Written by: Kristen H.
“We humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.”
And just like that, poof! They’re gone. Never to rear their ugly heads again. All my character defects, the flaws in my soul, the bad habits and polluted thinking I’ve picked up along the walkway of life, they’re gone! Because my Higher Power removed them. And I just have to do my best to live these new basic principles daily, and I won’t ever have to worry about my ugly insides coming out.
That’s what I thought.
This week, though, I’ve discovered that I was wrong. Because here I am struggling with jealousy. Big time. For days on end, even after praying about it. It is making me think negative thoughts. It is making me utter snarky comments. Most of all, I don’t like the way it makes me feel inside – like a dark twisting in my gut. It’s kind of the same feeling I had when I was getting ready to do my fifth step with my sponsor, not too long ago. I remember the word FEAR coming up a lot. This fear and insecurity is what has made the ugly green monster come out now.
About half way through my fifth step my sponsor told me, “You keep comparing yourself to other people and thinking you don’t measure up. But you’re measuring their OUTsides to your INsides. That’s like apples and oranges.”
And it seems that’s what I’m doing now, too.
This jealousy came about when my husband started running as a way to stay off cigarettes. I have nothing against running. I run! But he was a track star in high school, so running comes naturally to him and he enjoys it. He found some other people who feel the same way. Turns out, there’s a local Running Club. Cool, right? Yeah! I’m excited for him. Until I see a picture of their morning run group and there’s 2 girls in it. (Why did I think this running group was all male?) All of a sudden, my insecurities have come back and I am judging these women based on a photo.
“She’s blonde. I wish I were blonde.” … “She has a great figure. Why can’t I have that figure?”
I have to get over this. I am a supportive wife.
I start with the serenity prayer, and begin talking this over with my Higher Power. I realize that I am not going to change the fact that he runs with the club or the way these females look. What can I change? Me. I realize the problem is within ME. I read some spiritual literature and am reminded that I am just the way I am, by design…. That my Higher Power made me, and I should be proud of that. There is nothing wrong with me! My disease tells me I’m not good enough. But I don’t believe it today… because I don’t have to live like that anymore.
And, just like that, the jealousy gets put back up on the shelf with the other defects where I guess it has been residing all this time.
**This week’s post is written by my pen-pal Nichole Barry-Kroger. Although we share a last name, and though I now think of her as a sister, we are not actually related. Nichole is currently serving an eighteen month prison sentence in a South Dakota women’s facility for driving while intoxicated.**
For a long time, I thought the promises in the Big Book were something that didn’t apply to a person like me. I just didn’t ever look forward to them happening to me because I, of course, must be unique. My past has been full of people who had regularly told me I was useless, stupid, fat, ugly, and the list goes on. My self-esteem was drug down so low that I thought it could happen for everyone else, but not for someone as stupid as myself.
Now, I sit here in prison at the age of 39, not even feeling sorry for myself anymore. While I was awaiting sentencing, I was in an outpatient treatment, aftercare, got a sponsor, had a recovery coach, went to three meetings a week, and got involved in church again.
These were all great things for me because I can cope a lot better with my situation now. I would be lost and possibly using if I hadn’t done all of these things. I have twenty-eight months clean and sober as of right now. I sometimes look back and wish I could have done all of these things before it came to all of this, but this is what it took, I suppose. Of course, I get down and sad, and sometimes really lonely for my family, but it passes.
I know I have a great and bright future, and my family is anxious for me to come home. In the Big Book, on page 83, it says, “We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.” I used to wonder what that would even feel like, but now, even in prison, I can feel that. I actually feel happiness and hopeful for once in my life.
Sure, I still have the promises coming true because it doesn’t just happen all at once. I still regret the past sometimes and feel guilt over it, but I don’t want to get drunk over it. I still fear people sometimes and economic insecurity, but time will get me over these things with God and AA. I look forward to helping others with these same problems and being useful again in our AA and church communities. Even from prison, I can see that the AA promises are coming true for me, and they can for anyone if you put the work in.
God is definitely doing for me what I could not do for myself!
Sometimes, my mind wanders during a meeting into a whole other area of thought. This happened recently in a meeting about resting on one’s laurels. I have been hearing this topic a lot lately, and inevitably someone always says, “I got the gift of desperation.” I think I ponder individual words on a level most people do not. I presume it is what makes me a great English teacher, if at times a somewhat irritating friend and wife. (What do you mean I am mostly kind-hearted!??) I digress.
In the past, when confronted with the “gift of desperation,” I have been caught up with the word “gift” and all that connotes. But today a new thought occurred to me as I lost track of the meeting, and that was the word “got,” more specifically, about the simple past tense of the word “got.”
English is an odd language. It stands out form other languages because its root is the Germanic language. When German warriors invaded England in the 7th century, they brought with them their language. Four hundred years later, Britain was attacked and held by a section of France called Normandy. Consequently, the English language went through a radicalization process changing largely into what might be considered a French/German hybrid or a Latin/German hybrid since French was originally an offshoot of Latin. The grammar system by which English is based reflects this Latin influence.
English has a variety of tenses that all define or denote a different place in time in which an action, the verb, takes place. Did something happen in the past? Did something happen in the past and finished before another thing in the past happened? Or did it happen in the past and is still happening today? It is very precise. And maybe exactly because of this precision, in conjunction with the lack of grammar taught in schools today, these tenses have fallen out of favor. People do not know how to use them, or if they do use them in academic or business environments, they do not use them in common speaking. Instead, people tend to fall back on the so-called “simple” tenses, favoring context to convey time.
This is not unheard of in other languages. In fact, many non-Latin influenced languages have much simpler forms of verb tenses. Some languages, Mandarin being the most widely spoken, have no tenses at all.
And then all this thought reminded me of a Ted Talk I heard about the philosophical, economic, and medical consequences of tenses on cultures.
Keith Chen speaks that cultures with future tenses allow people to distance themselves from the future, unlike the cultures who do not differentiate the present from the future. Subconsciously, languages that differentiate the future have cultures that save less money and have less impulse control because they seem unaffected by the actions of today, but rather set off into the distant future.
I cannot help but wonder how language we use in recovery affects our recovery. We speak of a daily reprieve and a “spiritual bank” from which to draw, but Chen might argue we do not fully and consciously understand how the repercussions of our past acts, and the acts we perform today, have on our future.
“I got the gift of desperation.” Grammatically, it would mean that I got it, but no longer have it. Maybe, a better way by which to speak of it would be the present perfect progressive tense indicating an action continuing from the past into the present and possible into the future. “I have been receiving the gift of desperation.” Not an over and done task, but a continuing act.
Or maybe better yet, no tenses at all. Yesterday, I have the gift of desperation. Today, I have the gift of desperation. Tomorrow, I have the gift of desperation.
Yesterday, I recover. Today, I recover. Tomorrow, I recover.
It is pretty rare whenever I am in a meeting and the topic is not one I have already heard a hundred times. I am not disparaging the tried and true meeting topics; they’re classic for a reason, but whenever I hear a new one, my ears perk up just a little bit. I listen closer and think a little harder. Recently, I was in one of these meetings. The topic was, “Things people told you about yourself, things that were not true, that you believed.”
Many moons ago, when I lived in Boston, I had a friend who was studying criminal justice. This required her to take a variety of psychology and sociology classes, the kind of classes that makes one feel like they are experts in topics in which they really have zero understanding. One night we were talking, and in one of those moments of clarity, I said to her, “I think I am an alcoholic.”
My friend looked at me quizzically, paused, and in all earnestness said, “No, you are just a problem drinker.”
“Aha!” I thought, “I am a problem drinker!” And although deep down I knew it was not true, I clung to that idea for the next several years of my life.
Problem drinker… I don’t even know what that means.
The absurdity of the thing is, I always believed other people’s interpretations of me, good and bad. When I was told I didn’t have standards, when I was told that a degree in English was a waste of money, when I was told I wasn’t pretty because I weighed too much… all that. I believed all that. And a part of me still does.
“… [Alcoholics] cannot after a time differentiate the true from the false,” (Big Book xxviii).
I do not know why we are so bound to believe other people’s interpretations of ourselves, even over our own instinctual understanding of our own natures.
I have another memory, and that is the memory of when I first started this blog. I did not know what I was going to write about or how the blog would manifest. I just knew I needed to do it. I began to trust my own instinct rather than the words of others. For the first time in my life, I felt I was walking down the right path. I felt aligned and good. I felt like I was doing exactly what I was always meant to be doing.
The steps and recovery, the honesty I have with the women in my life, the ability to process, to meditate, to think, and to slow down have given me the ability to begin the process of knowing my true self- not the self that other people would like to believe I am, nor the person I wish I was, but my actual self.
And as awkward as it may be to admit… it’s been a real pleasure getting to know her.