In the vast majority of my posts, I am hard on us recovering folk, mainly flogging myself as an example. Every once in a while I’ll pull out the hammer. The reason for this is I believe we tend to be too soft on ourselves. I hear it in meetings regularly, talk of “forgiving ourselves first” or “learning to forgive myself”… hell, I’ve said it, too. It really sounds good, especially to a noob. “I had to include myself in my eighth and ninth steps”, he said.
Well, that all sounds good, but it’s largely bullshit for the noobs. Most of us have no problem forgiving ourselves. We’re arrogant enough to try to play the victim in all of this while we were a hurricane in the lives of those around us. Folks, I don’t know about you, but I didn’t quit booze and weed because I was on a winning streak and it just seemed like the next neat thing to do – and I sure as f*** didn’t remain sober for the next 27 years because it was fashionable. I quit and remained quit because my life whilst using was entirely freaking miserable and I don’t want any of that $#!+ back. Ever.
However, with all of that said, one thing I did have to do was learn to stop kicking myself for being a loser. For me, it was like I had a rope wound around a pulley that was attached to a harness strapped to my back… the rope was tied to my ankle, the other end dangling just above my head. Every now and again, I’d give that rope a tug, pulling my heel right into my ass. Then I’d give it another tug, just because I deserved it. Then another, and another… and then I’d get a rhythm going.
Now, that never did anyone any good. It was a useless form of self-flagellation, a form of penance, really. Perhaps this is what people really mean when they talk about “forgiving themselves”? The main point, at least in my case, is that I’d get down on myself for what I’d done because the “trust me, I’m a better person” part wasn’t working fast enough for others to start believing I was okay. This, my dears, does not lead one to “forgive” oneself. It just meant I had to stop pulling on the freaking rope.
And therein lies the rub.
There’s a big difference between forgiving myself and being done with it (once I’ve forgiven someone, I’m done with the resentment, and if I bring it up again, that’s on me) and remembering that I’m only to do the next right thing in any given situation and life will improve. I didn’t have to continually kick my own ass because I’d done bad things, I needed to keep doing what was right and good to stop being that guy.
Quickly, let’s look at this a different way. Here’s the definition of “forgiveness” from Wikipedia:
“Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, and overcomes negative emotions such as resentment and vengeance.“
Intentional and voluntary, check. Process by which a victim… Stop. I wasn’t a victim. I was a volunteer. The entire rest of the sentence is then impossible because there was no offense. I was the offense that created the negative emotions.
This is likely to stir controversy, I know. But there’s purpose in the semantics. I must always remember that my alcoholism, that guy, is in a cage in my mind and the door isn’t locked. I am fully capable of being that guy again, after all I’ve learned… just add alcohol. I must always be vigilant against the notion that I am a victim. I must always remember I am a volunteer.
A volunteer knows the door is unlocked. The victim doesn’t even know there’s a door, let alone that there’s something behind it waiting for one little flaw…
Just a thought. Recover hard, my friends. We may not get a second bite at that apple.