I don’t remember the last time I shook my fist and cursed someone out for cutting YOU off in traffic, or the last time I plotted revenge against a stranger for cheating on or hurting someone else that I didn’t know. I’m also pretty sure I’ve never lost sleep or sat around and become consumed with resentment towards some random person who has failed morally, even though it happens every day all over the place. But by God, you just try to do it to ME, or someone I love, and I am ANGRY! Because how DARE you!
When did I decide it was beneficial to become so full of myself? When was the last time it helped me become a better person by deciding you were a crappy person? I think it was when I decided it was all about ME.
Through addiction and alcoholism and a dozen other “isms” I had lost my sense of objectivity. If it wasn’t about ME then I wasn’t interested, I couldn’t relate. In fact I was pretty good at making it about me, just to have something to be upset about. For example, I’d nitpick my partner, I’d act as though THEY were untrustworthy because I couldn’t trust myself. I was the first to find fault in you because I was riddled with fear and insecurities regarding myself. I didn’t realize I was the perfect example of “you spot it, you got it!”
I was in denial. And since I lived in this false reality for so long, I have learned that when I refuse to see an issue in my thought or action, I am incapable of changing. That is a scary thought! I always believed I was in control! When in actuality, I was dependent upon fear and resentment as a motivating factor to stay the same, even though it was causing me an incredible amount of emotional pain. I was physically broken and spiritually bankrupt, but I couldn’t admit it.
Resentment is simply the way I reacted to my past. Let’s break that word down for a more detailed understanding. “Re” means to do it “again,” and “sentir” – in French, means “to feel”. So I compulsively felt everything bad over and over again. It’s funny because I notice I don’t really do it with good feelings, just bad ones. When I resent, I literally choose to re-feel all the wrong that has ever been done to me without of course being able to go back in time and change any of it. That sounds like a huge waste of time. What exactly is the point of doing that?
Because then I get to be angry! Anger is my default emotion. It’s how I reacted to everything. Notice I didn’t say ‘acted’, I said ‘reacted’, indicating a lack of conscious awareness of my own behavior. Anger has always been my best defense against hurt, embarrassment, confusion, or anything really that I didn’t like to feel. Anger took the responsibility off of me, and put it onto whatever pissed me off. Once that happened, I ultimately lost my capacity to be rational. Most likely I often felt justified. But justifiable anger is the most dangerous kind. By thinking this way, I’ve made it personal again, because it’s all about me, me, me, and what was done to ME.
The peaceful Buddha might say:
“You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.” A similar sentiment reminds me that “holding on to anger towards someone, is like drinking poison and expecting them to die.”
Sure, but this type of thinking built over time into an enormous tornado of self-centered delusion, often before I even realized what was happening. I recognize now that what I was really trying to avoid all my life was feeling fear. I used anger and resentment as a flimsy shield against being vulnerable and authentic. I was afraid. I was afraid of not mattering. I was afraid of not being accepted as I was. I was afraid of my own feelings. I was afraid of not being worthy.
How did I get over this fear? Well, let’s set the record straight once and for all. Nothing anybody does is because of me. This is very important to understand. It is always an excuse to believe otherwise, and I had to open my mind to new ideas. I had to come to an understanding through my own experience that everything I do as a human being is based on my own projection of reality. For example, I may “think” I know how you feel, but that is impossible. I am only conscious in one body, my own, and I cannot project my feelings into your being no matter how much I want to. I interpret my life by using the thoughts in my head, which creates the arena I have for choosing my own behaviors. I can blame you all day long, but in the end it was my decision to act a certain way or say a certain thing. When we learn to live without the impending fear of being out of control we actually regain a sense of stability that can only come with objective awareness. By continuing to think this way, I start to see things as they are, and I become responsible for myself.
It has always been an interesting concept to me to be afraid of the unknown, because I certainly was, and so many people are. Nowadays, I personally am more afraid of what I have already lived through than anything that could happen to me sober and in recovery. I think what I am actually doing when I say I am afraid of the future is just re-feeling something that I have already experienced and I project that feeling it into some imagined situation. Whether it is emotional let-down, failure, I got lied to, lost someone or someone broke my trust, etc. What I am doing is actually reserving all those old feelings in negative anticipation. Therefore, by definition, imagining a “future resentment” actually becomes “Fear” as I know it. It’s completely irrational and frankly isn’t a fair thing to do to myself or anyone else. Remember, there is a difference between Danger and Fear. Danger is real, while fear is merely a lack of faith. The “unknown” isn’t real yet and may never be. The only thing that is real is “now.”
I also don’t have to be afraid of my past anymore either. It’s over. It was what it was. When I attach present feelings to my past in a negative manner I am only limiting the experience I actually had. Who I was in active addiction has made me who I am today. Understanding that both the good and the difficulties of life that had to happen exactly the way they did in order for me to grow, is Acceptance. I am not angry anymore, I am grateful. I’m not saying I don’t ever experience fear, I am human. What I am saying is that when I do become aware that I am afraid, I figure out why, and I realize that thoughts and projections can’t hurt me unless I let them. By learning to be specific about my fears I actually get freedom. When I know exactly what it is I am afraid of, I get to have choices that I wouldn’t have considered otherwise. I can take positive actions in faith and I never have to panic again. By changing the way I think, I get to decide how I want to act, and by behaving better, I feel better. Isn’t that the point of it all?
Becoming less self-centered and more God-centered removes the incredible burden I carried for years. I am no longer a victim. I don’t have to keep my defenses up anymore. It’s not me against the world or me against God. We are all One. Things don’t happen TO me anymore, they happen FOR me. I don’t say “why me?” today, instead I say “why not me?” I am an equal on this earth, no less, and no better than anyone else. Changing perspective allows me to grow into what my Higher Power intended, and the way I treat others speaks volumes in terms of spiritual maturity. Today I realize that I don’t have to be kind and loving towards all, I GET to be kind and loving towards all, including myself.
I recognize that every single one of us is on a unique path towards the same goal of loving ourselves unconditionally. Fear, Anger, Resentment, Expectations, and Self-Centered delusions are the biggest weapons that the disease of addiction has. By bringing this truth to light, the influence it once had on my life gets taken away. It has really been eye opening to experience and embrace all the different sides of myself with objective awareness, making it very clear that the biggest weapons the recovering person has are and always will be the spiritual awakenings gained by working the 12 steps. The spiritual principles of recovery turn the “me” into “we” and remind me that I am not alone or unique, and there is a solution for every problem.