Recently I shared with a man who was beating himself up for making some mistakes at work. I suggested he take it easy on himself. He said, “if I take it easy I’ll probably do it again. If I’m tough on myself I may remember.” Boy can I identify! I beat myself with the whip of self-hate over the smallest mistake most of my life, even well into sobriety.
I’m not proud of the things that I did, both drunk and sober, that hurt others, but I don’t regret them either. I don’t believe I had a choice. Not really. I needed to drink every drink and tell every lie. I needed to hurt the people I hurt. I could not have become ready to receive the miracle with one less of anything. Blaming myself for my character defects, for my fears, is just more self-centeredness. Today, guilty feelings have only one purpose -- to tell me I ought to be making an amends to someone I’ve hurt and then let it go.
I believe I was born self-centered, just as I believe I was born alcoholic. I became addicted to me early on. The fear that life would not give me what I wanted caused me to lie, cheat and steal -- to hurt others. My dishonesty created ever-increasing painful life experiences and a million and one reasons to drink. My life spiraled down for many years before I was graced with a moment of clarity that led me to Alcoholics Anonymous.
In AA my past turned into my most priceless asset. I cannot connect with another alcoholic without the “what it was like” part of my story. If I can’t connect, I can’t recover. It’s not your drunk-a-log that gets my attention, but your feelings of “incomprehensible demoralization” as you struggled to find your bottom and surrender. I am doomed if I forget about where I’ve come from.
Father Bill W. said we humans are wanting people. We want what we want when we want it and we can’t stop wanting by wanting to. It’s taken many years but today I know the only solution to self-centeredness is to want what God wants. It is becoming clear that what God wants is not complicated. God simply wants me to learn to love more.