A. Everyone I am currently or have ever been related to through blood, birth or marriage. Dead or alive, doesn't matter. Also includes everyone I may be related to in the future by blood, birth or marriage, a future son or daughter-in-law or a disrespectful grandchild perhaps?
B. Everyone I have ever worked for or with or aspired to work for or with, past, present and future. Dead or alive.
C. Everything and everyone else. Including all countries and the inhabitants therein, overpriced avocados, pets who pee in the house, the disease of addiction, global warming, mushy bananas, bad cell service, getting older, the kids’ soccer coach, everything and everyone else really. In all galaxies, known and unknown.
Last week I was speaking to my sponsor Jamie. I’m supposed to be doing my 9th step amends list, with her help. The 9th step in a 12-step program is the step where you make amends for past wrongs. Where you make amends to anyone you may have hurt by your selfish behavior. For things you did while actively addicted that may have hurt others. Where you are given the opportunity to clean up your side of the street. You also sometimes have to make amends for things you have done in recovery. Sadly, for some of us, our habitual bad behaviors do not automatically disappear the minute we put the drugs and alcohol down.
I was stalling on one of my amends. Beating around the bush. Making excuses for myself. Sure, I had been selfish at times but “they” (insert A, B or C cast member here) had been more selfish! More often. So in my mind their selfishness effectively canceled out my selfishness. Also, while mulling it all over, I had convinced myself that now this A, B or C person should be making amends to ME for their much worse and much more selfish behavior over the years.
So I was taking my time. Jamie, sensing my hesitation, suggested we shelve that amend for now and move on. “Ok. What else is happening? Why don’t you tell me what's going on with A?” she asked, deftly redirecting our conversation. “I know that was really running you around last month. Costing you sleep. How is that situation going? What's happening with that?” “Oh, A? Whatever. That was awful. Terrible. Really bad. But I’m over it.” I paused the requisite amount of time and then I launched into it…“But did I tell you about B? That's really bothering me right now. I mean I really can’t believe it. How could they do this to me? After all I’ve done for them?” And so I yapped her ear off about B and then we both had to run. A few days later we caught up again and Jamie asked me how I was handling the situation with B.
“Oh that? B? So painful. Really upsetting. I think about it all the time. Really. I’m so not over that - but…..I have to tell you what happened yesterday with C. It killed me. Really killed me.” And then before the call is up I’m back talking about my initial resentment at A and seeing that of course I was not “over it” at all. It was still in there. Festering.
“Jesus Christ”, I thought to myself. To Jamie I cried, “will this never end? This endless river of dissatisfaction and disappointment? These damn resentments? No matter what I do or how hard I try I always seem to have one iron, heating up, in the fire of resentments. At least one, usually more. Why can’t I have peace? I’m sober but these resentments are relentless.”
Jamie burst out laughing and said “Well that’s it! That’s why we were alcoholics. The resentments, the dissatisfaction. The inability to handle our feelings. This chronic re-feeling of past hurts and old grievances. The expectations and the don’t-they-know-who-I-am-ness of it all. That’s our problem. That's why we have to keep going to these damn A.A. meetings all the time. That's why. That booze 'issue' we suffered was just the tip of the iceberg!"
And then we both burst out laughing. Happy at least to have each other. In truth, both Jamie and I love attending meetings but when there's 2 feet of snow on the ground and it's 6 a.m. and freezing and dark out, getting to an A.A. meeting can sometimes feel like a chore. And that gives me something else to bitch about. And I will. But thankfully my sponsor and I know where our medicine is and we don’t mind taking it. So, on our own or together, we go to a lot of meetings.
Meetings give me the insight to be able to witness myself, my mind, my behavior and my resentments. To see clearly my bad habits and flaws. My negativity and reactivity. I get to uncover and examine my character defects. Defects which continue to cause me pain. Meetings give me the grace to do this self-examination with others and without shame. But still…holding on to all these resentments is simply exhausting. On every level. They run me down.
Thankfully over the years I have learned where they come from. I have a lot of expectations. Of everyone and everything (see A,B and C above). And if I have learned anything in A.A. over the years it is this: An expectation is a premeditated resentment. If I cling to any expectation of what any person place or thing “should be” I am bound to be disappointed. People are people, flawed, but also wonderful and endlessly fascinating. Recently I have been striving to live without too many expectations, without resentments, and with acceptance. But that is a very tall order.
Sometimes I feel like a cow in a field, just standing there dumb and mute, masticating away, on my cud, day after day after day. But now, I realize that my own personal cud is resentments. I just chew on ‘em mindlessly, almost unconsciously at this point. I reach for resentments the way a smoker reaches for a cigarette and a drinker reaches for a drink and a food addict reaches for a donut. I do it habitually, obsessively, recklessly. So it’s clear to me that I have found one more active addiction that I will have to start working on. My addiction to resentments. I can’t see the good in A, B or C if I’m trapped in addiction. And I can’t see the good in anything if I’m trapped in resentments.
I’ve got a long way to go. But I have history on my side and to date, with the help of A.A. and my Higher Power, I'm currently living in recovery from serious addictions to food, drugs and alcohol. With remarkable results. So now it’s resentments. One more thing to work on. But I’m up to the challenge. I'm looking forward to the day when my sponsor Jamie asks me casually “so how are A, B and C doing?” and I can say, without a moment's hesitation “They're fine, thank you. Just fine.” And mean it.