Monday, June 29, 2009

Self-Deception, And Sponsorship.

From the ODAT, page 181:

"We share with the alcoholic one common enemy: self-deception."

When we are newcomers to program, with all our defenses firmly in place, carefully barricaded and reinforced, we often have no idea how much of what we think and say is self-deception. I know I didn't. It was all very simple and clear to me - the alcoholic was at fault, I was blameless, what more could anyone need to know about our situation?

It was, and still can be, a laborious process to unwind and disentangle my self-deception, so that I may arrive at a place where I'm able to perceive myself with some tiny element of objectivity. This is why we are encouraged to get a sponsor, and work with them on the Steps. Someone else can almost always regard my excuses and defenses with more clarity than I am able.

Recently, I was asked by someone newer to program than I, how did I know when I was making progress, and not just spinning my wheels, since with our propensity for self-deception, we can easily justify the indefensible? In hindsight, I believe it was when a comment from my sponsor, pointing out my errors in thinking, caused me to laugh, rather than to stiffen and become offended.

I began to see the humour in my own insanity.
To get there, I had to have some self-love under my belt.
In order to have some self-love, I had to have had the members of my home group demonstrate love and affection towards me, when I could feel none for myself.
That required weekly attendance at meetings of one particular group, in order for members to begin to know me well enough to feel love and affection for me.
That meant forcing myself out the door to attend a meeting, in spite of my mental static assuring me that I could easily miss just this one, I was so tired, life was so chaotic, yada yada yada.

If I don't go to meetings, I can't reap the benefits of meetings. This sounds ridiculously simple, asinine almost, but it's a truth that some of us cannot see at first. For me, the daily readers are a great resource, but nothing beats sitting at the table, and hearing the members of my home group share their experience, strength and hope. I may drive to a meeting feeling exhausted, but without fail, I will walk out the door revitalised.

I digress. To return to self-deception, one other line in that reading really leapt off the page at me:

"Each unconsciously suppresses facts that might reflect badly upon him and her, and exaggerates the other's faults."

I did that, too. I was very selective in how I tried to present myself - I would conveniently leave out the hurtful statements I'd made, but be sure to include all of the aspersions and insults of his, in my recital of an argument to my sponsor. She interrupted me once, to ask, "What was that comment of his in reference to?" and I froze. I'd recited his response to a very nasty remark of mine, which I'd somehow neglected to mention. I tried to throw some dust in her eyes, but she wasn't having it. She asked the question again, and with great reluctance, I confessed my comment. She asked how I felt, telling her what I'd said. I replied that I felt great shame. She hugged me, and suggested that a good rule of thumb in our dealings with others, is not to say anything we wouldn't be willing to admit to, before a person we respect and admire.

I found that suggestion beneficial when I was engaged in a struggle to control my temper - I'd be on the verge of making a scathing comment to the alcoholic, and stop to ask myself ,"Would I want to admit to having said this?" and in almost every instance, the answer was no. I'd swallow the comment, and either say nothing, and try to smile, or resort to filler comments: "Oh yeah."
"You could be right."
"Isn't that something."

I believe we need a sponsor, to help us gain clarity with regard to our characters. It's very difficult to winkle out one's errors of thinking all by oneself. Much easier to have someone we trust, who can listen, and then (as my present sponsor will start a sentence I don't want to hear) say,

Another benefit of meetings, is hearing our own thinking coming from the mouths of others - it never seems to have that same power of argument it does when it's circling inside my head. I have heard some of my thinking reflected back to me and been so grateful for 12-Step, and the mirror it offers to me, free of charge, no strings attached, with love.

Keep coming back, it works.


  1. This was an awesome post! It is one that I can sooooo relate to. I no longer say things that I wouldn't want to admit to either. It has done nothing, but made me feel shameful in the past and I don't like feeling that way. Filler comments are the best!!!

  2. The way I say it is, "You may be right"! That is even more neutralizing a statement.

    I'm so grateful to have found Al-Anon.

    I'm glad I have learned there are more effective ways to respond to people than confronting, needing to be right, or being sarcastic.

    I can choose to keep my mouth shut or say something neutral rather than saying something hurtful.


  3. My sponsor keeps me honest and is a great sounding board. He and I share a lot of good honest stuff between us. And it has helped my recovery a lot. Thanks for this post.