Resentment

Somewhere in the literature it says something like “resentment is the number one offender” when it comes to our character defects. Well I’ve always resented that! It seems to me like something written by men for men about men. I have not been a terribly resentful person through my life. I find fear to be the bigger one for me, with depression coming in second. I understand that they are all different tributaries of the same river of dysfuntion. I have mostly been able to forgive the wrongs that have been done to me, and usually when someone lets me down I can remember that they are “also sick and often wrong.”

I chose to write about resentment today because I am resentful regarding a specific situation in my life. This situation is unique in my world, and along with resentment I’ve experienced feeling like a victim of injustice for really the first time in a big way. I don’t know what makes this different or what about me is different at this time that causes or allows me to feel resentment and injustice. It is partly those feelings that have driven me to do all this contemplating about being an oldtimer and how my attitude and outlook have yet to change sufficiently.

The resentment of the day concerns a dear friend I worked with as a partner for six years. A year and a half ago, we got a new boss that my friend couldn’t get along with, and she left. Through much awfulness in which it seems like the dark side really did triumph, new boss had to leave. That was almost exactly a year ago, and my friend will be coming back to be my partner again 363 days after new boss left. I’ve been doing the job alone for a year and a half that I will share again starting Monday. Resetment, injustice and sadness, plus the anniversary, are throwing me down into the emotional pit.

So, what have I learned through the years to help me be happy, joyous and free, and to have a faith that works under any conditions, and to be serene and serve God and my fellow human beings?

This too shall pass. Yes, the bad feelings I am feeling will not dominate my emotional landscape forever more.

Just like me, people are also sick and often wrong. As much as it feels to me like the forces of evil have triumphed, I have to remember that I can’t see the whole picture. It is possible that God has a plan I can’t see. It’s also possible that I am wrong, and they are right, or that, more likely, we are both right and wrong.

There are people worse off than me. Billions of them. This tragedy is not a tragedy. None of the people I feel I have lost are truly lost to me. Actually, I could call them right now and they would answer and talk to me and be with me if I need them to. I’m healthy (as far as I know) and I have everything I need today. Lots more than I need, and it has always been so. One of the analogies I use at work is to remember people who have hideous jobs. I’ve seen meat workers on TV, and when things get tough at work I remind myself and others that it’s still so much better than working on a chicken gutting assembly line. I admire people who work under those and other difficult circumstances, and I have to remember how easy I really do have it.

Time to grow? So often it takes adversity to make me stretch and grow. It takes extreme emotional pain to make me become entirely ready to have God remove my defects. Heck, it takes pain just to get me to pay attention to them for any amount of time. If I do the right thing through this experience, growth is about assured.

Lying in Meetings

Last night we heard a lead that was the most fantastic lead I have ever heard. And I unfortunately don’t mean that it was great. I mean it had to have more to do with fantasy than any I have heard before. I can’t even begin to list the outrageous elements of fame, fortune and tragedy that were contained in this story.

The thing that worries me most about it is the effect it must have on the newcomers to hear such stuff. Here they have found a group of people who strive as much as possible to be honest, then they hear this stuff. It also bothers me that I feel I’ve been taken advantage of in a way, and that I don’t know which elements are fact and which are fiction. All in all, though, personally, I don’t think it’s a big deal. Most of the people I hear lead I also know personally. I like it that way, and I know that most of what they say is true. I find it hard to admit that stories like last night’s leave me feeling in a muddle. I don’t like it, and I feel somehow stupid about it also. I guess it’s possible that all of it is true, but I can’t wrap my mind around that.

The guy gave names and dates, and CM went off to Google to try and see if any of it was provable. From what I heard her say, she could veryify none of it. Again, checking it out is not something I would do. And I guess that in the days before Google, gossip would have to take the place of a search engine.

We had gone out with a group after the meeting to a dinerish kind of place, and I find it interesting that no one referenced the fantastic story we had just heard.

I haven’t personally, blatantly lied telling my story. Really. The honesty and not having to keep track of my lies was one of the very first benefits I enjoyed in sobriety, and I’ve hung on to it with both hands most of the time. Through the years I must have listened to many many lies, though. There are none I can bring to mind with the important exception of people who said they were not drinking or using when they were. I was guilty of that one all the time, but of course not since I actually stopped.

I don’t know what to say beyond that it is really a shame. I hope that guy gets it, if he lives long enough. Several fatal illnesses were part of his tale. As for how a person could or should tell their story if it truly contains numerous unbelievable elements, maybe they could leave lots of them out and stick to the drinking until people get to know them better and get to know the outrageous details are real. Most outrageous thing I did was open a bottle of beer with my teeth.

Newcomers

We had the experience a few days ago of celebrating the one year anniversary of someone we had the honor of introducing to AA. Along with her and her year, there was her partner, who has four months, and one of CM’s sponsees, who just had two years (though we’ve known her longer and she’s been around longer – hey, I am here to testify that some are thicker than others and it’s never too late). A few days before the anniversary was the first anniversary of another member of our group.

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with a few newcomers. The most obvious benefit to doing this is the way it makes me go over the basics, crack the books (and the other night, a discussion about whether it is Honesty, Openness and Willingness or Honesty, Openmindedness andWillingness did send two of the attendees to the Big Book. Result, unresolved). It is so amazingly wonderful to see people recover. Especially when they go from active drinking to abstinence, the metamorphosis confirms for me all that I have been doing and living. It’s awesome to see them make friends and become connected to the network of people who are daily trying to do the right thing. I imagine that different places in life might have the same result. Helping someone get started at work or at church would be similar.

It’s cliche that the newest person in the room is the most important, but when I have the most time in the room it strikes me sometimes that everyone who came before me is gone – moved, died, drank, staying sober some other way. Sometimes, if not for new people, I would literally be all alone at a meeting and not have a meeting and not have a fellowship.

Anyway, what I want to record is how amazing the experience was for me and CM the other night with our newly sober friends. I experience a profound feeling of blessing when I consider these people, and they have actually contributed to making me a happy person just by their being. To give it away to keep it doesn’t explain that completely. Sure I get to keep it, but it comes back multiplied many times over.

Meeting Differences

I got sober in one place. I lived within a 20 mile area from the time I was born until I was 22. That’s where I went to meetings for six years, and it’s where I got sober. When I was one year sober (after five or six of drinking, but still in AA) I moved very far away from my home. Over the next twelve or so years, I moved many times, usually only living somewhere for a year until I moved back to my home town and stayed there for six years. Then I moved again and I’ve lived where I am now for almost ten years.

I have always gone to AA through all the moves. It is amazing to me that in all those places, there are thousands of people recovering through the AA program. All of the moves were within the US, though I did go from one side to the other and back, and a bit toward the middle. All the AA meetings used the same books, steps and traditions of course, and the meetings are more similar than they are different.

I really hesitate to criticize a meeting because at the core, it is an AA meeting, people are getting sober there, and I owe it my life. I wonder if moving and finding it hard to totally embrace different meeting formats is a problem of oldtimers. With lots of time, I would think, one is apt to get set in their ways, and would find it more difficult to accept something different than a newer person.

So personally, I do find all the reading boring and frustrating. Especially bad, to my patience, is the reading of items from the newsletter. So many times the person reading tells about little details of far off meetings and it eats up time. But honestly I also find it tedious to listen to “How it Works” at every meeting, all the traditions, all the promises, and goodness knows what else. I also find listening to one speaker tedious at times. Where I’m from, speakers spoke for shorter periods of time, and in an hour meeting there would be at least two of them. Finally I don’t like the aspect of the discussion meetings in my area where no one gives feedback. This is not the dreaded “cross talk,” but a format where the leader or speaker might make a short comment rather than, no matter what someone has said, say, “Next.”

Well this post is even boring me. I obviously have opinions about what I like and what I dislike regarding the format of an AA meeting. By no means, though, am I putting down the AA here or anywhere. I’m sure these things evolved for a reason, and the variety is actually interesting. It’s that certain night of the week when I know the nearby meeting features lots and lots of reading that gets me down. And I know I could join the group and try to see if others would see it my way and cut down. But I don’t do that.

Meetings

I didn’t go to a meeting today. I had meant to, and if everything had gone as expected, I would have. As it is, we had snow. I stayed home and worked from home, and my wife stayed home to go to the dentist. So I sort of felt like if I couldn’t go to work, I couldn’t go to a meeting. There is a small element of actually being afraid of the weather. I’ve been in situations where, as my car slid, I wondered what I was doing out. I’ll probably go to a meeting tomorrow instead.

I’m following a blog of a young woman who is on her third day sober. She didn’t go to a meeting today. I also have recently had the awesome experience of introducing two people to the program and watching them get sober. They also declined to make 90 meetings in 90 days. This was just so done when I was getting sober (unfortunately, a period of time that spans years). I still hear it being suggested and I still suggest it, but it seems to have fallen by the wayside.

I could write about all the reasons I think that people who are able to should do 90 in 90. That’s probably not addressing my purpose here, though, which is to reflect on long term sobriety.

So I didn’t go tonight and I probably will go tomorrow night. I don’t really like the meeting that is closest to me tonight. Part of that is having “grown up” and gotten sober elsewhere. I don’t like the format of the meetings here as much as the ones that were popular when and where I got sober. At the meeting that I would have gone to (and it’s actually going on now, as I write), they read, no lie, for 10, 15 or twenty minutes. The preamble. The grapevine. The steps. How it works. The traditions. The newsletter. Then they break to divide into several meetings. Then they start the respective meetings and then they end an hour after they began.

I do go to other meetings that are farther away, and I’ll continue to do that probably lots of the time. That has advantages and disadvantages, but when I’m that irritated with the format the advantages probably outweigh the disadvantages.

At this time in my sobriety, I go to one meeting a week for sure, often two, and every once in a while even more. I don’t have kids at home, but there is the matter of the dog. I’ll leave that for another post.

Alanon

I went to three meetings yesterday – a beginners meeting in alanon, a regular meeting in alanon, and to my regular home group meeting. Alanon is something I’ve mostly held off all these years. I’ve been to less than five meetings total, counting the two yesterday.

To say I qualify would be silly. I cannot think of any relatives, really, who aren’t alcoholics or addicts. My parents and several grandparents, my wife and probably my son if not both of my kids. I can go to any category of alanon and fit perfectly. I don’t know why I haven’t liked the meetings I’ve been to. I haven’t identified big time with the “adult children of alcoholics” since I’ve heard of such a thing. THE first book, written in the 80s, really left me cold. I usually think it’s because my father died when I was so young (6), that I never developed so many of the character traits that are common to this group. But even as I say that, I know that my mother still to this day presents me with issues because of her drinking. Yet I usually just don’t identify.

Yesterday’s meeting was on a tradition, which bores the hell out of my even in AA. So not a good example. But I told the friend who suggested I go that I will go again. I’m well acquainted with “contempt prior to investigation” and of course I know better. I’m also trying to borrow a page from another friend’s book that says that when someone asks if they can help, don’t say no, say I don’t know, and explore what they offer.

Being true to myself

This is one thing that has become increasingly important to me. In being true to myself I decrease the likelihood of developing a resentment toward someone or something. The way this might play out is, for instance, let’s say someone wants me to do something for them or with them, and I don’t really want to. I could be true to myself and say, “no,” or I could do it and be miserable throughout the experience. That isn’t fair to me or the other person. And when I’m miserable in the experience, it is my own fault. (This is not to say that I don’t sometimes do things that I don’t want to as a compromise, because I do. In those situations I make a conscious decision to do the thing that I don’t want to and to NOT develop a resentment because I’ve engaged in ‘whatever’ for the sake of a relationship.) Get it?