Taking Stock

We´re almost at the half way point of December. Where did the year go? We had the same amount of time that we did lasts year. Everyone gets the same 24 hours each day, weeks and months go by, and suddenly we’re close to marking the end of another year. Regardless of whether or not you make New Year’s Resolutions, I believe it is important to take a yearly stock of where we are and put forth some intentions of where we want to go in the next.

Now is as good a time as any to do a yearly inventory. I can look back at the past year and see how far I have come. In what ways have I found gains in my life and where did I fail in being the person I wish to be. In doing so, I will find the areas of my life where I need to put forth more of a concerted effort to make changes.

If I am truly living my program of recovery then I am constantly changing and evolving. I am not the same person I was a year ago, or at least I hope not. I can only really know by doing that personal moral inventory again. Few business owners like to do a physical inventory of their business, but it is the only way they can truly calculate the exact state of the company. It is a check to see that what is written on paper, or in the computer, is in agreement with what is actually present. A physical inventory lets the owner know not only how the past year went but also how to plan for the next, develop strategies for coping with changes in trends and look to the future.

I have to do the same in my inventory. It is not about self recrimination and focus on failure. Rather it is an honest look at my state of affairs. Neither do I focus on how much I have accomplished. It is an even handed, humble look at who I am now and measuring that against who I was a year ago. In doing so I know where my weaknesses are, how I’ve fallen short in my program and how I can move forward for the next year to improve where I am in life.

It is very apparent to me that I need to work on self esteem. Early on in life I developed a false sense of humility and it is still a struggle to recognize my talents and successes. I still tend to focus on my failures and run the tapes over and over in my head of how I am not good enough. Good enough for who?

I am working on a plan to shift my focus for the next year. I will strive to keep in mind the small gains that I make. I will work to recognize when I am slipping into feelings of unworthiness and turn them around before they affect my mood or take me down the road of depression. I can’t control my thoughts, but I can control what I do with them. I do that by daily committing to my recovery program, by being vigilant and by focusing on accomplishments.

I’ve learned that if I am not changing then I am not living my program. I want to be a better person today than I was last year. I want to see improvements. I want to live life fully and on life’s terms. I accept that I have made many positive changes in this life and that I can work on other aspects of my character. I do this by taking the time now to see where I have come from and decide where I wish to go.

Promptly Admitted It

Before we leave off the tenth month and the Tenth Step reflections, I was reminded by a group member of a very important point in Step Ten: “…and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it”. It’s not just a case of offering an apology and moving on. I must offer amends to the person that I have offended. The difference between the two isn’t so subtle.

The Apology:

An apology is a heartfelt ‘I’m sorry’ for what I did or failed to do. A true apology doesn’t make excuses or explain circumstances. Rather, it is an admission of my failure to act as I should have acted. For all its heartfelt emotion, an apology end there. There is a hope for forgiveness, but it is not necessary. I’ve done my part; it’s up to the other person if he wishes to accept the apology or not.

The Compensation:

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There are three elements to making amends. First, an amends should begin with a sincere apology. Secondly, it should also includes some form of compensation to make up for what was done. The repentant thief asks for forgiveness for what he stole and offers to pay back what he stole plus some extra compensation, perhaps interest earned or some agreed upon terms of recompense to make up for what was taken.  It might include repair or replacement of broken or damaged items. It is a demonstration of remorse for what was done.

Perhaps when it’s something physically tangible it´s easier to make amends: return the money, give back the car, pay for a new window. When it’s something intangible then it is more difficult to make amends. How do I make amends for taking away someone’s peace of mind, abandoning them, or ruining a relationship? Reparation for damages isn’t quite as cut and dried here. Some discussion might be necessary to resolve the terms and nature of the amends.

The Commitment to Change:

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A beautiful bouquet offered after a heated argument might be enough the first time, but if the pattern continues, the person making the amends might just get a facefull of flowers after the third or fourth time. That because part of amends also includes the idea that one’s behaviour has been amended or changed so that it won’t happen again in the future. A boss might be willing to accept the amends of an employee who abuses his expense account the first couple of times, but no matter how sincere or honest the apology is after the third screw up, it’s likely not going to be accepted because it’s obvious the behaviour hasn’t changed. So the third element in amends has to be a commitment to change, that I won’t do the same thing in the future. Amends involves a change in life patterns and behaviours. This is ‘living’ your amends.

I have times when I am more successful than others with making amends. I sometimes slip back into old patterns of thinking and acting. I try not to focus on these times as much as I look to the times when I’ve earned a checkmark in life. I recently read that it’s better to: ‘look to the gains, not the gaps’. If I focus on my program I am going to make some incredible wins. One way of doing that is by getting over the screw-ups as quickly as possible: apologise, compensate and change are the three elements of this amends. Making amends is an incredible life win; I have done what is under my control to make up for the offence. And I can move on with my day, celebrating my gains and living my recovery.

 

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.

 

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