Saturday, March 29, 2008

Step 10 vs. Fear

"When a drunk has a terrific hangover because he drank heavily yesterday, he cannot live well today. But there is another kind of hangover which we all experience whether we are drinking or not. That is the emotional hangover, the direct result of yesterday's and sometimes today's excesses of negative emotion--anger, fear, jealousy, and the like. If we would live serenely today and tomorrow, we certainly need to eliminate these hangovers." Step 10 from the 12 & 12

This past week, I've struggled with some emotional left overs. Usually it seems to get worse after I reviewed my day. I've been looking at how many times I feel fearful during the day and why I am feeling fearful. I also review how I dealt with the fear. So it always ends up that I am fearful over stuff that I can't control. People and events. Will my son relapse, will my daughters be okay, will my spouse accept me, will my boss be nicer, is there going to be layoffs, what does my AA group think of me, am I isolating too much, am I taking care of myself in just the right way, do my friends think I'm weird, do the people reading this blog think I'm strange. My fears are selfish. I understand that well.

Each morning I pray the equivalent of the step three pray. Turning my will over to God, praying that I would do God's will, praying that selfishness, self-pity, and fear won't cause me to take control. Then off to work I go and forget all about God and the courage and strength that comes from trusting in a Higher Power. I look at how I deal the with fear. Mostly thought replacement. A thought comes, when I recognize what I'm doing, I replace it with something positive. This usually works. If the thoughts are really crazy, a wild fantasy, so to speak, the fear becomes very strong. If I want to stop this, I have no choice but to ask God for help. To speak the serenity prayer. With God's grace, the stone in my stomach is removed. I want to be more mindful of my Higher Power through out the day but I usually don't think of God until my day becomes painful.

When I recognize that I haven't thought much of God today, I become hard on myself . I think of myself as a failure. Beating myself up. After the review of the day, I feel like crap. That was how my life was before recovery. I would drink, I would debase myself on the internet, and then the next day, feeling shameful, I would ask for God's help. I would think about how I behaved and then feeling shame and guilt, I would do it all over again. Day after day until eventually I stopped asking God for help. Didn't work. My life, especially the couple of years before I entered treatment, were full of fear, guilt, and shame. I hated myself for who I was.

And I found myself, earlier this week, falling into that pattern. I can't defeat the fear in my life, I can't be mindful of God, I'm not making any progress that I can see, so I better start feeling depressed. So what's the point of doing step 10. (Oh, I wish my sponsor was back from vacation.) Step 10 is giving me the emotional hangover.

I have gratitude that at my home group this week, the topic was step 10. As we read the entire chapter out of the 12&12, this paragraph jumped out at me.

When evening comes, perhaps just before going to sleep, many of us draw up a balance sheet for the day. This is a good place to remember that inventory-taking is not always done in red ink. It's a poor day indeed when we haven't done something right. As a matter of fact, the waking hours are usually will filled with things that are constructive. Good intentions, good thoughts, and good acts are there for us to see. Even when we have tried hard and failed, we may chalk that up as one of the greatest credits of all. Under these conditions, the pains of failure are converted into assets. Out of them we receive the stimulation we need to go forward. Someone who knew what he was talking about once remarked that pain was the touchstone of all spiritual progress. How heartily we A.A's can agree with him, for we know that the pains of drinking had to come before sobriety, and emotional turmoil before serenity.

Balance. Several members shared afters about the importance of looking at the positive attributes of our day as well. I may need some help doing this. I'll show you how my head works.

At a meeting earlier this week, I was privileged to chair the meeting. After the meeting started, a young man I had never seen before walked through the doors and took a chair. At the smoke break, I went over and introduced myself, wanting him to feel comfortable at the meeting. In our brief chat, I discovered he had just come back for a treatment centre and was looking to get his life back in order. He already knew someone else in the group and was looking forward to talking with him. We had a short chat and he did look at ease during the meeting. After the meeting, when I was talking outside at the parking lot with another member, I noticed this young man sitting under a lamp. He didn't have a jacket for protection against the cold. The member I was talking to was needing someone to talk with, he had been sober for about a month when his spouse asked for a legal separation. He was hurt, in tears, confused. We talked for quite a while, all the time I was watching the young man sitting alone. I thought I should go see this kid again, but then fear plunked in. What if he needs a place to sleep? What if he is going to become a burden to me, and on and on and on. After I finished talking with the older member, I started toward my car and then decided to talk with the young man. After asking him if he was waiting for a ride, he informed me he was waiting for his mom to pick him up. I gave him my cell, he called his mom, and she said she would be there in a bit. I invited the kid to sit in my car with me, with the heater on full blast so he could warm up. He accepted my invitation and we had a wonderful talk about his experiences in the treatment centre.

When I reviewed this time out in the parking lot, I didn't see the good in talking with the member who had marital problems, I didn't see the good in helping out this young man, all I could see was my fearfulness. I felt fear in talking with the older member, worried I would say the wrong thing. I felt fear about the young man, fear that I would have to get more involved in his life. (At the end of our conversation, I offered to be his sponsor. He declined.) I did some good deeds inspite of my fear but all I could see was the fear. I could see nothing estimable in my actions for all I could look at was the fear I felt.

I did good things in spite of my thinking. I think that is what the definition of courage is. I am not a bad person. I get a glimmer of hope.

Sorry to have rambled on so long. Thanks for letting me share.


pat said...

You are your own worse critic. That being said, you have terrific insight and have a very healthy attitude on dealing with your demons. I do not know many people who take the time to take a good look at themselves. You amaze me. Hugs.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Pat. Even though you felt the fear, you reached out and it was a positive experience. The reason why is because God was with you. You do not need to be thinking of Him for Him to be there. By the way I tagged you, see the meme on my blog. You can thank Pat for that too because she tagged me!