In the Eleventh Step of recovery we are asked to pray to know what our Higher Power’s will is for us and the power to carry it out. Tall order!
I like to use the metaphor of the bus. My purpose here on Earth is to ride the bus. I believe that what my HP really wants for me is to enjoy the view out of the window and the other passengers that are sitting around me. We can learn from each other, chat about what is happening on the bus and what we’re seeing outside. We can even move seats once in a while for a new perspective and new seat mates. My Higher Power has it all under control.
Problems come, however, when I think that I’m capable of doing other things. I should be able to drive the bus. Heck, it doesn’t look that hard. So I slip into the driver seat and take over. Oh, I might do okay for the first bit, but the real test comes when the road gets rough, full of curves and blind corners. I don’t have the experience for that. Perhaps I think that I should be the one taking the tickets. Maybe I think I would be better at choosing the route the bus is taking, or the timetable. You had better hope nothing happens to the engine when I start to think that it would be my job to fix the bus. It’s my ego that says I don’t need a driver or a mechanic, but do I really know the difference between a tie rod and and tire iron?
We can all point to occasions when we surrendered, left things in our HP’s control and it went far better than we could ever have imagined. When I try to impose my ‘will’, my ‘control’ upon things, that’s when the bus starts to slide toward the shoulder of the road.
So what’s my Higher Power’s will for me?
I believe that my purpose in life is to become the best Tim I can possibly be. When I need to make a decision, I can look out the bus window and allow it all to flow through my senses. It’s then that inspiration might hit. Or I can chat with my seatmates to come up with an solution. I can change my seat for a different perspective of the landscape and other riders. I can even go talk to the bus driver and ask where we are headed. What I don’t want to do is think that I can do it all on my own. I’ve learned that trying to control everything doesn’t work. Doing that got me dropped off at the bus stop in front of a meeting hall.
This is a metaphor that works for me. When I am uncertain of what I should do in a situation I ask myself, am I riding the bus or am I driving the bus? Am I trying to control something outside of me? Is my ego involved? Is this the road heading to the best person I can be? And if I’m still unsure, I can always ask those around me as well as the driver. Usually the answer is for me to sit down, look out the window, and enjoy the view because my Higher Power is looking after the rest.
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.
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We all do it. We look at the negative aspects of our lives and ask why me? Oh woe is me! Look at how bad things are. I can’t get past this. Why did this happen to me? How come it always goes bad for me? We end up focusing on those aspects of life that we don’t like. But while we do that, we sap our energy, waste it actually, because “woe is me” never contributes to a solution.
When I allow self pity to take my energy I am saying to myself that I can’t overcome whatever difficulty that might be present. I don’t look for a solution and I don’t take action. I am focused on the past, on what happened and I allow this to define me. This way of thinking can easily take me down a depressing path that leads me further into self loathing and self hatred. Self pity is just another form of an ego trip: cause it’s all about me and only me don’t you know!
I just can’t allow myself to go there. It is too destructive.
Not long ago I read that when something happens that you wish hadn’t, you give yourself a minute to wallow in the self pity. You can cry, pound your desk, shake your fist at the heaven, yell as loud as you want or whatever other non-destructive behaviour you wish; you have sixty seconds to complete this task. Once the time it up, it’s up. After one minute of lamentations it is time to move on.
We all want things to go well, to follow our plan. And they don’t always. I can embrace the failures of my past and learn from them to find a new solution. This time my solution might work, or it might not. There is no guarantee. So if it doesn’t work out a second time, I can give it one minute of sobbing into the wind and then back to seeking a solution. Then it is time to keep to the present and move forward, one step at a time.
Focusing on the past and on failures will never lead to solution. It’s okay to grieve over what didn’t go as planned, but it is important not to let myself become bogged down in that quicksand of self destruction. I need to move forward. So I will try to remember that I can allow myself a minute of woe, and then it’s time to move on. There is a solution!