“Resentments are like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
Program wisdom contains lots of annoying clichés. The reason they sound so hackneyed and are so often repeated is that they are true. False aphorisms abound, but most of those in the recovery community have survived because of the old “test of time.” These two are among them.
There are “good” and “bad” expectations (I prefer “skillful” and “unskillful”, but for the purpose of establishing a binary distinction here, either will do). The difference is in communication and intent.Continue reading →
At a recent meeting, a newcomer was bemoaning the fact that his significant other still doesn’t trust him not to act out when her back is turned, and doesn’t seem to get that he has an addiction and acting out “isn’t his fault.”
Addiction is fear, compulsion, denial, low self-esteem and many other things, but it is not without volition. Every single time I acted out, I made a choice to do so. I may not have realized that I had other choices, but it was still a choice. Furthermore, when I continued to act out out after finally discovering that there were other choices, I was certainly making conscious decisions not to act in my (or others’) best interest.
There is a difference between a reason and an excuse. A reason involves taking responsibility; an excuse is about avoiding it. So yes — I chose to act out, and it isn’t unreasonable for someone who doesn’t understand the compulsions that plague addicts to recognize only the choice. Nor is it unreasonable for them to fear and anticipate another breach of trust. What is unreasonable is for me to fail to recognize that my behavior was the cause, and only my behavior can change that perception.
I’m reminded of the old AA saying, “Don’t expect a medal for doing something you ought to have been doing in the first place.” Nor should I expect an immediate return of trust and understanding, just because I said “I’m sorry.” I have no control over what’s happening in someone else’s head. The only way I can influence it is by showing that I can be trusted, and that can take a long time.
We see a lot of people in early recovery who are angry — angry at their parents, their bosses, the world, and often at themselves. Anger can be a useful tool. Nearly always a result of fear, whether obvious or hidden, anger prepares us to deal with challenges that demand forging on against whatever odds. In many cases, the alternative would be cowering in a corner and waiting for the wolf to have its way with us.
When we are facing an obvious opponent, with obvious action to be taken, our anger can be used and often discharged. But when the situation is such that we can’t strike back, through social position (say, at an employer) or size (a parent, bully or other), or simply because we have no recourse, anger can be a problem that far surpasses the cause. Continue reading →
Imagine that you live by a lake, and you have a rowboat. You’ve just repaired and repainted it, and you’re really pleased with the job. There’s a fog on the lake the morning after a stormy night, and you decide to row out and enjoy the quiet, surrounded by nothing but the mist and the water.
So you’re rowing along, and then scraaaape, you run into something, and you realize it is another boat. You know your paint job that you’re so proud of is messed up! You’re ready to give the other boater a piece of your mind when you realize that the other boat is empty. Looking closer, you see that there is a rope dragging from the bow, and you realize that the boat must have broken loose from its mooring during last night’s storm.Continue reading →