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!
I was pretty good at looking at my life as a sad case when I was still living in my disease. There was always a good reason why I needed to continue to drink or use. No one knew how bad my life was. You couldn’t understand me. Everyone was against me. My problems were so deep and personal no one could help me. I had so many reasons to keep on using and very few to stop.
By the time I got to recovery I, like many others, thought that my life was over. I knew I couldn’t go on the way I was going. Somehow I was able to fast forward and see what my life would soon be like and I knew that I had to stop. I thought the fun was over in life. All was downhill from here on in: no more celebrations and parties, no more reasons to laugh. I figured that I would live a pretty sad life compared to the rest of my friends. But the writing was on the wall: either find a way to quit or follow that road to an early grave. Poor me. Poor me! Pour me another!
Self pity kept me in my disease for many years. Every once in a while I can slip back into it. The why mes. The if onlys. The you don’t knows. I suffer from the disease of ‘terminal uniqueness’, a shortcoming that never lacks a reason to chuck it all and go back to active addiction.
I am grateful for a sponsor who called me on my stupidity. “You’re on an Ego Trip!” I couldn’t believe him at first, but I’ve come to realize that he was right. My ego telling me I am the worst of the worst and things can’t get better is really the same as my ego telling me I am better than everyone else and things have to go my way. The result is the same: a false identity and an incomplete picture of who I really am. What I need to do is put my Ego aside and try to look at things as they really are.
I’m learning that humility isn’t lowering one’s self. It is being, owning, embracing myself as I am, not better than or worse than anyone else. I have my strengths and my weaknesses. And I need them all to make up the person that I am today. It doesn’t make me worse or better than the next guy. I’m just another guy.
I’d like to say that I’m over feeling sorry for myself but I’m still working on it. I am grateful that it doesn’t reveal itself as often as it used to. And I’m grateful that I have learned to apply some of the things I’ve learning in recovery: a gratitude list, a change in my focus, service work and meditation. These help to keep balance in my life and allow me to see that my life can be happy, joyous and free when I work for it.