Friday, February 10, 2012

"Get Off Your Own Back!"

I love to sew, and have been trying, in the last while, to find a good t-shirt pattern to fit me. After several atttempts with purchased patterns, I gave up and did what I often seem to be doing when it comes to clothing - took apart one of my older ready-to-wear garments to use as a pattern. Tonight I was downstairs in my sewing room, putting the finishing touches on my first shirt made with this pattern, and listening to a talk given by one of my favourite 12-Step speakers, Father Tom W, who is a member of AA and Al-Anon, and wonderfully funny. (A talk of his from 2011 can be heard here.)

I'd been listening to one of his earlier talks, he was speaking about how we members of Al-Anon can be "viciously critical" of ourselves. That hit home with an audible thump - I realised that I'd been feeling disturbed and unhappy over the last 24 hours, because I've been engaged in vicious criticism of myself. (I had a conversation yesterday in which I reacted rather than responded, with predictable results: I've been giving myself a royal bollocking ever since.)

Father Tom went on to describe what that vicious criticism of himself sounded like, and how depressed he felt after bashing himself for a few days, and then after a short silence, he said, "Get off your own back!"

I started to laugh. I've been in program for a long time, but every now and then, I can still forget to give myself a break. If I get caught up in that vicious criticism of myself, I can't detach enough to be able to realise that 's what I'm doing - I'll be convinced that I'm "taking my inventory - working Step 10."

No. Inventory doesn't last 24 hours; it takes about two minutues.  No, I've got the mental sledgehammer out, and I'm whaling away.

If I walked around behind you for an entire day constantly telling you what a piece of crap you are for having made a mistake, you'd end up feeling angry, frustrated, raw, and depressed. Precisely the way I feel, when I do the same thing to me.

Forgiveness is a gift we can give to ourselves. Take inventory, make the amend, and then let it go, don't use the knowledge of our mistake as a club with which to rob the day of its pleasure. Let's all get off our own backs.


  1. That's really good. We Al Anons are pretty tough on ourselves. Progress not perfection...have to keep remembering that. Most of us have been through alot dealing with alcoholic(s). It's no wonder we have a hard time believing in ourselves. I think most of us deserve a medal for still being able to stand and tell our stories!! FYI ... I made the call asking a man to be my sponsor. We're going to meet pretty soon to discuss. My current focus is on compassion. It sure beats the heck out of being angry all the time.

  2. Thank you for the reminder! I have to work hard to be gentle with myself. I can be my own worst critique!

  3. I am my own worst critic. But I have learned through the steps to inventory, look at my part, make amends, and then let it go. I am glad that I made amends with my FIL. I can visit him with a sense of peace now and feel nothing but compassion.