A martyr creates an identity built around one central idea - suffering. Before Al-Anon, I was deeply committed to my vision of myself as a martyr. I'd had a hard early life, and here I was, married to an alcoholic, and still suffering. That vision of myself was rather rudely put to rest during the working of my first Fourth Step, as I slowly became aware of my own character defects, aided by a sponsor who couldn't be manipulated - she knew exactly what I was doing when I was doing it, because she'd done all of it herself.
I would be full-rant about the latest terrible thing the alcoholic had done or said, and looking up, would find that she was watching me with a loving gaze, and that blasted eyebrow slowly climbing up her forehead. When it began the ascent, I knew I was about to be challenged. In time, I had only to see it rise enough to create the tiniest suggestion of a wrinkle, and I knew I was in for it.
I hated the way she seemed able to see right through me, and could be deeply irritated that she wasn't interested in providing me an audience while I elucidated the minute details of my martyrdom. One day, when her eyebrow was at its peak, and I was still defiantly whining and moaning about how hard my life was, I glanced at her, and without knowing I was about to, stopped, grinned and said, ruefully, "Nobody knows the trouble I done seen."
She responded instantly with, "Gotta suffer, if you want to sing the blues."
We howled together, one of those laughing fits that leaves you gasping and wiping your eyes, and wondering afterwards why that was so funny, but smiling again at the memory. I doubt I recognised at the time that I'd just experienced one of those massive shifts in understanding which can forever change us for the better, if we are willing to quickly follow through with more excavation of self.
Without further work, I have learned that I will forget the lesson and have to relearn it at a later date. It will be a more painful lesson that next time, and even more so the next - experiencing that truth has not been pleasant, but it's the "sure and certain" outcome when I've been obstinate in my refusal to accept.
My Higher Power will give me what I want, and if I want opportunities for martyrdom, and to be a victim, I'm going to get them. When I decided once and for all that I had had enough of that, and I wanted change, that's what I received. It's that simple.
12-Step is a simple program. All my efforts to complicate so as to have a good reason not to do it have served me about as well as you'd expect. When I surrender, when I accept, when I let go, life is good, and I'm at peace.