Monday, September 7, 2009

Pride Is Cold Comfort.

I like to listen to 12-Step speakers while I practise yoga - the two go together marvellously well. Wisdom and pain. Two sides of the same coin.

The AA speaker I was listening to yesterday, spoke about the "concept of opposite action." He said that means when he wants to talk, he listens. When he wants to leave, he stays, and when he wants to take, he gives.

I've never heard it put quite like that before, but I find a great deal of Al-Anon works this way for me. I must let my first impulse pass, and make a conscious choice to do it differently. And before I can do that, I need to believe that my original way of doing things isn't the best of all possible ways, and that there's room for improvement. In order to come to that realisation, I need humility. My experience has been that my Higher Power will offer me numerous chances to learn humility, starting out with gentle ones, which are like a soft whisper. If I disregard those, pretend I haven't heard them, He will slowly work His way up to the equivalent of a roar of "Will you LISTEN?"

If I cannot find humility on my own, I will be humbled, and it will be painful, both to my pride and my feelings, but those are the kind of lessons that register with me. I can be stubborn, and a slow learner. Invariably, when I'm reeling from one of these, I will cast my eye backwards, and see the clear evidence of all the instruction I disregarded, because I didn't want to hear it.

When that dawns upon me, I can't complain or feel self-pitying, because I'm the one steering this vehicle. If I read the road signs, and don't take my foot off the accelerator, and the end result is that I go sailing off a cliff, well, that's my choice.

I've seen, in my own life, and the lives of those I've sponsored, the result of being unable to set down our pride, and consider another way. We can feel tremendously threatened by any suggestion that our pride is a stumbling block for our recovery.
My dictionary defines pride as:

"...a high or inordinate opinion of one's own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc."

The key word in that sentence, for me, is "superiority" - it's not that I truly feel superior, on the contrary, I grew up feeling inferior, but I wasn't about to let anyone else know that, so I adopted a pose of superiority, and clung to it through all the travails of alcoholism.

Al-Anon made it abundantly clear to me that my attempts to disguise my fears only made them more evident. Once I realised that, I could stop pretending, and begin to speak honestly - I was only telling the other members at the meeting what they already knew about me.

What a glorious relief, not to have to carry that burden one step further.

I've picked it up many times since, when for whatever reason, my fears have taken me over again, but now I have the heartfelt knowledge that I needn't if I choose otherwise. And what used to feel as comfortable as an old sweater, now feels like a pair of pants two sizes too small - I can squeeze into them if I really try, but I can't say they "fit" me anymore.


  1. I like to run on the treadmill while I am listening to 12-step speakers. :-) I love that concept. I had never heard of it before either, but it sounds like something to give some more consideration to.

  2. Great post. I can enjoy being just who I am today without feeling too inferior or superior. What an improvement.