Many people walk around feeling quite sorry for themselves. They honestly believe that they have few choices in this life. Perhaps they blame their parents who never gave them the love they deserve. Or they might say they are now too old to try out new ideas or approaches. Then again they might claim they are not old enough when it comes to certain decisions. Bosses often get blamed for lack of promotions or increases in salary. The list of excuses is endless.
We in the fellowship also used to complain about our lot. We felt stuck due to our compulsive use of alcohol, drugs and food.
Once we achieved sobriety, perhaps we mechanically referenced those old complaints as well. Within short order, someone in the program probably questioned us on this. They pointed out that we ultimately determine our destiny through the choices we make. Parents didn’t love you? Choose to love yourself and others. Think you’re to old or young to take a new path? Find the courage to take the first step. Unhappy at work? Change jobs or get retrained. For almost every challenge we face in life, there are choices we can make which will impact the outcome. The choice is ours.
Personal Reflection: Have I been avoiding making an important choice?
Sometimes people will complain during their share that people were not friendly to them at a particular meeting. Now, there are many meetings where there are greeters at the door to make you feel welcome. At other places, people new to the meeting or just visiting are given an opportunity to introduce themselves. This breaks the ice so to speak and can be a platform for conversation after the meeting. These are wonderful examples of efforts made to make us feel welcome and wanted.
The reality is however, that for many of us, part of our disease includes feelings of isolation and being a victim. We can take those feelings and have a field day with them at a meeting where people in our opinion are not friendly. We could immediately go to our default victim position and hop on top of that pity pot.
In program we learn that we are not victims. If we are isolators, we need to admit to that fact. Once we do so, the next step is to to take an action. This could be as simple as positioning ourselves by the coffee pot where people tend to congregate before and after the meeting. Just introducing ourselves as we’re sipping our coffee can open up conversations and lead to friendships. At our home group we can also reach out to someone new or visiting as well. This helps to break through our isolation on our home turf.
Personal Reflection: How do I make myself and others feel connected?
Everybody has a bad day. We claim to have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed. Perhaps we are a little more irritable than we normally are. It seems that for some reason more stressful situations than usual head our way. All of this is nothing out of the ordinary. All of us at one time or another have one of those days.
What is of concern is when we repeatedly enter the day in a negative state, and it just goes downhill from there. When we were using, at least we had the excuse of a massive hangover.
If you want to consider yourself emotionally sober, there is no excuse for waking up in a state of negativity and resentment. Our emotional state upon awakening and throughout the day is an inside job. Yes, of course we will have difficult days. What is important to note is that we have a choice on how to respond. Old timers put it very bluntly. After hearing our rant about what a horrible day we had; will turn to us and simply say, “time to get off the pity pot”.
Personal Reflection: What kind of day am I going to have today?
At first, it was difficult for us to synthesize what was being said to us by others in the program. When someone said to us, ” get off the pity pot”, we often responded in anger, hurt and confusion. “What do you mean get off the pity pot”, we exclaimed. If they had walked a mile in our shoes, they wouldn’t have spoken to us the way they did. If they had our spouse, our job, our friends, our children, our siblings, our problems, they would understand us a lot better.
As we progressed in the program, our understanding of self pity changed. We came to see that when we engaged in self pity, we were failing to take responsibility for our actions. We learned that it was a cop out to place the blame on others. The only way we could grow was through self examination and seeing our role in whatever challenges we were facing. Even when the other person was at fault, we had an opportunity to examine why their behavior pressed our buttons. We stopped making it all about them, and began to make it about us. Over time, self pity was replaced with personal responsibility.
Personal Reflection: Do I still fall into the trap of self pity?
There is no doubt that life can be very hard. On an almost daily basis we have to face many challenges. Some of them we know will arise and to some extent be planned for. For many of life’s other challenges, their occurrence is largely out of our hands. Self-pity has often been our immediate response to these travails of daily life.
In the program, we are often advised to “get off the pity pot”. When things “happened to us” our default response was self-pity. Initially we might have justified this reaction with a statement like, “if you had my life, you’d feel bad for yourself too”. The problem with self-pity is that it ultimately works against us. It creates inertia to change. When we are on that pity pot, it becomes doubly hard to move out of our feelings of despair and attend to whatever the challenge is. In self-pity, we kick the can further down the road and ultimately only exacerbate the problem; still needing to deal with it at a later date. There is tremendous power in not buying into self-pity. Instead of going there, we need to take an action instead.
Personal Reflection: How does self-pity work against me in my life?