Sometimes every fiber in your being is telling you to do something that is the wrong decision for you. Perhaps your emotions are in turmoil and are pointing you in the wrong direction. That can happen when anger takes over and the only response you see is to react and go on the offensive. Maybe you find yourself in a state of fear. Although you know you need to face a particular challenge, all you can do is avoid what must be done.
For the alcoholic, drug or food addict it gets even more complicated. When faced with emotional stress, we often react by wanting to return to our drug of choice to soothe ourselves. Or, we justify reacting in fear, anger or another emotion by saying, “well at least I’m not drinking or drugging”.
When these types of situations occur, we need to remember that we have sober feet. Even if every part of you wants to react improperly, just let your feet do the walking. Let them walk over to the phone to call another member from the fellowship. You might even walk a little bit further and make it to a meeting. Sometimes, you just need to walk away from a challenging life situation and then pray and meditate on what has occurred and how you should react.
Personal Reflection: How do I utilize my sober feet?
As we were growing up, we were not issued a manual on how to navigate this life. Many feelings arose for us on a daily basis. Although some were positive, many were not. All those feelings of fear, anger, shame, jealousy, envy and pride hobbled our ability to function on a daily basis. We suffered greatly because of it. Then one day, we discovered alcohol, drugs or food. As soon as we ingested our drug of choice, all of the pain we suffered from lifted. At least for a short while we had a respite. The problem was that a short respite was not enough and we increased our usage. Before we knew it, we couldn’t even identify what a feeling was. We walked around in a coma like state; one day aimlessly following another.
At some point we were able to put down our substance. Within a short period of time, we began to truly feel alive once again. Shortly thereafter all of those old troubling feelings came flooding back as well. This time we didn’t run away from all of those feelings. With tools garnered from our 12 step program we were able to deal with life issues without turning to substances. We had learned the meaning of living life on life’s terms.
Personal Reflection: How do I deal with feelings today?
Alcohol, drugs and food were like a light switch for us. As long as we stayed away from our drug of choice, we often appeared to be quite well adjusted to those around us. Once we took that first drink or drug, then all bets were off. That switch was turned on, and everything changed. Perhaps initially we became the life of the party or felt at ease in social situations. For many of us, that light switch also unleashed a lot of pent up feelings we had been carrying around. In particular, we tapped into a mother lode of anger and resentment. These were feelings that we had often carried for a long time without having addressed them.
Perhaps abstaining from our drug of choice removed the trigger for our anger. It didn’t take long however for us to discover that all of those feelings of anger and resentment were only just below the surface. Now almost any life situation could trigger us into some kind of emotional tirade. Left unaddressed, these feelings would eventually lead us to taking that first drink or drug. That’s why it was imperative for us to begin to address all of those feelings of rage and anger. We made it our business to tap into the fellowship for assistance. We also asked our Higher Power to remove our reactivity to the vicissitudes of life.
Personal Reflection: Is anger still my master?
Recently, two people who had just come out of their yoga class had a small fender bender in the parking lot. Right after the accident they began to yell at each other at the top of their lungs. Both had spent an hour doing deep stretches in class and ended their session in deep meditation. Yet now, just a few minutes later, they had left the serenity of the class far behind. So, the question is where did a spiritual experience take place that morning? Many would say that their hour long session of yoga and meditation qualified as spiritual. We in the program look at life a little differently. We believe the true spiritual experience took place when they lost it with one another in the parking lot. Yes, the yoga class was very nice and relaxing. But, it was when they were yelling at each other that they had the greater opportunity for spiritual growth. If they had chosen to examine their actions, they would have discovered opportunities to work on anger, pride, self righteousness, arrogance and a host of other defects of character. The real spiritual “work” takes place when we see those darker parts of ourselves and have the capacity to own up to them. If one of them had stopped yelling and said “forgive me for hitting your car”, that would have been a spiritual home run.
Personal Reflection: What was my last rude awakening?
A women was sharing about an incident from her early days of sobriety. She was a few minutes late for work. When the timekeeper from the firm saw her, she was informed that she would be docked for her tardiness. The program member exploded in anger. She got into a full blown screaming match, first with the timekeeper, then with the manager and finally with the owner. She was lucky she didn’t get fired. Later in the day she relayed the incident over to her sponsor. The then newcomer said, “How dare they dock me. I was only a few minutes late. I give so much to that firm. I got caught in traffic and that was why I was late”. When she finished her tirade, her sponsor responded and said, “that wasn’t very sober behavior was it? The sponsee sheepishly admitted that indeed her behavior had not been sober. She might not have been drinking or drugging, but all her actions belied that fact.
It is so easy to fall into the “how dare theys”.
How dare they double park.
How dare they go before me.
How dare they speak to me like that.
You can fill in the blank for your own personal “how dare they”. It’s important to remember that how dare they thinking is the antithesis of emotional sobriety.
Personal Reflection: Do I still engage in “how dare they” thinking?
Recently, the following observation was heard at a meeting.
I was driving in the city with another person from program. I was trying to get crosstown and was encountering a lot of traffic. There were a lot of double parked vehicles. Many of the cars and trucks at intersections suddenly stopped to make turns without signaling. My passenger, turned to me and said, “you know, driving with you is not a very pleasant experience”. “Why”?, I asked in surprise. To which my passenger replied, “you’re muttering under you breathe about the traffic, periodically complaining and making judgmental statements about other drivers”. At first I attempted to defend myself. “Well, I’m much better than I used to be”. Then I realized that they were right. Although I had “worked” on judgement and anger, they were still very much present. I felt very much humbled by my experience that day. If I can get bent out of shape by a double parked car, then perhaps I’m not as evolved as I thought. I need to remember that it’s not about people, places and things, but about my attitude.
Personal Refection: What “small” things hook my anger and judgement?