Life can be so disappointing for some people. In particular their disappointment revolves around on what other people “did to to them” or how other people “disappointed” them. Many from the program also fell into the trap of being a victim. Unfortunately, the way we dealt with our hurt or disappointment was to often turn to our drug of choice.
By working our program we learned that it was ok to set boundaries with others. At first, we weren’t really even certain about what our boundaries were. For so long we had just gone along with others. Now, we tapped into the fellowship to help us clarify healthy boundaries. Some of our circle were initially surprised when we spoke up about our needs. Before long people came to accept the boundaries we set for ourselves.
In the past we had often sabotaged ourselves by having unrealistic expectations. When people disappointed us this was a prescription for anger, hurt and resentments. These high expectations also fueled our self righteousness and grandiosity. With these feelings in tow, we invariably turned to drugs and alcohol to soothe our jangled feelings. Today we practice a saner approach. By honestly lowering our expectations, we also see a dramatic increase in our happiness.
Personal Reflection: Are my boundaries and expectations of others appropriate?
12 step programs involve internal and external work. Both are necessary components. Obviously, we need to work on our internal world. When we work the steps we begin to experience real change. The fourth step in particular is the gateway to personal transformation. After we have examined our character defects we are able to let go of them by humbling asking G-d to remove them. Once that happens, we are on our road to emotional sobriety. Rather than leaking our negative energy through resentments and anger, we begin to build a core of serenity. That energy becomes a repository for us to take sustenance from as well as to share.
Sharing is part of our external work. Taking service commitments, having sponsees and picking up the phone when another member of program calls is a big part of the fellowship. On a daily basis we give of our time and energy. There can however be a danger in this. If we ourselves are depleted, there is danger in continuing to to expend energy for others. We can avoid this situation by nurturing our inner life and recognizing when we need to let someone else in program take up the mantle.
Personal Reflection: Do I give from my overflow,or from my reserve?
The concept of sponsorship is actually quite amazing. He or she is a person who you can call on a daily basis. When we do so, we are free to tell them anything we want. We can be totally open and honest with them. Part of the conversation can include advice on some of our issues. Part of sponsorship is to share how we handled similar situations. Most amazingly, all this is done without paying the sponsor for any of his or her time.
Where some sponsees make a mistake is when they start thinking of their sponsor as a therapist. Sponsors are not trained mental health professionals. They don’t have advanced degrees in psychology or social work. What they do have is life experience in alcohol and drug addiction and more importantly in recovery. If you are looking for understanding how your family of origin contributed to your addiction or how your issues of self esteem can be addressed, it is more appropriate for you to talk to a therapist. They are trained to help you examine these areas. In the program, we encourage members to seek out professional help. As sponsors, we are more concerned with how you will live life in the future; as opposed to understanding your past. If your sponsor starts analyzing you, maybe you should think about getting a new sponsor.
Personal Reflection: Am I playing therapist or patient?