Such gross misbehavior is not by any means a full catalogue of the harms we do. Let us think of some of the subtler ones which can sometimes be quite as damaging. Suppose that in our family lives we happen to be miserly, irresponsible, callous, or cold. Suppose that we are irritable, critical, impatient, and humorless. Suppose we lavish attention upon one member of the family and neglect others. What happens when we try to dominate the whole family, either by a rule of iron or by a constant outpouring of minute directions for just how their lives should be lived from hour to hour? What happens when we wallow in depression, self-pity oozing from every pore, and inflict that upon those about us? Such a roster of harms done others–the kind that make daily living with us as practicing alcoholics difficult and often unbearable–could be extended almost indefinitely. When we take such personality traits as these into shop, office, and the society of our fellows, they can do damage almost as extensive as that we caused at home.
This is rough! There are times, at work and in other places, that I set out on purpose to be nice and good and agreeable and helpful. To let insults and slights pass (and to remember often the person insulting me doesn’t mean to). Because in general, here and now and there and then, things are basically very very good in my life. It can be like the revelation that, when calling people who are trying to help with the phone or the cable or the internet or the car insurance or credit card bill, being pleasant almost always makes the person more helpful and the interaction less frustrating.
And again, after all these years of recovery, I don’t generally feel that I indulge in these bad habits to an extreme. Almost any amount is too much, but I hope those words don’t really describe me very well. Miserly, irresponsible, callous, cold, depressed, self-pitying. I hope not. Minute directions for how my family should live, those I do give often. But not constantly. This paragraph does say practicing alcoholics. Thankfully, I’ve quit practicing, finally convinced I will never get it right.
I don’t want to short these ideas, but right now they seem to me to be of the daily inventory variety, not huge character defects that I need to have removed. Though of course I need to have them removed. I’m clear as mud on this.