M(3), 7/14: Self-Pity
Today’s meeting, which featured the book Living Sober, the chapter read was entitled “Eliminating Self-Pity.” I asked a regular attendee to select the chapter, so I came into the reading fresh, and my initial thought was “not a topic that applies to me.” In this, and every instance where I think a recovery-related piece of literature does not apply to me, I am proven woefully incorrect. Here’s the opening paragraph of the chapter:
This emotion is so ugly that no one in his or her right mind wants to admit feeling it. Even when sober, many of us remain clever at hiding from ourselves the fact that we are astew in a mess of self-pity. We do not like at all being told that is shows, and we are sharp at arguing that we are experiencing some other emotion- not that loathsome poor-me-ism. Or we can, in a second, find a baker’s dozen perfectly legitimate reasons for feeling somewhat sorry for ourselves. -Chapter 22, Living Sober
Well, when it’s put like that… I guess maybe it does apply, and perhaps I could use some of the advice for eliminating it!
The advice given in the book is fairly simple, which is one of the reasons I love reading this book; it is short and sweet, and immensely practical. First, take a step back, take a long hard look at yourself, and recognize self-pity for what it really is. You can’t change a behavior without first identifying it. Talk it out with a trusted friend, one who will call you out on your nonsense. In all likelihood, you will be able to call yourself on it once you start talking out your feelings. Finally, fight back the self-pity with a little gratitude. It is impossible to maintain both self-pity and gratitude simultaneously, so remind yourself of what you do have, what you have accomplished, and what is good in your life. Chances are the self-pity will become a distant memory.
In addition to loving 12-step meetings for the insight they provide me, I also love being able to share honestly, candidly, and anonymously about the things going on in my head to a group of people who immediately understand. I read through the chapter with everyone else, and I realize the ways I have been living in the swamp of self-pity. That’s miracle number one. Then I can immediately take the advice given, and “tell on myself” by sharing the insight I’ve gained. That’s miracle number two. Finally, I get the feedback, validation and encouragement that changes my thinking from a caring, intelligent group of people who have walked in my shoes. Three miracles in one short hour!
And the icing on the cake is the ability to give back the same feedback, validation and encouragement to others. One friend that I haven’t seen in ages came to the meeting distressed with a family crisis. She said she was flabbergasted by the timing of this reading, as she was able to see how her actions have been slowly but surely spiralling her down the rabbit hole of self-pity. “Why am I the only one that has to deal with this crisis? Why does all the responsibility fall on me? Why me?” Who among us hasn’t felt this way at some point in our lives? But in talking it out she was able to see that those emotions were making her already bad situation so much worse. Just talking it out in the meeting was enough to turn her thinking around.
Another attendee shared that the line that stuck out to him in the reading was the idea that, while operating in self-pity, we would love to just scream to the world, “Leave me alone!” He said that is how he lived his last few years of active addiction… the more he drank, the more he isolated. He said the biggest motivation for him to attend daily 12-step meetings is to fight his tendency to isolate.
The gentleman who selected the reading shared that he once lived his life in self-pity. He often compared his life to the lives of others, and always found his wanting. He heard a quote once that changed this attitude forever:
Several others chimed in with regard to this train of thought, and added that comparing our insides to others’ outsides will accomplish nothing worthwhile, and typically leads to self-pity.
Possibly the best lesson I learned from today’s meeting: engaging in self-pity is the polar opposite of practicing acceptance. When someone shared this, a light bulb went off in my head. If I am feeling sorry for myself, it is, without exception, because I am finding someone or something unacceptable. Acceptance, a topic about which I have written on many, many occasions, has been a personal cornerstone of my recovery, so thinking about the two concepts as opposing really helped illuminate the areas of my life where I was guilty of the “poor me’s.”
A great meeting discussing a powerful topic that hits close to home for the alcoholic, and the non-alcoholic!
Thanks to all who helped turn my thinking around on the “childhood china dilemma” (see the last post for more details). I can’t tell you how much better I felt after reading all of your support! Here is the finished product, all ready to be stored away for the first grandchild (God willing, not for at least another decade!):
Posted on July 14, 2014, in Monday Meeting Miracles, Recovery and tagged 12 step, 12 step program, 12 steps, AA, Addiction, Alcohol, Alcoholic Anonymous, Alcoholism, Clean and Sober, Meeting, Miracle, Monday, Recovery, Sobriety, Support Groups, Twelve-Step Program. Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.