Sunday, February 21, 2010

Generating Trouble.

From  ODATIA, page 52:

"Mental sobriety is a state of reasonableness, rational judgement, balance. It is emotional sickness when we continue to be apprehensive and anxious when we really have no reason to doubt.
I will pray today and every day, for healthful, wholesome thinking, so that I may not generate trouble for myself."

Before Al-Anon, I had no concept of how I generated trouble, I was under the firm impression that all trouble in my life came from outside me, and I was just reacting to it.

Practising the Steps has taught me that I caused much of my misery by hopping up onto the gerbil wheel at the slightest sensation of unease, and giving it a good workout. I ran as though all the Furies of Hell were after me: as if I were training for a new speed record.

I could take a minor situation and through obsessive thinking, turn it into something which occupied my thoughts to the exclusion of anything pleasant, and had a physical effect upon me - making it impossible to sleep, eat, relax.

I was a master at generating trouble. I couldn't let anything go, I couldn't detach, I couldn't enjoy my life. I can see now that these were lessons learned in early childhood - that was how the adults in my life dealt with their environments, so that must be the way it's done.  I added years, without maturing in mindset: a fearful angry person. Before I could achieve any perspective on my own internal dialogue, I needed to deal with my resentments, and martyrdom - until that happened, I accepted whatever sentiment wandered across my mental horizon, as the truth, not understanding it was the truth only according to me.

My first sponsor set me a task - for one week, I was to question all of the editorial comment from my internal dialogue, and to act upon none of it. I was to work towards achieving a state of relative quietude inside my own head.

Right. Sure. I'll start that immediately.

I must have been gazing at her with a snarky disbelief upon my face, for she reiterated her directions in her "brook no argument" tone, and finished with a rhetorical question about those who are negative about each and every suggestion or idea offered to them, and how was that expressing willingness, could I tell her that, please?

I slunk off home feeling hard done by, woke up the next day, and decided in my stubborn fashion, to prove to her that it couldn't be done, it was ridiculous, it was asinine, it was a waste of time....oops, that's editorial comment, isn't it, and I'm supposed to be allowing life to flow past like a tinkling stream...

By the time I met up with my sponsor again, had I used a water allusion, it would have been more of the "natural disaster" and "swept all before it" or "engulfed completely" sort, than her choice of a gentle stream. I'd been shocked to discover just how much of my thinking was driven by anxiety and apprehension, and how similar to bailing the ocean with a teaspoon it had felt, trying to achieve peace and quiet in that madhouse between my ears.

I had an inkling of the depth and breadth to which the floodwaters of my pessimism and fear could spread, given any encouragement whatsoever. Trying to curb my "editorial comment" gave me a grasp of just how entrenched it was.

I felt powerless, and I knew unmanageability; I had seen it in action in my life. I had, instead of wandering through my day while living in resentment about the past, or dread of the future, spent some time in the here-and-now, and didn't like it one bit. "Why would anyone want to live in the now?" I asked, when we met again. I laugh writing that, but I wanted an answer that would make sense to me.

As I saw it at the time, my sponsor failed me, giving me the feel-good reply, "Because the now is all you get, my dear." What a patient woman she was, putting up with being bombarded with carefully-thought-out justifications for staying stuck in my unhappiness, which had been bad enough to drive me into Al-Anon, but once there, I didn't want to have to exert myself making any real changes. I wanted a fast solution to my ex-husband's drinking.

Give me the secret code, I'll plug it in, he'll be recovered, and we'll live happily ever after. Or not. Even now, with all that I've learned and know, I can still get stuck in that place of "Why should I have to..."

I shouldn't have to. In the best of all possible worlds, I wouldn't have to. But this isn't, and I do, if I want to get anywhere. I was washing the dishes tonight, listening to my silent, internal, editorial comment, and sighing to hear how childish it was. I like to tell my sponsees, when they get into the "But why? Why?"  drawer,

"It is what it is."

"Yes, I realise that, but blah blah, and I just need to know why it is."

"What if you can't find a reason? Are you going to predicate your recovery upon getting reasons you find acceptable? Life doesn't always give us nice tidy reasons. It is what it is."

I can hear their teeth gnashing together in frustration, and think with great affection of my first sponsor, who listened with such warmth and love to all my tooth gnashing.

That's how program works; we receive it, and we pay it forward.


  1. It's amazing how much internal dialogue I had that never amounted to any good answers until I ran those things past my sponsor. He is a person of suggestion and not advice. Always he brings me back to program principles. That is what I do with my sponsees as well. I provide program principles and let them draw their conclusions without my advice.

  2. Just read this post of yours and was amazed. I think you were in my head when you wrote it! Love your writing - thanks for the share.