Thursday, February 4, 2010

Resentment Isn't The Best Operating Principle.

Once upon a time, many years ago, in another city and far, far away, I had a friend in program, who used to make pithy little comments which always seemed to land a direct hit. One day I was blathering away about my first husband, and his latest drunken rampage, and my feelings about it, him, and our marriage, and my friend broke in to remark, "Yeah, well, resentment isn't the best operating principle."

I stopped to clarify: "You mean him."

She shook her head. "I mean you."

I was puzzled. "I'm not resentful."

Her eyebrows shot up so high they disappeared into her hair, and she was, for the first time since I'd known her, struck dumb. She looked at me, with her head tilted backwards slightly, as if to get a better view through her reading glasses, which always slid to the end of her nose and perched there, precariously. She had a look on her face I couldn't read, and just sat there gazing at me, until I began to feel like a bug on a pin. I rather nervously reiterated my statement, "I'm not resentful."

My friend sighed heavily, and said, "It's a good thing you found Al-Anon, honey."

I was still very new to Al-Anon, and my defenses were powerful; her remark was quickly shoved to the back of my mind and forgotten. A few years later, the place I worked was bought out by a corporation, and we began to have to attend endless meetings.  Staff would sit, slowly becoming more and more stupefied with boredom, while someone in management from back east would give lectures on various things which seemed to have zero relation to anything we'd ever been doing in our workplace.

I was in one of those meetings one morning, on a hot and sticky sort of day, and I was as close to sleep as one can get with eyes open, when the the speaker said, "Blah blah blah is our only operating principle."

A co-worker leaned over and muttered into my ear, "The acquisition of money is our only operating principle."
Poor speaker, he'd given us a phrase which lent itself perfectly to sarcasm. When we finally escaped the meeting, for the rest of the day, and part of the next, staff would meet in the halls, or walk into the lunchroom, and give each other laughing fits with variations upon his pronouncement; everything from, "The tormenting of staff with long boring meetings..." to "Soulless acquisition and destruction of previously sucessful businesses..." always ending triumphantly, and often in unison with anyone else in earshot, " our only operating principle."

We were all very young.

I was out walking the dog that first evening, thinking about some of the funnier comments made that day, and suddenly remembered the conversation with my friend a few years earlier. I went to my meeting a few days later, and the topic was...."Resentment." This was one of my first introductions to the synchronicity of meeting topics to our states of mind, and it was a little eerie.

I tried honestly to decide if what my friend had said about my "operating principle" was true - was I resentful? (From this vantage point, I'm amazed at my ability to deny; I seethed with resentment like a boiling kettle.)

Accepting that piece of truth about my character was not easy; it meant I had to forego my victimhood, and allow for the fact that it wasn't the alcoholic who made my life a misery, I did that perfectly well all by myself.

Through Al-Anon, and working the Twelve Steps, I am learning to be more honest about what's happening inside my head. Before I can change anything, I must admit to it. What Al-Anon has given to me, is a safe place in which to do this. Getting this stuff out of the cave into the daylight, makes it possible for me to see that I am only human. You aren't a monster, and neither am I. We are both just people trying to make it in a sometimes painful and difficult world. Giving up blaming of others frees me to look towards the one small area of life I can change - my own patch.

Through program, and the help of my friends in program, and my Higher Power, I can work to make sure that resentment isn't, (all together now) my only operating principle.


  1. yep...with me it was control. My sponsor suggested I might have a little control issue. I was taken aback, my eyebrows went up into my hairline, and I told her, "If you think I am controlling, you should meet my mother." I was dead serious. Denial. ::sigh::

    I'm better now. Yes, I have a wee little control issue. The Steps keep me right sized and on the right track. Great post...funny and true.


  2. Great post. What you say about HOW it works, hits home for me. "A safe place to do this."
    Thanks again.

  3. Wow. As always, you have amazing insight and honesty about yourself and the effects of alcoholism in your life. I've been criticized that I "focus [too much] on my feelings" as someone affected by another's drinking. But I've identified my emotions, felt them and I'm letting them go (slowly)because of gentle guidance and freedom of Alanon.
    I must remember not to be afraid to live honestly. Thanks for the reminder.

  4. I think that I had a lot of variations on the resentment theme, not the least of which was being judgmental and self-righteous. Great post.

  5. I always learn here in your blog. Thank you for writing it.

  6. I just found your site tonight (finally went looking) and this post has struck such a chord. Not sure what to say, except that it would be hard to read this and not "get" that I've seen a difficult reflection of myself in your writing. I thought about attending my first Al-Anon meeting last week (my husband's first AA meeting was about 5 weeks ago), but still haven't admitted that I need help, too. Think it's probably time. Thanks for putting this out there.