“That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., p. 84).
A couple of months ago, I woke up on a Saturday morning feeling different: lighter and more open-minded. I pondered on the feeling and realized that I had been waking up like this for many months, but the change had been so gradual I hadn’t noticed the lessening of my mental burden.
It wasn’t that way three years ago. Then I woke up every day knowing I was already a failure and would probably fail again. I knew the day would hold no wonder for me. I did that to myself. All day I worried about food.
I compared the two feelings that morning a couple of months ago and realized for the first time how far I have come in this program. I have had physical recovery and have maintained my body size for more than two years. I am wearing the same clothes this year that I wore last year and the year before. Is it a miracle? Yes, because I have never been able to do that. Is it the most miraculous thing that has happened to me? No.
The most miraculous thing is the burden my mind has lost: the burden of judging myself and others. The desire to judge still pops up and probably always will, but my Higher Power’s will does not allow me to follow through on it. What a lesson learned and a load removed.
I have lost the capacity to inhibit myself from experiencing the moment. I used to be caught up in tomorrow or yesterday, focusing on future possibilities or past pitfalls. Now I attend to reality, which is what I have right here, right now. Even if all I notice are the bubbles in my mop bucket, that is how I make every minute holy.
The feelings of uselessness and self-pity have not disappeared forever. They are lurking in my recovering psyche, ready to pounce if I give them a chance. Sometimes that happens, and when it does, it’s time to do more work on myself and for myself.
I have to be as rigorously honest about my emotional health as I have been about my physical health. Sometimes I get sloppy, and a loosening tape measure tells me so. Instead of getting caught up in denial, I honestly evaluate my food plan. When I trust my Higher Power and am honest with myself, the tape measure tightens.
The same is true of my emotions. This is the area where my most honest work is done because if it’s not done, then I lose my physical recovery as well.
Anger is my underlying theme whenever I get depressed and start a downward spiral. I am basically a proud person, and it’s a false pride based on an overloaded sense of entitlement. I have been good, so I deserve no less than whatever it is I desire. I have come to expect my Higher Power to deliver, and when he doesn’t, I feel angry, hurt, rejected, depressed and unholy. By analyzing my anger through an anger workbook, I have learned to be assertive with my Higher Power instead of whining and waiting for him to do all the work.
By working with my sponsor, I have learned to experience my deepest, darkest, saddest sense of self. Those emotions that I tried to stuff with food now have their days or even weeks to work themselves out and become fully experienced. It helps me to draw word pictures about these feelings and describe them to God assertively.
My sponsor also helped me develop a series of affirmations that I use to pick myself up when I am healing from the emotional colds I get.
- I radiate beauty.
- I am strong and courageous, and God is in control.
- I am patient and persistent, and life is good to me.
- I play an important role in the universe, and so do you!
- I am learning to forgive.
- I am a humble servant of the Lord.
That last one, along with others, has helped me with my inflated ego and false pride. It has dissolved the anger that flares up when I think I’ve been slighted. When I say it to myself, I immediately feel a sense of relief, clarity and complete submission to the will of my Higher Power. It puts my life in perspective and my mind at ease, and it diverts the feelings of uselessness and self-pity that can destroy my sanity . . . if I allow it.
— Reprinted from Lifeline magazine