To be sure there are some amazing people in the program. Some came from extremely difficult family backgrounds and have now found a degree of serenity that is quite startling given where they came from. There are others who hit rock bottom and through the program reclaimed their lives. Some of these same people became successful professionals and businessmen and women. We can listen to their stories and identify with them. They are often powers of example and can serve as an inspiration for us. We often speak with them to receive their counsel.
With all that we must be careful not to idolize them. This is bad for them because it feeds their ego, and grandiosity is not something we want to encourage. We are also being excessively romantic about them. We have turned them into some Titan of program. The problem with this is that when we observe them being less than perfect; that disappoint could destroy our sobriety.
Rather, we need to honestly assess others; take them off the pedestal,and see them for who they are. Like us, they are people who struggle every day to work on themselves and make the world just a little bit better.
Personal Reflection: Is there someone I need to take off the pedestal
Membership in the fellowship of AA, NA or OA needs to be looked at as the first step in a process of growth.. In the beginning we brought along many of our character defects. One of these was grandiosity. Although we were new, we acted as if we were the most important person in the room. When this happened an old timer approached us, and sensing our “importance” asked us if we wanted to be “chairman” of the meeting. Of course we answered yes because our importance and stature almost demanded that we take charge. The old timer pointed to a stack of unopened chairs and said, “ok Mr. Chairman, get to work and open up all of these chairs and put them away at the end of the meeting”. At first our feelings were ruffled. As time passed we grew to understand that small things were extremely important. Since this was a day at a time program, the goal was to string together a lot of days one by one. Within each day, there was much work to be done by accumulating a series of small actions. It was far more important to engage in a series of many small activities, than to occasionally participate in one large one. Consistency yielded important results.
Personal Reflection: Have I been neglecting some of the little things?
We had prided ourselves on our gift of gab. This was especially true after we had had a few. The next day we couldn’t understand why people were upset or angry with us. The fact is we couldn’t quite remember what we had said. It must have been brilliant though, given our ability to wax poetic on all things. They must be sensitive sorts we mused to ourselves; and started the next conversation with whoever was near us.
In sobriety our sponsor really let us have it. At first he told us if we had a thought we should keep it to ourselves. Then he relented and told us we could resume conversations with people, but with three provisos. First, we could only speak the truth. No more of that grandiosity or arrogance of ours that often leaked through. Then he told us that before we told anyone anything we needed to check if it would hurt them in any way. If so, we were to keep our mouths shut. Finally, after passing those first two hurdles, we needed to examine if what was being said was really necessary. Following these guidelines we discovered that we had a lot less to say to people. On the positive side, when we did speak to people they no longer were angry or upset with us. In fact sometimes, they wanted to hear more.
Personal Reflection: Do I need to monitor my words more carefully?
Occasionally in the news we hear of a case of extreme sleep walking. A person might have taken the bus to work or driven their car to a take out restaurant all while asleep. When we hear of cases like this, we are grateful that we do not suffer from this condition. The reality is that there is another kind of sleep walking. It’s not of the variety of clinically diagnosed sleep walking. In fact we are fully up and fully conscious. Yet we are still asleep. How is that possible? Because we are asleep to who we really are.
Many of us in the program fell into this category. While we were active, we had a vision of ourselves that was totally distorted. Some of us were full of pride, arrogance and grandiosity. We smugly felt superior to everyone. Then there were those of us who felt we were hopeless cases. We frequently berated ourselves for our inadequacies.
When we finally joined the fellowship, much of that bravado or shame was shed and we were able to take an honest look to discover who we really were. For most of us, this has been an ongoing process. The more we work the program, the more we are able to see who we really are; and to accept and love that person.
Personal Reflection: In what area of my life am I still asleep?
There is an interesting contradiction found in many alcoholics and addicts. We profess to being humble simple folk; modern-day working class heroes. When asked what we want to do we say, “oh, don’t worry about me, whatever you want to do is fine”. Then, when people don’t do what we want we become highly insulted by their lack of sensitivity to our needs. Even though we told them we would do anything; if they appreciated our needs, they would know what we really wanted. We are so self-absorbed that we expect others to somehow read our minds. We often walk around with a list of grievances against others. In our view, the wrongs of others are all the more egregious because we are such good people. This begins to change as we deepen our commitment to the program and become more self-reflective. We begin to recognize some of our shortcomings. We learn that the antidote to the disease of me, is to serve others. Whether it’s listening to someone share, or going out and doing service, stepping outside of ourselves shatters grandiosity.
Personal Reflection: How do I reduce self-absorption?
Many people walk around with the belief system that they are the expert on all matters intellectual, emotional, and spiritual. They have no problem telling us and others how we should be running our lives. Although they often end up putting their foot in their mouths, they are essentially clueless. After attempting to fix us, they move on to their next victim. We discovered in the program that to our chagrin we often initially belonged to this category of people. With some time under our belts, we learned that before we spoke it was often a good idea to pause for a moment and delay our pearls of wisdom. This was often difficult for us, though sometimes we were able to control ourselves for a minute or an hour or even a day. As the minutes ticked by we began to realize that maybe what we had to say really wasn’t important or appropriate. As more time passed we realized that even if what we wanted to say was true, perhaps it was not necessary for us to be the one to speak. Our restraint of tongue actually was quite empowering and liberating.
Personal Reflection: Do I practice restraint of tongue?
For a long time we walked around with a lot of grievances. Wherever we went, we thought that people had it in for us. At the supermarket, the cashier took somebody on the line before us. At the restaurant the waitress messed up our order on purpose because of something we had said. Even as kids we never got a fair shake. We didn’t make the team because the coach didn’t like us.
When we finally entered the program we began to realize that maybe we weren’t such victims after all. The reality was that most people were just doing the best they could. When something happened to us, in most cases we weren’t being targeted. People sometimes just made mistakes. No intent was attributable. That cashier just didn’t realize that we were on line. The waitress made a mistake with our order because the diner was so noisy. Coach didn’t take us because we were 90 pounds soaking wet. We learned that our sense of grandiosity had caused many of our grievances. And, for those times that we had a legitimate grievance, we learned to look at our part.
Personal Reflection: Do I need to do a reality check on a recent grievance?