I tend to compare my sobriety to yours. I do it to see how I’m “stacking up“… to see if I’m “on schedule“. None of these concepts are valid in A.A., but that doesn’t stop me from berating myself when I see that your sobriety is “better” than mine. And not just Sobriety. If you have a better car, or house or girlfriend than I do, then in my mind everything you do and everything you have is better than mine. It’s been a long time since I had my last drink, but it wasn’t very long ago that I told myself I was a worthless piece of shit.
But I can’t compare my insides to your outside. What I see isn’t always what is. A couple of years back I got a ride from a guy who got sober the same month I did. He had a brand new Mustang. “Damn, Ray, It’s good to see you’re doing so well. Sharp car!”
“Doing well? Man, I don’t even stop at stop signs. I’m afraid they’ll repossess it if I do!”
It’s even worse if I think I’m doing better than you. I have naturally low self-esteem, so when I find someone I’m “better than”… Look out! It’s like at the zoo. The big monkey smacks the smaller monkey, so the smaller monkey runs over and smacks the tiny one. Somehow it makes him feel better about himself. That’s about how mature I am. I feel so small 95% of the time, that when I feel “better than” I use that opportunity to exact revenge, rather than show understanding and compassion. It’s as though I think that if I REALLY show that person up, it will sustain me during my dark days: “I’m not doing that bad! I remember that time I told that moron Ronnie….”.
There’s this girl at a club south of mine who’s kind of crazy. She’s having sex with her psychiatrist. Actually, it’s not her psychiatrist — he’s a psychiatrist and she’s married to him — but it sounds really juicy my way. Anyway, the first 5 years she was in the program she was a volatile, crazy woman. Angry, opinionated, judgemental… Couldn’t stay sober 60 days. Hadn’t seen her for about 5 years, now she’s doing really well. She had a bunch of little pigeons around her at the meeting… She’s still just as volatile and opinionated, but damn if she hadn’t gotten 5 years of Sobriety, God bless her. Linda’s one of my “A.A. Heroes”.
So for all these reasons I was extra-attentive when she started talking about somebody who had 20 years sober and was still “sick”.
She was re-telling how she’d told her husband about this dumb fuck. “He makes fun of Newcomers, and gets pissed off if you disagree with him, and he shares and then leaves the room… He doesn’t even have a job!”
“Yes. I’ve met him. But that’s his “A” game. That’s the best he’s ever going to be capable of, no matter how long he’s been sober. He’s never going to get any better, but chances are he’s a lot better than he was before.
“The REAL question is ‘How are YOU doing?’ Lately you haven’t been putting much into your Sobriety, or your work, or anything else. You’ve just been sort of coasting. You’re not bringing your “A” game.”
We all have different levels of ability, meaning if we put in the same amount of effort, we will get varying results. The measure of a man, therefore, is not where he is, but what he has overcome. Not what he has, but what he’s done with what he has.
When I was in school: if I just showed up to class I would learn enough to earn a “C”. If I actually paid attention I would get a “B”. Lord knows, if I’d actually opened a book, I probably would have gotten “A”s. A “B” average did not make me “Honor” anything. It meant I was a slack-ass bastard. A “C” for someone else, though, may have shown they put in a lot of effort.
All of us have felt at times that we should be judged by our intentions, while the world judges us by our actions. It talks about it in the 12×12. It also tells us to “Do the footwork and leave the results up to God”. But if I do this — leave the results up to God — then I am ultimately responsible for my level of effort; the quantity and direction (intention) of my actions. That is probably the most fair criteria to judge me on.
Early in Sobriety I was at a speaker meeting downtown. It’s great. A woman talks for a half hour, then a man tells his story. The reason I like it is because you never get 50 minutes of Drunkalogue, followed by (glance at clock) “Oh, yeah, then I went to A.A. and now everything is perfect!”. Anyway, the first person up was a 55-year-old lesbian. That’s how she introduced herself. Really turned me off. I thought to myself: “I didn’t drink like her — didn’t have her problems or issues, she didn’t have mine — so I probably don’t need to hear how she got sober.” Judgemental? Hell, yes. That’s my middle name. I started to rise out of my chair, then sat back down. Edgar told me to listen to everyone. What I heard was one of the most powerful messages I’ve heard in my Recovery. She told of a turbulent start to her Sobriety, and near the end of her story said: “Possibly the only thing I did right my first 5 years was stay away from a drink long enough to become an Active Participant in my own Recovery. I can choose to kick-start my Recovery any time I want.”
What that phrase taught me to realize was that if my boss doesn’t fire me and my girlfriend doesn’t dump me and I don’t get drunk, it doesn’t mean things are going great. I’m not in this for “Sobriety”. I’ve already got that. I’m in this for “Recovery from a seemingly hopeless condition of mind (spirit) and body”.
I will always have times when I’m “just getting by”. There will be days, weeks and months when I make no spiritual progress. It’s my nature. But rather than criticising myself for these times — as though the time were wasted — I must remember that a new race begins every day. Every hour.
What am I doing right now to be of maximum service to God and my fellow-man?
“It is easy to let up on the spiritual program of action and rest on our laurels. We are headed for trouble if we do, for alcohol is a subtle foe.”
Alcoholics Anonymous pg 84