Letting Go of Our Old Ideas
Like many AA gatherings I’ve been to, my home group starts off each meeting with “How It Works” from page 58 in the Big Book. We have one member who, when he does the reading, purposely stumbles over one word for emphasis. Step 10: “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wr-wr-wr-wr-wr-wrong, promptly admitted it.” His is not my story to tell, but I could relate the exact same sort of difficulty admitting times that I might possibly not have been 100% right. They say if you stick around the rooms long enough, you’ll hear someone tell your story. This is one of those guys who was “reading my mail,” so to speak. Like him, I was the “I know, I know, I know” person. You couldn’t tell me anything. I could never admit that there was something I didn’t know, nor that anyone may know something better than I did.
Notice how all that was written past tense? See, even when I’m telling on myself I still want you to believe that this was a problem I used to have and now I’m all better. Like, maybe once upon a time I might have been wrong-ish, but I got past that. I’ll keep coming back.
As you could probably tell from my last post, I’ve been a bit more lax with my spiritual program over the last year than I have been in years past. And, of course, that has worked out for me just as well as everyone in the meetings says when they have also rested on their laurels a bit too long. Recently, I have taken to being more mindful in praying for my thinking to be divorced of self-pity, guilt, and shame as these three have taken up temporary residence in my brain. The vicissitudes of life have been rather overwhelming for me and I have fallen back into a lot of bad habits to avoid my feelings. I’ve not been drinking or drugging, but rather bingeing on Netflix and games on my phone for hours on end. Perhaps not as physically damaging, but certainly stemming from the same spiritual deficiency.
So, of course, I’ve been feeling as if I’ve gotten nowhere over this past year. My addict brain tells me that God will be upset with me or that He’s abandoned me or whatever inane nonsense addicts like to spew. But when I actually open my eyes to who I am today, I realize that God has been working on me Big Time during my spiritual hibernation. And the changes that have been taking place in me are a lot of the reason that I’ve been trying to avoid my feelings. This year has been whittling away at my dogmatic insistence about anything and everything. I have had to question long-held beliefs about who I am and what is important in life. I have had to let go of any security in the physical world and humble myself completely. I have had to admit “I can’t do it” in regards to aspects of my character that I held in high esteem. I had to let go completely. I had to admit I was “wr-wr-wr-wr-wr-wrong.”
Right around the time that things started getting super wonky, I latched onto one little bit of wisdom from pages 25-26: “[W]e had but two alternatives: One was to go on to the bitter end, blotting out the consciousness of our intolerable situation as best we could; and the other, to accept spiritual help. This we did because we honestly wanted to, and were willing to make the effort.” These words remained near the forefront of my mind all this time, even as I stubbornly fought tooth and nail to hold onto my old ideas of who I was supposed to be. They sat there like so many people who offered me advice in early sobriety and I kept answering them the same way, “I know, I know, I know.”
Today, though, I have to ask myself, “Do I honestly want to accept spiritual help?” and “Am I willing to make the effort?” I can’t fool myself into believing that just because so many things make me think to turn back to that page and reread those words that I am actually doing what those words say. I have a choice today to either continue attempting to hold onto my remaining old ideas or to admit that I may not be 100% correct about everything I think I know. And if I am willing to admit a minor case of wrong-ness, I have to actually make some effort to rectify matters. I can’t continue to sit in the alcoholic’s dilemma with a tiny bit of willingness and action leading to a life that’s happy, joyous, and free on one hand and blotting out my consciousness leading to the hideous four horsemen on the other.
Today I chose to speak up and take some action. I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. And I most certainly don’t have all the answers.