Often, we are give an allowance for righteous indignation – the act of what is commonly angry for something that is perceived as “unfair”. Politicians make a living on righteous indignation. This person or corporation should pay more in taxes than you because they make more than you, that minority group should have an unfair advantage over another group because life is unfair, name it and someone is being treated unfairly and should therefore either get a break or pay less than everyone else. We alcoholics, those still using and especially those new to recovery have to deal with righteous indignation on a regular basis. How could that be?
Well, I didn’t exactly quit drinking because I was on a winning streak. I would say that “very few of us do”, but I’ve never actually met an alcoholic that did quit on a winning steak – they’re rather like unicorns. Well, once we set to cleaning the wreckage of our past we end up running into some tough going from time to time. Things don’t always work out as we think they should and we have to do a little extra work in setting things straight. So it will go like this: Bob got his second DUI and is dealing with the legal drama that comes with a second – the expense too… To please the judge, Bob’s lawyer has him go to AA meetings and have a sheet signed to present the court. In the process, Bob figures out that he really wants to quit so he goes about setting things right. His court date comes around and he’s sentenced to some form of treatment or community service that he believes is unfair, after all, he’s already given the judge his signed sheets… He’s proving that he is rectifying the problem!
Well folks, what happens next is righteous indignation. In other words, Bob’s got himself a point. He is taking the necessary steps, he has put in the effort.
I can point this at myself too… I have a tendency to get really worked up when women, who themselves are displaying their own righteous indignation about what they see as a sexist society. I throw my righteous indignation into the ring because all too often women will indict the whole of the male race when they lash out against their perceived injustice because not only was I raised better than that, most of the men I know were as well. The indictment, therefore isn’t against the majority of men, it’s against the minority – and somehow we’re all made to pay because of it. Therein lies the rub.
Fortunately, because I am a recovering drunk, for the most part (and though I am not always able to stick to this – I am human after all) we have a little help when it comes to righteous indignation… I simply accept the fact that I don’t do it very well. Looked at another way, because of my nature, I’m not suited to allow myself the luxury. Now, I mustn’t allow myself to be treated as a door mat for surely, most people who don’t anger are treated inappropriately at best, usually much worse so finding a balance is incredibly important.
The ability to keep ones cool takes practice as we all know and the best place is to start with the knowledge that one doesn’t do righteous indignation well. Better to leave that to others who are better equipped.
Now, there’s a payoff, because let’s face it, who would give up getting their undies in a bunch now and again? It can be invigorating after all. The payoff is control. The payoff is being able to disagree without making a big scene over small potatoes. Eventually, with enough practice, you become less reliant on others and become better suited to handle life. It’s the only way I know that keeps me off of the bar stool and relatively happy.
Next up, I think I’ll write about practice – because letting go of righteous indignation takes a lot of practice.