Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Why I Do The Things I Do - Motives.

"What would be your motive, were you to say that?"

A question my first sponsor used on me, and which I now use, with great glee thoughtfulness, on my sponsees. When I was new to program, that question was guaranteed to bring me to a screeching halt - tires smoking, long line of black rubber on the road behind me.

I understood the question, but I also didn't understand it. I had good language comprehension, but emotional comprehension? None at all. I would be in the strange position of having a clear picture of what was being asked of me, and no way to reply. I hadn't a clue where I could begin to search for an answer, because my motives were well hidden in the hoarder's house of my brain.

I like that analogy for several reasons, not least of which that I had a tendency (A "tendency," ha! Slight understatement there, dear reader.) to scorekeep. I could not let go of anything; on the contrary, I was always on the hunt for more evidence to add to my stash of "Look at what they did, it's only natural that I would ___!"
Any slight, insult, unkindness, emotional/verbal/physical abuse ever perpetrated against me, which I was old enough to remember, and all of those  which the memory retains, but over which it draws a curtain, (so that we may continue to function, albeit not very smoothly) were in that house of self. 

Somewhere. Buried under mountains of unidentifiable, dust-covered, mouse poop decorated - all right, all right, enough of this analogy, what's my point here?

I couldn't let go of any trespass against me. I couldn't forgive or forget, and because of that, my motives were poisoned by my resentment. I acted and spoke to "get back" at the alcoholic, and every miserable rotten person in my life who had hurt me. The drinking alcoholic became a symbol, a representative of that group. I knew that when he was in his cups, I could say anything I pleased, no matter how viciously cruel, and not have to pay the price for saying it. He was in blackout - his memory would not retain it.

When I did a Step Five with him about this, much later on, after we'd divorced and been apart for quite some time, I wept and shook with pain, fear and sorrow. He reached across the table and grasped my hands: his own were shaking: tears were streaming down his face, too. In that moment, I saw in the still-drinking alcoholic wreck before me, the man I had loved and married so many years before. I am so grateful to program, for giving me the ability and willingness to make that amend, to make my peace with him, to go on in my life with no unfinished business from that relationship.

Before Al-Anon, I was not in the habit of digging down to find my motives. They were a deep and dark mystery of self, and I feared them, if I considered them at all. In Al-Anon, I have learned that if I do not deal with my resentments, they will begin to poison the ground water, and I'll start to suffer from strange ailments, such as being "irritable and unreasonable" or restlessness, perhaps a feeling of being trapped by circumstance.  All those awful feelings, and the insane thinking which once ruled me, will once again begin to stir if I do not work my program every single blessed day, whether I wish to, or do not.

If I want to be able to answer questions from myself, or anyone else, about my motives, with something other than an abashed and shame-filled hesitance, I have to work my program. It's that simple.


  1. Owning up to my part is freeing, I no longer am I victim.
    This to me lets a new part of who I am have a voice and a space in my life.
    Thanks for your share

  2. "Before Al-Anon, I was not in the habit of digging down to find my motives. They were a deep and dark mystery of self, and I feared them, if I considered them at all."

    The truth is, I've been a 12 Stepper so long -- slightly over half my life -- I forget how things are with non-12 Steppers.

    This description describes a good % of people I've dated.

    Thanks for the reminder of "before."

  3. What's my motive is a question that I ask myself frequently, especially when dealing with other people. Am I looking for validation? Am I trying to manipulate others to love me? Are my motives selfish? These are important questions for me. Thanks C. for bringing up this important topic.