Propellerheads and Shirley Bassey
Today I am grateful that I was compelled to write this blog chronicling my journey through sobriety.
My weekend was not good. Drinking was not an option, but I feel I had a relapse in my “emotional sobriety”, something I am told that eventually will take us back to places we no longer wish to go. The details aren’t the point of this post, let me just say it was all about me: You were wrong, I was right. People screwed me over, my anger was justified, I wasn’t appreciated enough, and so it went in my head. Small issues feeding into other smaller issues, becoming a rumbling steam engine that I could not stop. I did not lose control (or drink) but I was not right with myself or others. I was unable to do the next right thing.
This morning I electronically shared my story (detailed in the first 3 posts of this blog) with another online group. Doing so caused me to go back and read some of my posts from the beginning of my sobriety, and it was eye opening. In those early posts, I detected a bit of newfound humility. Comparing those to my more recent posts, I see that humility slowly draining away. It is not from a lack of “working my program,” I am still doing that, but I notice as I become more comfortable with my physical sobriety, I am becoming more “preachy” about how sobriety should be achieved – as if I am some kind of a fucking expert. I do believe my motives are good in wanting to share with others what has gotten me off the drink, but without humility the message is completely useless – not to mention dangerous for me. Part of this was calculated, for a while I felt as if my blog had turned into too much bitching about my personal day-to-day struggles, and I wanted to take it to a more positive place about what is working for me. I still kind of feel this way, but I need to check myself and make sure my character defect of needing to be in control and having all the answers doesn’t take that to a bad place.
They say relapse is a slow process, and I wonder if my draining humility was a big factor in putting me on the train I was on this weekend. I know that I need to get off that ride because it stops at some very nasty places which I never want to visit again. So, I am grateful that my blog gives me a peek into my progression, that I was able to share my story and revisit some history, and that there is nothing to prevent me from trying to do things differently today.
As I have progressed through the 12 steps of recovery, I have come to understand the value of examining and questioning my behaviors and reactions when dealing with anger and resentment. Finding my part, “sweeping my side of the street”, etc. is something I try to practice and has helped me to let go of resentments and find forgiveness and live a more peaceful life – especially with my wife.
A piece was still missing for me. What if I really could’t find my part? What about those times when I was truly a complete victim, screwed over beyond belief? What then? Shouldn’t I then have a right to some “justifiable anger”? My logical way of thinking could not deal with this. Must I always just lie down and take it? The sense of righteousness prevented me from letting go of these type of resentments.
As part of my Step 10 I am told to read Step 10 in the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions every day for 30 days – if I miss I must start over. In my reading I have found an answer to the above that works for me. It provides a logical explanation why I cannot entertain the thought of “justifiable anger.”
“It is a spiritual axiom that every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us. If somebody hurts us and we are sore, we are in the wrong also. But are there no exceptions to this rule? What about “justifiable” anger? If somebody cheats us, aren’t we entitled to be mad? Can’t we be properly angry with self- righteous folk? For us of A.A. these are dangerous exceptions. We have found that justified anger ought to be left to those better qualified to handle it.
Few people have been more victimized by resentments than have we alcoholics. It mattered little whether our re- sentments were justified or not. A burst of temper could spoil a day, and a well-nursed grudge could make us miserably ineffective. Nor were we ever skillful in separating justified from unjustified anger. As we saw it, our wrath was always justified. Anger, that occasional luxury of more balanced people, could keep us on an emotional jag indefinitely. These emotional “dry benders” often led straight to the bottle. Other kinds of disturbances—jealousy, envy, self-pity, or hurt pride—did the same thing.”
I love this line. It satisfies my logical question by telling me that “justifiable anger” is not necessarily always wrong, that’s it a valid emotion for some, BUT IT’S JUST NOT OK FOR ME. Like the diabetic who cannot eat a candy bar, while others can, I simply cannot afford the luxury of “justifiable anger.” I can handle that.