I don’t know if it’s true for everyone, but once in a while as I’m reading recovery literature my eyes see the words on a page and my mind goes, “What the hell does that mean?”
I think this happens to many of us, especially early on in our recovery during our first read through of material. If we’re in a healthy relationship with a sponsor or accountability partners, we might ask questions. The rest of us would suffer through our ignorance if not for a lovely little thing called the world wide web. I don’t trust everything out there, but it can definitely be a valuable resource.
One of the phrases that can be found in many of the basic texts for multiple anonymous groups goes something like this: if we are disturbed, there is always something wrong with us.
So, what they’re saying is essentially that if someone makes me angry or pisses me off or shares something that I find to be triggering, it’s not their fault.
Well, no. Not exactly.
Just as “we can no longer blame people, places and things for our addiction,” we can also no longer blame people, places, and things for our reactions. While it’s easy to blame someone else for the way I feel, I’m making a choice in each of those situations and circumstances.
It may not always seem like that, but it’s true. Someone explained it to me recently like this: instead of responding like an adult, I am responding to a person or situation or stimulus like a child.
Now that makes a lot of sense because, in many ways, our addictions and compulsive behaviors have allowed us to become trapped in our childhoods or adolescence. We kept aging physically, but our emotional capacity and faculties were suspended when we began acting out. In recovery – in true sobriety – we are picking up where we left off and learning how to react and interact on a level more equitable with our physical development.
We are slowly but surely maturing. We are becoming real adults.
And adults take responsibility for their actions and reactions rather than blaming others.
The White Book of Sexaholics Anonymous quotes and expounds on the 12&12 by saying that “no matter what wrong the other party has done, if we are disturbed, there is always something wrong with us. Especially in the area of attitude.”
That in no way absolves the other person(s) of their wrong, but we have to come to a place where we realize and understand that nobody else is responsible for the way we act. The onus for my attitude, unfortunately, rests squarely on my shoulders.
I’m reminded of the old cliche that says something along the lines of ‘whenever you point a finger at someone else, there are three fingers pointing back at you.’ We want to deflect. We want to redirect. We want to blame and manipulate and control and manage. But growing in recovery requires that “we must face our problems and our feelings.”
My attitude, my demeanor, can definitely be influenced by others. If you know me at all, you know that I have a tendency (and perhaps an inability not to) wear my emotions on my sleeve. If I am disturbed, it’s hard for me to keep that in check. and I don’t always think to call my sponsor, give it up to God, or share it with someone so it’s out in the open. Sometimes I just wear it – proudly even – practically daring people to knock the chip off my shoulder.
But what I should do is recognize that I’m disturbed, address it, and move on.
It’s the 12& 12 which tells us that our role in our disturbances is a spiritual axiom, but the Big Book does a phenomenal job of explaining what it looks like to come to a place of acceptance.
When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation – some fact of my life – unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.
Dang, that hits hard. “I can find no serenity until…” Isn’t that kind of the whole point? Don’t we say that Serenity Prayer at every meeting and countless times in between?
So next time you’re stuck in traffic behind someone going 25 in a 45, God bless ’em, you have the opportunity to choose whether to curse them out and raise your blood pressure or to say a little prayer and move on with life. For that matter, ask yourself why you’ve only allowed just enough time to get from point A to point B. You could build in commute time. I promise. It’s possible.
Next time your coworker uses that same pat phrase or plays with his stapler or blows her nose or uses their pencils as drumsticks, you don’t have to react. You can respond. You can let them know that you find their behavior obnoxious or annoying or unprofessional. Or you can choose to ignore them. You can choose not to get angry. You can choose to tune them out or turn on some tunes to drown them out.
Life comes in a series of moments. Those are what we live in. They’re known as the here and now. We don’t have the luxury of living in the past or languishing in the what if’s of the future. We get to live right now, and right now we must learn to accept that, even though things aren’t exactly as we might like them to be, we don’t have to allow that to get us down.
In the Grapevine in 1958 Bill W. wrote an article on emotional sobriety. In said article he stated that “if we examine every disturbance we have, great or small, we will find at the root of it some unhealthy dependency and its consequent unhealthy demand.”
This leads me to the question I think we should spend a great deal more time asking ourselves – what is ymotivation? I think we should ask ourselves this question time and time again in practically every situation, but this query is an important one when we’re disturbed. Or more accurately, when we react to a disturbance.
But when we learn to examine our disturbances in such a way that we are led to identify our defects, only then can we ask God to do something about them, and only then can we make the conscious choice to knowingly do things differently.
One final thought, and it almost seems silly to address it at this point, but I never talked specifically about what it means to be disturbed. I guess, perhaps, that’s because we all understand, in our own way, what it means when we are disturbed just as we understand what it means when we are triggered. In much the same way as triggers, disturbances can be positive, negative, or neutral.
So, when you find yourself reacting, recognize that what you’re reacting to is some sort of disturbance. Identify it. Put it in the light. And make a choice. You can choose to keep reacting just as you always have. Or you can choose instead to respond.
– Alex Walker
Oh, because you’ve gotten this far and it’s such a wonderful cover, here’s Disturbed singing Sounds of Silence.