In my book Out of the Woods I talk about how very ongoing recovery becomes. Issues don’t always go away—sometimes we just get better and faster—and funnier—in dealing with them. Here’s an example:
Two few weeks ago I made a big commitment to not take anything personally. It made sense. I felt so proud. But it was almost as if my new mantra, “Don’t take things personally” was sent out as a personal invitation to my character defects inviting them to a party.
Within hours the testing began. Suddenly I was feeling everything personally. Someone from my past crossed my path and the intersection triggered tons of my old stuff. I was particularly challenged by an old thinking habit that I thought I’d dealt with ages ago: “What About Me?” Not at all attractive and miserably uncomfortable.
But then I realized the value of long-term recovery: it becomes so hard to entertain those thoughts for very long. Not that they shimmer once and disappear but it’s hard to pretend that I am always the innocent and injured party.
In the same way that recovery can ruin your drinking, recovery can also ruin the pleasure of being right, and it crushes the dark joy of holding onto a resentment. A small voice now asks, “What is your part in this?”
So I reached for these tools as I found myself sliding down.
First: I began to pray for help. The first prayers were not elegant. They went like this: “Oh God what is this crap in my head? Help me. I hate this. Remove this. Come on, come on, come on…get this out of me. Hurry up.”
Second: I knew I had to tell on myself so I emailed my sponsor and a close friend. I told them my mean thoughts I was having about people.
Third: My prayer changed to, “Please help me. I think this is old family stuff and its getting attached to someone who triggers my old fear. I know this is mine but I can’t see how to change this. But I want to be free. Help.”
Then the magic began. I got on the train to New York City and turned on my Kindle looking for some distraction and there was another recovery book reminding me about Steps Six and Seven. Bingo.
Throughout the day in New York I kept saying: “I turn my will and my life over to you.” My yucky thoughts kept breaking through but I kept on praying. By the time I was back on the train to come home the grip was lessening
The next day I went for a walk and took my IPod Shuffle along. And what popped right up? A Joe and Charlie talk on Steps 6 and 7. I listened to the two old-timers talk about those steps and here’s what they had to say: God will remove what God can remove and God will do what I can’t do. But God doesn’t do what I can do, so do the opposite.”
“Do the opposite.” God will remove the defect if and when we start doing the opposite of the defect we want removed. Want lying removed? Start telling the truth. I wanted jealousy removed so I had to start being emotionally generous.
So here I am two weeks later. No, not fixed. But hyper-aware of a simple set of actions that I can take to shift a defect of character. And yes, I am still praying “hurry up, hurry up” because I hate discomfort. But I can see my part now and I have steps to take, and that, I am taking very personally.