What’s My Part?

How my ego likes to tell me that the things I do are justified. It’s a tit-for-tat world so if you did that to me, then I will retaliate. Of course, I’m a master at being passive aggressive, so you may not know I have ‘got you back’, but I’ll know. I’ll make you pay! You can’t do that to me! I have my pride and I will not take this sitting down!

Wow. I may not have put those words together in my head but that is the gist of what I often feel when I believe that I had been wronged. I have read in our recovery literature that whenever I am disturbed by something that happened to me, I need to look at my part in the matter and at my response to the other person involved.

I remember hearing a fellow talk at a meeting about holding a resentment for many years against a fellow in the program to whom he had lent $30,000. The man didn’t make payments, and as time went on it became apparent that he would probably never have the means to pay back the money. The fellow went on to say that he had to look at what ‘his part’ was in this situation because it was eating him up inside.  He felt anger and resentment every time he saw the other fellow. He had basically given it up as a bad investment, but he still carried a deep grudge against the fellow.  What was his part?

” I lent him the money,” he said. “I knew when I handed him the cheque that he had a history of bad debt, that his track record in business, even in sobriety was shaky, but I lent it to him anyway.” Once he saw his own part in the arrangement, he was able to let go of his resentment. He had made a big error in judgement by making the loan. He was honest enough to admit that he probably won’t ever be a good friend of this fellow again, but he could forgive the other guy and forgiven himself. And he no longer avoids him or refuses to say hello to him at meetings.

In my recovery things will happen that will disturb me, upset me, bother me. My program tells me, by using Step 10 and Step 11 to look at the situation in a way that I see the real ‘why’ I feel the way I do. For the fellow above it was a deep hit to his pride and ego to admit that he had made an mistake. I have to put pride and ego aside as well. Like the childhood saying that says when I point my finger at you there are three pointing back at me I need to shift the focus of my disturbance onto me. I am involved in every interaction with others. Admitting my part in it is a big step in my liberation from the poison of anger and resentment.

 

To my friends who follow my blog: www.recoveryriver.org A couple of months ago Facebook changed its policy and the blog doesn’t automatically post to Facebook anymore. I invite you to click on the “Follow” button. That way you will receive an email with every one of the blog posts.

Thank you.

” Service will keep you Sober!”

I heard this phrase over and over in my first month or so of recovery. My recovery group was hosting its annual convention and I was recruited by the chairperson to be the one to make announcements and provide local information. “Service will keep you sober Tim,” she said over and over to me. I wasn’t quite sure what she meant by this, of course, I wasn’t quite sure about a lot of what was being said at that convention weekend. Everything was so new to me. In reality, I was just glad to be out of the house and have something to do, something to keep me busy and keep my mind off of my problems.

In the years since, I have washed a lot of coffee cups, set up chairs and tables, chaired meetings, and sponsored other men in the program. And I have worked on the annual convention every year since. This year I had the honour of chairing the convention committee. With each commitment, I gain more understanding more of what it means to be of service.

When I am doing service work I am stepping outside of myself and my difficulties, problems and challenges. Doing something, keeping busy, whether its sweeping the floor, setting out books, making coffee, chairing a meeting, reading, sharing, all of these activities are not only vital to the life of the group, they are vital to my own recovery, reminding me that I am not alone and that I can’t do this by myself. Service reminds me that I am part of something and that everything I do has importance in maintaining my recovery.

That phrase that I was told at the beginning, became embedded in my  recovery. It taught me that I need to pitch in because we sink or swim together. It taught me that my personal recovery is very dependent on my group and making sure that my group functions. It taught me that I am not alone and that I can’t recovery alone either.

When I first came into recovery, I came from a point where my world had shrunk to a very small circle of people and activities. Coming into the program and jumping right into service work got me involved. Forced me to meet new people. Allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone and experience a new way of living. Service is not the only part of recovery, but it is one of the key elements: I can’t keep my recovery to myself, I have to give it away.

The service work of this past weekend took me way out of my comfort zone. But as my recovery has grown, so has my ability to take on new responsibilities and challenges. My Higher Power is by my always. And with the enormous amount of service work by the other committee members and volunteers, I participated in an incredible event that will carry me forward in my recovery.

Jennifer R., I thank you for your guidance in my recovery. Service is still keeping me sober. I am grateful.

Do It Any Way

There are no shortcuts in recovery. It’s not a buffet of items I can pick and choose. Rather it’s a recipe that I need to follow on a daily basis in order to get the results of happiness, joy and freedom. Initially I may not like doing a step or part of the step but leaving it out is an open invitation to return to the life I had before. Leaving out the sugar or substituting salt is going to alter the results of your mother’s chocolate chip cookie recipe, regardless of how much love and care you put into their making. The same is true of a recovery program: “If you want what we have, then you do what we did.”

Is it always easy? No. There are times when I want to skip an apology to someone I had an argument with. I don’t always feel like praying. What if the meetings are boring? Why should I do it all? I’ve been in recovery a month, or a year or ten years. I’m doing fine. Right? How do you think the cookies taste without the sugar?

“Do it anyway: do it any way!”

Larry was a friend of mine in recovery who often said this. A recovery program requires trust. Even if I don’t understand what is happening, even if I don’t believe it is going to work, even when I don’t have any desire, I need to do ‘it’. And I need to find a way to do ‘it’. ‘It’ has to get done. ‘It’ is part of my recovery work.

What is ‘it’? Perhaps it’s working the next step. Perhaps it’s making amends for the argument I was in yesterday or last year. It might be sitting down to pray or meditate. It could be looking into the real reason why I’m depressed or why I avoid social situations. It’s that which gnaws and knots our stomach. We all have an ‘it’. And if we’ve been in recovery even a short time, we won’t have to dig very long to know what that ‘it’ is: the next right thing I need to do.

If you ask anyone who returns to the program after a relapse if they were ‘thoroughly following their program the answer is always ‘no’. They left something out of their program that was vital to their success in it. In going to meetings you will run into members whose recovery is much less than happy, joyous and free. They too are living without some of the ingredients of a healthy recovery program. They aren’t doing ‘it’.

I’ve learned to trust the Twelve Steps as my guide. I learn to go over and review them regularly because I don’t want to go back to where and how I was living before. I can’t guarantee that I’ll still be in recovery ten years from now, but I don’t need to. If I keep doing the next right thing, if I live my recovery today then I will be okay today. Tomorrow is another day.

Today I’ll do it anyway/any way because I want recovery.  I am grateful that Larry was a part of my recovery. RIP big fellow!