One of the statements that I could immediately get on board with when I got to AA was that “the world and it’s people were often wrong.”
I used to (and still do) hear newcomers in AA talking about their fear of doing a 4th step. I never understood that. I couldn’t wait to get to the 4th step. Make a list of all the people, places and organizations I had resentment against…ha! Easy peasy. Write down what they had done and how it had affected me? No problem! My part–well, I didn’t really think I had a part in a lot of it back then, so that didn’t worry me in the slightest.
I once filled an entire legal pad with columns of people who had pissed me off. And a wonderfully sweet woman in these rooms came over to my apartment and sat on my floor for 9 hours and listened to every one of those resentments. She bought me a pizza (at the time I mostly survived on cigarettes and Dr. Pepper.)
In that same apartment, I also once wrote a 10th step and called the Central Office of Alcoholics Anonymous and read it to a nameless, faceless alcoholic who just happened to have the unfortunate blessing of having volunteered to answer the phones there. It was some heavy stuff I read that night over the phone. It was stuff I hadn’t had the courage to put in an inventory and read to someone face to face. But I had been well-schooled in how it works. And I knew that night that if I held onto it any longer, I would drink over it.
Years into my sobriety, even after beginning to learn to look for my part in things, I was still holding on to the “yeah, but” in my life.
- ~Yeah, I stole $500 from an old woman (that woman happened to be my grandmother…what a creep I was!) who was suffering from Alzheimer’s…but she knew where I was all my life and never reached out to help me.
- ~Yeah, I took my father’s car and totaled it and left it on the side of a road without even calling, but he did abandon me @ birth.
- ~Yeah, I ran away from home and left my mother for months not knowing if I was dead or alive, but she did attempt suicide on the morning of my 17th birthday.
- ~Yeah, I lived on food that I stole from the all night grocery store at 2 a.m. in the morning, but a person has to eat don’t they?
You get the point. In sobriety, my ‘yeah, but’ problem got even worse. I went from being a little hoodlum to being a sober member of the community. I do good things. I am of service. I’m not drinking or drugging for God’s sake. Now I’m really armed with grandiosity, righteousness, and an overall sense of believing that I know how the world and its people should behave. There’s nothing more dangerous than a sober alcoholic armed with a moral code. And for years, and I mean like a decade, I battled the concept that my moral code is the right one and anyone who isn’t falling in line with that is a screwed up, worthless idiot in need of a lot of help (mine, right?)
But I’ve been lucky that in all the years I suffered from that (and that defect has largely been removed from me with a lot of work, prayer and willingness to let it go) I had women in my life who kept reminding me that I could be right, and be miserable.
“Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?” That’s what Eleanor (my 79 year old sponsor in L.A. used to ask me.)
My answer to that question has changed profoundly over the years. I used to say that when I’m right, I am happy, but that was never actually the case for me. In fact, the opposite was true. The more right I was, the more miserable.
So you’re right. I give you that today if you need to hear it. But I want to ask you something now:
SO WHAT, NOW WHAT?
Being right is worthless. It’s a chip we carry around on our shoulder and it’s heavy. It’s a weapon in our arsenal that we use to judge the people around us, and it’s the ultimate enemy of humility and gratitude.
I just can’t afford to be right anymore. I can have a moral code. I can believe I know how I should live, what I should do. I can take healthy positive action to make the things materialize for me that I want. This is all a part of ‘NOW WHAT.’ Now what is about action. It’s about recognizing that I can’t control people, places and things. I can only control (barely, and with God’s help and yours) myself. That’s where I need to put my energy.
So be right…if you need that. We all do sometimes. But don’t get stuck there. Move forward and be (a quiet) example of what needs to change around you. That’s the power of attraction.