When I start feeling sorry for myself, whether about my finances or health, it is too easy to spiral downwards, which can lead to debting or other self-destructive behaviors.
In my studying about death and illness, I remember reading, though I cannot remember where, that someone facing a terminal illness said that they sank into depression thinking “why me?” But then, the thought came to them, “why not me?”
Is there anyone on this planet, no matter how great their life looks to us, who doesn’t experience some type of aggravation, dilemma, or tragedy in their lives at some point? And, the great equalizer, not to be depressing, is that every one of us will be leaving this planet at some undetermined time … and whatever we have accumulated on this earth isn’t going with us.
Everyone gets some type of challenge. Most of us have lots of challenges. Rather than looking at ourselves as victims, maybe we can find comfort in knowing that we are not alone, no matter what adversity we face … we are not the only one on this planet who has had to deal such hardship. And in many cases, there are people who have withstood far worse.
Making Financial Choices
When I think about people who have a lot of money (which to me is pretty much any amount more than I have), what strikes me is that they don’t have to give a second thought to things that I have to give quite a lot of thought about. And regarding those items, they don’t have to make a choice, but can freely purchase them.
For instance, if I choose to buy a book, I may not be able to go to a movie. Or I may have to wait until next month for a book or a movie. Or I may wonder if I can make my shampoo last until the next month because I’m short on personal care money. Some people can buy a book, go to a movie, buy shampoo, go out to dinner, buy a Ferrari, invest in a Picasso, and take a world cruise with cash and not think twice about it.
On the other hand, there are people who need to choose between food and medicine.
So if my struggle is between a book and a movie or even making shampoo last a bit longer, am I really suffering compared to someone else? In fact, do I really need to suffer at all or is it just my attitude about the situation that causes me pain? And is comparing my financial lot with others just a way to encourage resentment?
My worst health symptoms are incessant dizziness and fatigue. I have to make choices about where to spend my limited energy resources. Driving makes me so dizzy that I have to choose carefully when and if I do so. Even writing this blog increases my dizziness, but I choose to do it because the payoff is worth the price.
Most people don’t have to decide between driving to the store or being incapacitated for days, or whether they can spend time on their computer. On the other hand, there are people who are bedridden, paralyzed, or missing limbs who would give anything to be able to drive a car at all or press a mouse button even once.
Would You Switch Places?
About a month ago, I was going through a really bad flareup of my symptoms. I was working on acceptance and was handling it pretty well. My husband was going through some challenging financial crises. One vehicle after another broke down and he was paying thousands for repairs. My husband has money, but also suffers from great fear about lack. He was berserk over it, even though from my vantage point, there was nothing to be upset about because he has the money to take care of these problems. But his suffering was profound. (FYI: As I’ve noted before, my husband and I keep our accounts separate and I am responsible for paying my own bills and expenses.)
Though I was unable to help him overcome his pain and have peace about the situation, I had an awareness. If our problems were reversed, I would have practically wiped out my savings to pay for the repairs and he would have a far more difficult time dealing with being unable to drive. It was as if we were each given what we could manage.
Life is unfair. Tragedies occur. Miracles occur. Sometimes what we work for never manifests. And sometimes we are presented with something astonishing we never imagined.
Accepting the Unacceptable
We rarely say “why me” when the fabulous and miraculous occur. So, perhaps we can shift our thinking when the opposite presents in our lives. This takes a lot of practice, willingness, and awareness to accomplish. Acceptance is not easy during times of turmoil and trial. Maybe start with the small things that tweak you … the temporary setbacks. If someone cuts you off while driving, keep it in perspective.
It is important to practice our program of acceptance on small issues that pass. That is the first step in learning to better handle and find peace when something truly life-changing happens.
Settling in for the long haul with a tragic truth is far more difficult when the prevailing sentiment is rage and self-pity once the grieving has worn itself out and life goes on. Grieving is an indispensable step we take when tragedy strikes. But the question is how to live in recovery when facing adversity that is here to stay … what is the long-term way to manage a situation we cannot change?
Handling What You Cannot Change
They say “a grateful heart doesn’t pick up.” One way to start is to become conscious of when you are getting upset over things outside of your control. And then to turn your attention to gratitude for what you do have. In DA, gratitude is an important component in the prevention of resentment and anger building up. As the Big Book says on page 66, “If we were to live, we had to be free of anger. The grouch and the brainstorm were not for us. They may be the dubious luxury of normal men, but for alcoholics these things are poison.”
Unfortunately, it’s not a choice for addicts, no matter how bad things are. And make no mistake, we are addicts around money. So we must find ways to find peace and acceptance no matter how bad the situation is. We may not be able to change the situation, but we can surely change ourselves and our attitude about it. What that takes is a willingness to do so.
Finally, service can be a help as well. When we reach out to others, we often see that their plight is far worse and it takes us out of our self-centered self-pity, which is poison for compulsive debtors as well. And sometimes, sharing our pain is of benefit to the person who answers. So the next time you start getting worked up over something you cannot change, reach for the phone and make a call. Talk about your problems and listen to theirs. Together, you may find a relief that you wouldn’t have imagined had you isolated yourself.