”
Since I had said and heard might could as a potential solution to problems all my life, I was stunned. “It means, I’m not even on the fence. If I say I might, it means maybe I could get on the fence regarding a decision. When I add could, might could means I have an idea and am willing to get on the fence, I am aware of a potential decision to act but I don’t know if I want to or am committed to it.” He laughed as did the rest of the group. I felt humiliated.
At the time, I had three years of sobriety and my mind raced back to the awful turmoil I felt when I wanted to quit drinking but I didn’t know if I could.
To decide to quit, and tell the people in the self help support group I had made a decision to quit drinking was a big step. But, I wasn’t close to sitting on the fence. I met with them and heard their stories. They shared what it was like when they were drinking. They shared what happened when they read the Book, said the Serenity Prayer and went to meetings and they told their stories of what it was like since they quit drinking.
After a number of individual meetings with sober alcoholics, I was able to get on the fence. I was able to get on the fence after hearing their personal stories about how they got sober. That meant I had passed through the might stage. I was on the fence. I finally knew what I had to do to succeed.
I said the Serenity Prayer over and over. It became my mantra. I went to meetings. I read the Book.
I realized if I did the things my recovering friends and others in the group said they did when they quit drinking, that I could get sober, one day at a time. But, I had to get rid of the could, make a decision and get off the fence.
Because of that decision to stop drinking, I have been sober for 35 years, since July 1, 1981.
Hearing the stories that recovering alcoholics shared in meetings and relying on the Serenity Prayer, the same one my grandmother Nennie taught me when I was a child, were the catalysts that got me off the fence.
Tips that worked for me:
- Make a decision
- Go to meetings
- Say the Serenity Prayer five times out loud in the morning and before going to bed
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
- Read the Book
- Don’t drink
- Tell your own story, it may help someone,
- Pay it forward
A small note on dialect and regional phrases:
I just finished reading Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. I was struck by some of the terms the author uses in his book. He refers to his grandmother as Mamaw. We called my dad’s mother, MaMaw. I loved that!
Several times during the editing of my book, Where the Water Meets the Sand, editors would correct my spelling of MaMaw to Mama. Her name was spelled MaMaw. I loved Vance’s reference of his grandmother’s name, Mamaw.
Of course, now I know that might could is referenced as part of our southern dialect. I do wish I had realized that in 1984 when my superintendent called me out on my use of the phrase.
The point is, we all come in different sizes, colors, parts of the country and world. I am committed to my life long focus on our similarities though I love our differences.
And now you know – if you ever meet someone who says might could in the future, they might just be from West Texas.