The 10th Step

When discussing the 10th step people always concentrate on their interactions with people: “I yelled at the guy at McDonald’s for screwing up my order, but then I went back to apologize later!  See how well I’m working the steps!”  Morons.  If these things happen to you on a regular basis, you’re an “Asshole”.  There is no “Assholes Anonymous”.  If you’re an Asshole, everyone knows it,  You really don’t need to tell them.

Since I stopped drinking I really don’t have incredible lapses of judgement and control. Those were caused by the alcohol.  It removed my ability to edit my actions.  But I am still quite often wrong.  Probably more often than I am right. Correcting this is not the point of the 10th step, because it cannot be corrected.  It is not a moral deficiency.  It is a by-product of being human.

An example:  I go up to my friend and say: “Yesterday I said it used to be Constantinople. but now it’s Istanbul and you said no, it used to be Istanbul. but now it’s Constantinople.  I just want to let you know, you were right and I was wrong.”

100% of the time, without variation, they say the exact same thing: “I know.”

You know why they say that?  Because they knew they were right!  Yeah! It’s not a trick question, they wouldn’t have said it if they didn’t think they were right!  What the fuck!

So then I say: “No, no, no!  You don’t understand!  I’m letting you know that I know you were right! (winning smile)!”

They say something to the effect of “So I’m supposed to be impressed that you’re nearly as smart today as I was yesterday?”

And I say: “No, no no!  I’m letting you know that I apologize for being wrong, and it will never happen again! (another smile)!”

“Yes, it will.  You’re wrong a lot.  All the time.  You’re even wrong right now.  You’re being stubborn and bull-headed and grinding something into the ground that doesn’t even need to be discussed.  You’re trying to force me to forgive you and say what a swell guy you are for owning up to your part so you can feel better about yourself.  You’re an Asshole.  That’s never going to change.  My job as your friend is to love you through it.  Shut up and go to a meeting.”

Here’s what the Big Book says about the 10th step:

“…Were we resentful, selfish, dishonest or afraid?… What could we have done better? Were we thinking of ourselves most of the time? Or were we thinking of what we could do for others, of what we could pack into the stream of life? But we must be careful not to drift into worry, remorse or morbid reflections, for that would diminish our usefulness to others….”

Here’s a scenario of how I was wrong and had to admit it, but it had nothing to do with anyone else:

I have a shitty little job that I’m not very good at.  It doesn’t pay very well.  Every aspect of my life is affected by it.  I can’t afford to live the way I want to, I’m not enjoying life the way I should be, I don’t feel good about myself because I have no accomplishments to be proud of, I can’t give my family the financial support they need, I can’t be generous with my friends.. I’m probably hurting the world by not finding something I’m really good at. Wouldn’t it be nice to say to yourself a dozen times a day: “That was the best damn shoe salesman I’ve ever seen!  That little fucker really knew his stuff!”

But ask me why I haven’t changed jobs.  I’ll tell you I’ve been there a long time, my boss really likes me, he’s got me in mind to be a manager… I’ll come up with a dozen reasons.  Not because they’re true, but because coming up with reasons to explain my actions is what I do best.  Wake me up at 2:00 in the morning and I’ll give you 3 perfectly good reasons why I’m in bed with that woman before I realize it’s my own wife.

Fear.  That’s really why I don’t change jobs.  Ball-shrinking, butt-clenching fear.  I’d rather stay in a situation I know but don’t like than move to a situation I like but don’t know.  Uncertainty scares me, so I stay where I am.  Fear of losing keeps me from playing.  I’d rather succeed at an easy game — with no reward — than take a chance on losing one that matters.  I spit in the face of God and ignore his gifts because I’m afraid to take a chance.

Wow.  Think that needs addressing?  

What if Shakespeare was afraid of getting laughed at? 

What if Orville said to Wilbur: “You think I’m getting in that thing?  What, are you nuts, we could get killed!” 

What if Edison was too lazy to invent the light bulb.  We’d all be watching TV in the dark!

We say the Serenity prayer before every meeting.  When we came into A.A. we had no program for living.  Our lives were wild and chaotic.  We needed Serenity.  After we’ve been sober a while we need Courage.  It doesn’t come by itself, and it doesn’t come without cost.  I need to step outside of my comfort zone.  I need to feel uncomfortable — the opposite of feeling serene — in order to accomplish anything of value.

Isn’t that discomfort — restless, irritable and discontent — most of the reason I drank?  I had to have a couple of drinks just to feel comfortable enough to walk into a bar.  People were scary.  They still are.  Until we get to know each other.  Does that 30 seconds to 30 minutes of discomfort stop me from meeting new people?  What am I failing to “pack into the stream of life”?

“What could we have done better?”  Maybe give up 2 nights of TV a week to take night classes.  But you see, that won’t benefit me for several years, and I’m not into delayed gratification, so I don’t do it.  And several years go by anyway…

Did I give in to “remorse or morbid reflection”?  Do I feel bad that Brenda dumped me 3 months ago — so I’m obviously a piece of crap that no woman would ever want — and not notice that Susie was making googly eyes at me?  Are there girls I didn’t ask out because I was afraid they’d say “No”?  Passed on Love.  One of God’s greatest gifts.  Threw it back at him.  Fuck you, God!

I’m wrong a lot.  In January, I saw this girl I hadn’t seen in a few weeks.  Didn’t know her that well.  She always seemed kind of pissed off.  I said: “How was your Christmas? “.  She had the door to the meeting halfway open, turned, looked at me and said: “Fuck You!”.

WOW!  She’s mean!  I don’t need someone like that in my life!  I’m not even going to talk to her anymore!  My Serenity is worth too much!  Life is meant to be happy, and I shouldn’t be around negative people!

A few minutes after the meeting I saw her standing all by herself, with her back to everyone,   Shaking.  Crying.  I realized I was wrong.  She’s not mean, she’s scared to death.  And just like a cornered animal, she’s snapping at people.  I realized that God made me strong — stronger than most — for a reason.  He kicked me around some and made me strong.  Emotionally.  Strong enough that maybe I can be friends with someone that’s hard to be friends with.  Someone who’s a lot of work and you won’t get a lot back from.  Someone who needs a friend a lot more than that really nice guy over there.  Someone who feels really alone, abandoned, worthless, betrayed, hurt and doesn’t trust anyone.  Someone like me.  Maybe that’s why God made me strong. To take on a challenge.  Maybe I was wrong about my Serenity being important.

I understand if you’re not strong enough to take on a challenge, though.  Stick with the nice, safe ones, who give back as much as you give them.  I believe you when you say you can’t handle it.  Some people just don’t have it in them.  Don’t feel bad.

She made me think of a girl I met in college.  I’d been in a few classes with her in High School.  Beautiful!!  Never really talked with her before.

We were hanging out for a couple of weeks and I said: “You know, you’re a lot of fun!  Easy to talk to.  I never would have thought it.  I mean, back in High School you were kind of stuck up!  But you’re real nice now!”

Lightning bolts shot out of her eyes.  “Stuck up?  I was scared shitless!!!  Nobody talked to me!  Ever!  You bastards voted me Homecoming Queen, and then Nobody asked me to the Dance!!!  Nobody!  If a pimply faced geek had asked me to go I would have been so grateful I would have blown him on the way to the dance, but NOBODY ASKED ME!!!  I begged my Mother to let me stay home from the dance, but she made me go.  I had to go with my Brother!  I constantly wondered if it was all a big joke.  Maybe some pig’s blood was going to drop on me!  Everyone talked about me in High School, but no one ever talked to me!!”

I thought: “Wow! Did I ever miss an opportunity!”  You know, to be of maximum service. 

I’ve known my ex-wife for 25 years, but I still don’t know everything about her.  Sometimes I think I do.  I’ll tell myself: “If I say this she’ll say that, and I’ll counter with…”.  But then she surprises me and says something completely different.  Sometimes she shows a new level of awareness and depth I didn’t know she had.  Sometimes she misses the point, and glosses over it with a superficiality I thought she’d surpassed.  Yeah.  And sometimes — even though she’s the smartest person I know — she’s just plain wrong.  That’s the person I know best in the whole world and when it comes down to it, I really don’t know her.

And yet I can tell everything I need to know about YOU in less than 30 seconds.  Open your mouth one time and I can tell exactly what you’re made of.

How often am I wrong about people?  Most of the time.  How much does it matter?  Maybe a lot.

And yet I constantly hear people talking about how they “made amends for what they said”.  Here’s some information you may not have about “what you said”.  Nobody gives a shit.  Nobody was listening because you’re not that important.  And they knew you were wrong anyway, because you’re an Asshole.  Get over it.

There’s other things that are a lot more important than “what you say”.  Like “what you do”.  Actions trump words every time.

In conclusion, it helps no one for me to admit I was wrong in my interactions with my fellows.  They already know it.  Every single person who has ever known me for any length of time will say the exact same 3 things about me:

Toler?  He’s an Asshole.  But usually a lot of fun to be around.  And I hear he’s pretty good in bed.

OK.  One of those was not true.  I made it up just to get a laugh.  I’m sorry I lied, and it’ll never happen again!  Feel better now?

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1 Response to The 10th Step

  1. Pingback: Resentments from a different angle | As Jim Sees It

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