“It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness.” (Page 66 of the Big Book.)
Are justice and compassion mutually exclusive? I have been thinking about this for days. I believe they may be for those of us in 12 Step Programs if we are to have any peace.
Here’s what I mean. When I see something I consider unjust, I feel myself getting all riled up. Adrenaline begins to flow and self-righteous indignation is the result. I spout off (often loudly) about the injustice of it all. I can get myself utterly worked up. And that is not good for my recovery (or my health).
In trying to live a life of peace, when I am wronged I am told in the Big Book to show “tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend.” (page 67) I am assuming that this extends out to harms perpetrated on anyone. Otherwise, the Big Book would say that it is OK to be enraged at the court system if you disagree with a verdict or the government if they don’t behave as you would like. Instead, the Big Book says on page 66:
But with the alcoholic, whose hope is the maintence and growth of a spiritual experience, this business of resentment is infinitely grave. We found that it is fatal. For when harboring such feelings we shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the spirit. The insanity of alcohol returns and we drink again. And with us, to drink is to die. If we were to live, we had to be free of anger.
That means I cannot afford to get worked up over anything. That means that I have to find a way to meet injustice with compassion. Or I will eventually relapse into compulsive debting.
If you are feeling restless, irritable, and discontented, blaming it on DA, thinking about exiting stage left … just remember that leaving DA won’t give you more money.
According to Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers: The Story of Success, “Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.” Using information from his own research and a study of violin students in the 1990’s, he concludes that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert among experts.
Time magazine, among others, have found holes in this theory. But the crucial message for me, as an addict, is that it takes time to become good at anything … including recovery.
I continue reading aloud the first 64 pages of the Big Book with my All Addictions Big Book Step Study Sponsor. Last week, we finished reading the chapter “There is a Solution.” Here is the passage that jumped out at me:
These observations would be academic and pointless if our friend never took the first drink, thereby setting the terrible cycle in motion. Therefore, the main problem of the alcoholic centers in his mind. (page 23)
It’s funny. As I read this passage, my automatic association is with the food. It’s so easy to compare the food to alcohol because we ingest it. For me, alcohol is just processed flour and sugar.
It’s much more of a conscious effort to think about money and debt. But this passage rings true for me. My debting begins with an irrational thought and a justification of the first compulsive spending, which inevitably leads to debting. When I look at it in this way, it’s not a hard translation at all.
I’m in an intensive Big Book Step Study group, where you read aloud the first 64 pages of the Big Book with your sponsor and discuss it. Though I’ve read these pages countless times, I was shocked when my sponsor commented on Bill’s spending habits as we read Chapter 1: Bill’s Story. For the first time, I focused on the spending aspect of his story alongside his drinking.
My son graduated college two weeks ago. He fully expected to walk out of graduation into a job. But his Higher Power had a different plan in mind. My son interned at an ad agency during his last semester and found a calling as a copywriter. The agency agreed … as did the clients. His ideas and scripts were produced. He was led to believe that he would be hired. But as the weeks of his internship went on, a sure thing led to uncertainty. And by graduation, he was told that there was no job available, but they would try to see if they could possibly add him as a freelancer. And so he waits. And mopes.
I am a “Baby Boomer,” not a “Millennial” like my son. Yet, as an addict, I suffer from Entitlement-itis – the feeling that I deserve what I want and don’t have to follow the rules to get it. I “should” be given what I want without effort and I shouldn’t have to go through the effort put forth by “regular people” to accomplish goals. Even my smallest effort “should” be rewarded by accolades and riches.
Living Amends VS. Direct Amends
I have found that the more times I do the steps and come around to Step Nine, the less I have to make actual amends and the more I make living amends. Living amends means that you don’t actually go to someone to admit your wrongs and apologize. Instead, you work on changing the defect through your actions.