humble

“Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.”orange tree

Much of my early adult life was spent believing that I, LarryPaulBrown, marched to the beat of a different drummer.  I continually envisioned myself as a step ahead of the crowd, a few watts brighter than most, a loner totally comfortable with only me as my fan club.  I read all the newest self-help books and listened to only PBS or BBC.  I knew the latest diet fads, drank only spring water, and avoided fried foods like the plague.  My favorite beverage was scotch and water chased by a beer, usually many beers.  Life was a self-contained, self-directed, self-driven existence which everyone could see as a fiasco except me.

Finally at age 34 with the admission that I was an alcoholic, a number of my fondest assessments of myself got knocked down a few notches.  With continued fellowshipping amongst other sober people and with my first 4th step inventory, I became acutely aware that “me, me, me” was not the center of the universe, that actually the universe did not need me at all.  That in itself was a sobering revelation.  Thank God my fellow AAers just smiled and said, “Welcome to the real world.”

Recognizing that I was one of the most insecure, immature, and directionless men I had ever met, the task of rebuilding a wrecked life seemed monumental.  I struggled with anxiety, depression, and sober panic attacks while sitting at the tables with my newly discovered sober friends believing they could not see what was going on inside my head.  Later, I realized that they did indeed know because they, at one point in their early sobriety, suffered the same craziness.  I gave up the thought that marching to a different drummer was cool.  The other fantasies I had about myself slowly disappeared as my own sober time grew.  And the craziness also mellowed to a controllable, occasional period of melancholy.

Life is good today.  It is manageable.  It is uncomplicated.  It is unfettered by emotional highs and lows.  It is no longer a roller-coaster thrill ride.  Humility has been the cornerstone of my recovery.  Humility is defined by Bill W. as….“consisting of a state of complete freedom from myself, freedom from all the claims that my defects of character now lay so heavily upon me.  Perfect humility would be a full willingness, in all times and places, to find and to do the will of God.”  AS BILL SEES IT, pg. 106

Like most newly sober drunks, the last thing I wanted to hear was a lecture about the virtue of humility.  I had been humiliated, degraded, brought to my knees, and defeated by our common enemy of alcoholism. That to me was humility.  I did not need to feel any more inferior to my fellow-man.  But, as stated in his definition, Bill W.’s correction of my misconception about humility established a new playing field.   Self-esteem and self-respect developed.  I learned that I loved myself more fully when I gave myself away; I discovered how a life free of myself was a bold step into a liberation never realized before.  Freed of the restrictions and defects which had previously defined me, I stepped into a world of self-sacrifice previously unpracticed.

Another definition of humility by Bill W. is…..“a clear recognition of what and who we are, followed by a sincere attempt to become who we could be.”  TWELVE STEPS AND TWELVE TRADITIONS, pg. 58

Life is still a work in progress never expecting that there will ever be perfect humility.  Familiar words from the Big Book state, “We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.”  But, the horizon encountered soberly always offers  a better understanding of my Higher Power with which I hope to become a man who is less addicted to self and more interested in others.  I don’t do anything perfectly, least of all practicing humility.  But, I’m getting better and I know I am at my best when self-will-run-riot takes a back seat to “Thy will be done”.

 

mercy

“Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.”CANDLE

A key element in sobriety is forgiveness.  Bill W. comments that until I have completed a 4th step inventory and then gone on to a place of showing and accepting mercy, aka forgiveness, I will not understand or achieve sober-living.

The power in this act is that it is a mutual undertaking, it’s a two-way street.  I ask my Higher Power to forgive me, I ask those whom I have offended to forgive me through amends-making, but I also must forgive those who have injured me in any way by word or deed.

This is a facet of the powerlessness necessary to overcome self.  When I am able to accept the forgiveness of God and of other people, I am giving up that sense of pride which has been telling me that I’m better than mercy, I’m going to accept forgiveness on my terms.  “Self-will run riot” is quick to return to me unless I am vigilant.  God uses me best when I am fully powerless, when I am humble.  Humility is defined in the “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions”, pg 58, as “….a clear recognition of what and who we really are, followed by a sincere attempt to become what we could be.”  Step 5’s admission of my defects to another human is a step toward humility.

“Withholding forgiveness is a form of power over another person, a way to manipulate, shame, control, and diminish another.” cac.org

That’s a convicting indictment of my unwillingness to forgive.  My Higher Power does not play that game and neither should I.  In retrospect, owning up to the control freak that I can be, I should not be surprised that accepting forgiveness from God or from others has been difficult.  I did not want to become powerless.  Grudges are a result of this unforgiveness.  Grudges justify my resentments, my need to be right, and my anger.  And, yes, I have held grudges, resentment, and anger toward God.  It’s part of my alcoholic personality.  It’s part of that old personality which refuses to accept responsibility for myself and my actions.

“But with the alcoholic, whose hope is the maintenance and growth of a spiritual experience, this business of harboring resentment is infinitely grave.  Bill W. AS BILL SEES IT , pg.5

Forgiveness is the gift of mercy in action.  I desire mercy but, I also need to extend it.  In the Beatitudes, the message of Jesus compacted into the book of Matthew 5: 3-11, the author says:

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”