Many people walk around feeling quite sorry for themselves. They honestly believe that they have few choices in this life. Perhaps they blame their parents who never gave them the love they deserve. Or they might say they are now too old to try out new ideas or approaches. Then again they might claim they are not old enough when it comes to certain decisions. Bosses often get blamed for lack of promotions or increases in salary. The list of excuses is endless.
We in the fellowship also used to complain about our lot. We felt stuck due to our compulsive use of alcohol, drugs and food.
Once we achieved sobriety, perhaps we mechanically referenced those old complaints as well. Within short order, someone in the program probably questioned us on this. They pointed out that we ultimately determine our destiny through the choices we make. Parents didn’t love you? Choose to love yourself and others. Think you’re to old or young to take a new path? Find the courage to take the first step. Unhappy at work? Change jobs or get retrained. For almost every challenge we face in life, there are choices we can make which will impact the outcome. The choice is ours.
Personal Reflection: Have I been avoiding making an important choice?
When we put down our drug of choice, the road initially was a rocky one. Physically our body was often going through withdrawal. Emotionally, our nerves were frayed and we were on edge. There was often a tendency at this point for us to begin to feel sorry for ourselves. Why did we allow ourselves to get into this situation to begin with? Why couldn’t we drink, or drug like everyone else? How did we end up in this mess?
To all of these thoughts we only have one thing to say to you. “Stop feeling sorry for yourself”. Yes, if you want to know the truth you did make a mess of things. But, if you’re really serious about sobriety, you can and will turn your life around. It’s not going to be easy. And that’s alright. You will begin to learn things about yourself that will help you create a lot of change in your life. You will soon see that your health is going to improve. Your emotional life will also become much better. Perhaps most importantly, you will begin to develop a relationship with your Higher Power. So stop feeling sorry for yourself.
Personal Reflection: What am I grateful about today?
At first, it was difficult for us to synthesize what was being said to us by others in the program. When someone said to us, ” get off the pity pot”, we often responded in anger, hurt and confusion. “What do you mean get off the pity pot”, we exclaimed. If they had walked a mile in our shoes, they wouldn’t have spoken to us the way they did. If they had our spouse, our job, our friends, our children, our siblings, our problems, they would understand us a lot better.
As we progressed in the program, our understanding of self pity changed. We came to see that when we engaged in self pity, we were failing to take responsibility for our actions. We learned that it was a cop out to place the blame on others. The only way we could grow was through self examination and seeing our role in whatever challenges we were facing. Even when the other person was at fault, we had an opportunity to examine why their behavior pressed our buttons. We stopped making it all about them, and began to make it about us. Over time, self pity was replaced with personal responsibility.
Personal Reflection: Do I still fall into the trap of self pity?
There is no doubt that life can be very hard. On an almost daily basis we have to face many challenges. Some of them we know will arise and to some extent be planned for. For many of life’s other challenges, their occurrence is largely out of our hands. Self-pity has often been our immediate response to these travails of daily life.
In the program, we are often advised to “get off the pity pot”. When things “happened to us” our default response was self-pity. Initially we might have justified this reaction with a statement like, “if you had my life, you’d feel bad for yourself too”. The problem with self-pity is that it ultimately works against us. It creates inertia to change. When we are on that pity pot, it becomes doubly hard to move out of our feelings of despair and attend to whatever the challenge is. In self-pity, we kick the can further down the road and ultimately only exacerbate the problem; still needing to deal with it at a later date. There is tremendous power in not buying into self-pity. Instead of going there, we need to take an action instead.
Personal Reflection: How does self-pity work against me in my life?