I long fantasized about winning the lottery. When I was an active drunk, I was certain it would get me sober. When I was spiritually empty, I was certain it would fulfill me. Now, years later, I am grateful thatthe universe did not fulfill my wish. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “No change of circumstances can repair a defect of character.” I was a defective character.
Would I have even bothered seeking help if I had won? What would have become of me? I am pretty certain my character defects, fueled with millions in unearned cash, would have been my undoing.
Twelve Step sobriety is an exercise in dealing with character defects. It’s an ongoing process that lasts a lifetime. How I cringe when I hear someone in a recovery meeting share about step work only in the past tense. This is not a one-and-done-deal. My character defects weren’t miraculously lifted the first time I looked at Steps Six and Seven. And I am presently learning that the best I can hope for is remission, not cure.
You see I am an IT consultant. Sometimes I get real jobs but often I am working on a contract. Contracts have start and end dates. There is no certainty. No permanency.
As of this writing, the end date of my current contract is fast approaching. Knowing this would occur, I started the search for my next gig some time ago. I got offers from several consultancies but they were contingent offers. That is, the consultancy has to land a new engagement before they put me on payroll. It’s all the fun of interviewing, background checks, and reviewing offer letters only to get to “maybe.”
Tick tock. The end of employment is fast approaching and nothing new has firmed up. Being the bipolar alcoholic that I am–actually just being human I suspect–this has generated more than a little angst. This fear was more back of mind until this week when I learned my present engagement may not be extended two additional months as I had anticipated. Another project has consumed more dollars than originally budgeted; projects like the one I am on are paying the price.
To say I dealt with this news with grace and dignity would seriously fail to describe my situation. There was fear … gut churning fear. And character defects I had thought long put to bed began to reemerge. Within hours of getting the bad news I was barely functional.
One way to look at character defects is to see them as fear wearing its various guises: Pride, anger, sloth, gluttony, lust, greed, envy, etc. My character defects, when active, tend to be disruptive. I make bad situations worse. But the real concern is that they separate me from my inner guide. As is always the case, but especially now, I need to be well in tune with inner guidance.
Fortunately I have learned from those who have gone before. I may have churned for half a day but I eventually decided to take action. There was no need to make the situation worse. Twelve Step recovery has provided a kit of spiritual tools. I had but to pick it up and get into action.
Though my thinking was muddled with fear, I knew to get on the phone with my sponsor and schedule a time to meet that same day–no time for procrastination. When we met up I got honest. No matter how ridiculous the thoughts that had cropped up that day had been (e.g., quitting abruptly to teach “them” a lesson) I got those thoughts in front of my sponsor.
In response, my sponsor got back to basics. “Picture the worst case scenario and ask yourself if you can handle that,” he advised. “Remember our literature advises us to ask God at once to remove these fears.” Oh yeah, did I think to pray.
We talked some more and he reminded me of how others we both know are going through situations much worse than mine. That helped put my issues in perspective. It’s said that if we all put our own individual problems in a basket and then discussed them with each other we would ultimately pick our own problems back out to deal with.
Call sponsor. Discuss openly. Pray for the fear to be removed. It’s a simple formula but it works. Of course the results weren’t immediate. If you stop shaking a bell, it takes time for that clapper inside to calm down. For me, it took until noon the next day … and there were a lot of prayers in between.
With time, the gnawing feeling of fear subsided and once again I was able to tap into inner guidance. Needless to say, the job search and the decision making have gone much better once the fear and associated character defects were minimized.
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