AFTER WE HAVE MANAGED to establish a time gap between the present and our drinking past it is usually comparatively easy to talk about ourselves as we were then. Our mistakes and bad thinking habits can all be laid at John Barleycorn's door and most of us can discuss them with little embarrassment at all. It can be almost as much fun as talking about somebody else.
But while it is remarkably easy to be critical of our former selves it may be extremely hard to talk about our mistakes and bad habits of today. It is much more comfortable, temporarily at least, to hide behind the notion that most of our major faults vanished with the bottle. We can prove this by pointing to the improvement in the way we behave.
For those who can be happy with this idea perhaps it's good. But I am one of those who has found that every troublesome character defect I ever had when drinking is still very much alive today though I've not had a drink in almost seven years. I am as powerless over my emotional problems as I ever was over alcohol.
For example, I can look back at my pre-AA thinking and see a great deal of vengeful scheming and powerful resentments. When people rejected or humiliated me I plotted revenge and nourished resentments that festered for years. Often, I indulged in morbid fantasies in which I triumphed over those I hated. If my enemies were people whose achievements, abilities, and possessions I envied, I contrived imaginary situations in which I somehow surpassed them. If bad luck came their way I was outwardly sympathetic but secretly I gloated.
Ungovernable resentments, swollen pride, and persistent fears were the basic ingredients in this monstrous accumulation of poisoned thinking. These things did as much damage as drinking. They also added up to a lot of misery.
With sobriety I began to work on these defects but I found that they don't die easily. Evidently these unfortunate traits have deep roots for they seem to defy destruction despite my long awareness of their existence and the damage they do. I continued to experience troubles with resentment and other hostile emotions even years after AA taught me the danger and folly of it.
Lacking enough insight or the spiritual tools to eliminate these character defects forever I'm forced to go on living with a self that is sometimes a heel. Someday he may change. That monstrous ego will shrink a bit and let a little healing sunlight shine through on a character that is corroded with ambition, self-centeredness, and pride.
Meantime I have a plan of attack that is slowly succeeding. Character defects, like germs, cannot stand too much exposure. Mr. Heel's power can be neutralized if I keep him out in the open, discussing him at every possible opportunity. When he tries to focus attention on the errors of seven years ago I turn the spotlight right back on the present for I know that this is my problem. And Mr. Heel's days, I hope, are numbered.
Copyright ©1944 - The AA Grapevine,
All Rights Reserved. Reprints by permission only.