Sit in at any meeting and observe the faces of members. For the most part most of of us are in a fairly positive state. This is often in proportion to how rigorously we work the program. Of course, there will be times where life events challenge us. Like anyone else, we feel the stress of these moments. However, once this rough patch has passed, we in short order return to our usual state.
Then there are those who walk around like they lost their best friend. They rarely crack a smile. When they share, they usually end up complaining about their life situation. Usually, they attribute what is happening in their life to others. They feel they are victims of circumstance. If people only understood them and would comply with their wishes, then their lives would finally take a turn for the better. Of course this rarely happens. Even when on occasion it does, they quickly find something else to complain about. Their speech is peppered with negativity and sarcasm. They are miserable and have no problem letting you know it.
In the program we have learned not to attempt to rescue these people. They need to reach their bottom and come to a realization that they are responsible for how they feel. What we can do is pray for them that they have a spiritual awakening.
Personal Reflection: Do I need to pray for anyone who thinks they are a victim?
Looking at the faces of some people, they appear to have a perennial scowl on their faces. When you question them, they immediately launch into a barrage of complaints about their current situation. Listening to them, you would think they are candidates for martyrdom. They are repeatedly doing things that they don’t want to do and then are miserable about it. Yet they feel as though they must do these things. Sometimes it’s an overactive sense of duty. They will say things like, “as a husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter it’s my responsibility to do it”. When you suggest that they “let go” of some of their many duties they look at you in disbelief. Yes, they are miserable but how could they abandon their responsibilities.
In recovery we recognize that their are obligations that need to be honored. However, we need to differentiate between what is truly necessary and required vs. an excessive sense of duty. When we let go of some of those unnecessary responsibilities, we find that we feel better and the people who we thought needed us so desperately do quite well thank you without us. As far as service that must be done, we can work on our attitude about it. After all, our attitude is a choice.
Personal Reflection: Do I have an excessive sense of responsibility?
There is an old Zen expression that goes something like this; “before enlightenment chop wood and carry water, after enlightenment chop wood and carry water”. When we entered the rooms of AA, NA or OA we had made a decision to put down our drug of choice. Many of us assumed that by doing so our problems would be solved. We were partially correct. When we didn’t take that first drink or drug the problems associated with alcohol and drugs no longer arose. “Great,we thought to ourselves. From now on it will be smooth sailing”. This conclusion of ours was shortly thereafter disproven. All of life’s challenges came rushing back in. Life didn’t magically change because we had put down our drug of choice. As we looked around the rooms we saw and heard others who were facing the same problems as us. Yet, many of them seemed far more happy and serene than us. Then it hit us. The adversities of life would continue until our last dying breath.. Our power lay in the decisions we made which affected how events would be played out. We realized that in the past we had on some level “set ourselves up” for problems. This we did have control over. Our power also lay in how we responded to these problems once they had materialized. We had uncovered the beginnings of emotional sobriety.
Personal Reflection: Do I still believe that life is the problem?
I was recently on the subway in NYC. While waiting for a train, I saw a sign which said, “if you see something, say something”. The purpose of the sign was to counteract the tendency to assume that someone else will report a problem.
We in program apply this principle to our daily lives as well. There are so many life situations where people just sit back and assume the other person will take care of it. When there are no seats left on the train or bus and an elderly person gets on, be the person to give up their seat. If a newcomer is looking around the room feeling uncomfortable, be the first to go over and give them a hearty welcome. The possibilities are endless and the good feelings you create are endless as well.
Quite often we are at an impasse with another person. Many of us think that if only “they changed” the blockage would be removed. The reality is that very deep spiritual and emotional work takes place when we practice, “let it begin with me”. Rather than focusing on what another person needs to change to make the relationship work, we need to focus on what changes we need to make.
Personal Reflection: Does it begin with me?