The first few times I read How It Works, I thought it said we had to let go of our "bad ideas," not our "old ideas." Today I know Bill had it right. It’s all the old ideas I’ve been carrying around for God knows how long that created the dis-ease I drank at for 30 years and the upset that pops up in my life today.
These old ideas are the roots of my character defects that grew up like weeds. If I want to rid myself of a character remove I must remove the root or the weed will just sprout back up. Most of the roots of my character defects are buried so deeply in the recesses of my mind that I don’t even realize they are there. That’s why self help programs didn’t work for me, but AA -- a God help program -- does.
I am way too lazy to look at the root causes of my anger, frustration, fear, boredom and the like unless pain forces me to. I believe becoming "entirely ready" means I have to first hit the bottom. I didn’t become ready to quit drinking until I became sick and tired of being sick and tired. The same is true with my character defects. I simply won’t weed the garden work unless I’m in some kind of pain that keeps repeating itself like bad Mexican food.
I confronted this kind of pain in 2003 when I reached bottom with my anger. After almost nine years of sobriety, I had become sick and tired of giving away my serenity to people and situations that didn’t follow my script. I finally realized that my angry reactions were hurting only me, not the bozos I held responsible. I made peace of mind my number one goal.
I began to pay better attention to myself as I went through my day. When I lost my serenity I tried to remember to ask why. At first I noticed only the big blow-ups, but as the years passed I became more sensitive to little upsets -- the ones caused by the termites of fear that gnawed silently away at my peace of mind. I identified a number of the "moldy oldies" I had been carrying around since I was a kid like: "You should not criticize me in any way. Don’t tell me if I happen to do anything that bothers" (It used to be if you honked your horn behind me in traffic, you were criticizing me, goddammit!) and "you should treat me at all times with courtesy and respect according to my standard of courteous and respectful treatment, not yours." It took a while, but eventually I came to see how irrational these beliefs were. It also became clear I was taking this stuff way too personally.
Today I still get angry when you do or say something that pisses me off, but I have fewer and fewer volcanic explosions. I don’t try to suppress it because that just leads to depression. When I get angry I continue to ask myself why I am angry. The answers I receive always lead me back to some, old worn-out idea that I’m carrying around from my childhood.