You, one of the (as of 11/13/2014) 12,985 visitors to this blog, might be hoping to find sublime insights into overcoming addiction and mental illness. I’m afraid you won’t find sublime here. That’s the deal with real life recovery; each recovery story looks a lot like the stories that come before. We get sane and sober dealing with the small stuff that makes up life. Such was the case this past weekend.
Last Friday I took my wife to a Phoenix Suns game. It was a good game, until it wasn’t. The Suns led all night long until the closing minutes when abruptly the hoop on the Sun’s side of the court shrunk to the size of a grapefruit and disallowed all shot attempts. The opposing team tied things up and we headed to over time.
By that time it was getting late. We had arrived about an hour before the game to explore what culinary delights the venue might offer and had been riding our seats for some time. Our cute little bums were getting restless.
Overtime was frustrating. The Suns jumped out to a quick lead and then, like my nether regions when I take to our pool in November, the hoop shrunk. The lead evaporated. The game got tied up. And just like that we were headed to double overtime.
The second overtime was identical to the first. Early lead, shrinking hoop, tied up and then, mercifully, the other team put us away. It was late. We were spent. There was no joy of victory to propel us home.
My wife, who was coming off mass doses of the steroid prednisone to deal with some bronchitis (she had a lung transplant three years ago and they treat lung ailments aggressively), was not quite the buttercup of sunshine on the way home that she had been on the way to the arena. Rather than getting a little shut eye as we navigated the freeways back home, she opted to stay awake and offer some unsolicited advice. My tender little feelings got a little bruised.
Typically a good night’s sleep is all that I need to heal battered feelings. Typically I don’t nurse a grudge. Saturday morning was atypical.
Like an angry gargoyle, I arose with a scowl etched on my face. I made no contact with my half slumbering wife. I donned walking shoes, grabbed my iPod and headed out on a four mile walk.
I remember the length of the walk because the first two miles I nursed my little grudge and walked with vigor–pumping my brain full of oxygenated blood–until the grudge was a full-blown resentment. I was going to go home and give my wife a little “oh-no-you-didn’t-say-that” piece of my mind. I was going to lash out until her feelings were as raw and sensitive as mine. Tit for tat. I’m so mature.
As this imagined confrontation built to a crescendo, years of Twelve Step meetings finally kicked in. Resentments are what? … oh, that’s right “the number one offender.” I had heard or read that saying hundreds of times. How often had I thought, “I’m not an angry guy. Does this really apply to me?”
Oh but it does. There may be times of still waters. But whether pebble or large stone, the calm can get disrupted. If not checked, the ripples can go on for a seeming eternity.
I was rippling alright. More like dramatically crashing waves. What was I to do?
For the next mile I reflected on all that I had learned about dealing with resentments. Picturing the resentment in four columns, as many of us are taught, I quickly tackled the first two columns. I am resentful at … my wife (column one) because … she insulted me (column two). To be honest, when laying out the cause of my resentment in column two I might have embellished my description with language a tad more colorful than “she insulted me.” But we’ll let that suffice for now.
I’ve never met an alcoholic or addict that didn’t approach columns one and two with gusto. Like President Nixon on crack, we lose little time jotting down our enemies list. But recovery isn’t about laying out where we had been wronged; it’s about taking a look at ourselves.
Column three: We ask ourselves why we are so miffed. Was it our self-esteem, our personal or financial security, our ambitions or our personal relationships that had threatened? Though I was walking at a quick pace, that only took a step or so to figure out. My self-esteem had been crushed and I feared that my most valued personal relationship was endangered. I was sore, burned up and, if being totally honest, a little thin-skinned and pouty.
As Twelve Step literature points out, the furthest most of us get is concluding where others were wrong. The miracle of recovery, however, is tacking on that fourth column and looking at the resentment from an entirely different angle–what was my part?
It didn’t take long for me to see that I was allowing the world and one of its inhabitants to dominate my every thought. A tired and cranky wife had made one unartful comment. Just like that I was thrown into a long, drawn out tailspin. Hadn’t I made many such comments when tired and short-tempered myself?
Referring to the columns again I put out of my mind what she had done and looked for my own mistakes. I deliberately forgot what was done to me and instead asked where had I been selfish, dishonest, self-seeking or fearful? It took a moment, more like a half mile of walking, but slowly the picture of my part in this resentment came into focus. With clarity came the desire, nay, even the need to forgive. It was time to set the matter straight.
Rather than rehash the incident with my wife, at the three-mile mark I made a simple call: “Hi honey, I’m on a walk and about a mile away from home. Do you want me to pick you up a Coke?” She offered a chipper and enthusiastic “Yes.” Apparently she hadn’t spent the morning stewing over one off-hand comment like I had.
Later that day I offered up how I was planning on dealing with her area of concern. There was no need to confront and demand an apology. Forgiveness does not say, “Tell me that you were wrong and I’ll forgive you.” It just says “I love you.”
Follow this blog…