by Rick R

After years of out-of-control drinking in a life of undisciplined behavior, I was circling the drain. I showed up at the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous, desperately seeking how to stop drinking. The drinking was just the tip of the iceberg, as I discovered after a few meetings. I was not proud of most of my past behavioral patterns. In the Big Book it says: “Resentment is the number one offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else” (p. 64). With that in mind, you would think that it would be the first thing on the agenda, but it was not. 

As I look back on it now I had too many other things on my mind to deal with and as a result of the complacency I wasn’t motivated to tackle the resentment seriously. Apparently many of my A. A. buddies dismissed it as well. We spent much of our time pointing out the faults of other members in the form of gossip, especially when they were not present. When I did start to address the issue, I did not consider the gossip and pointing out their faults to be a problem. Dealing with past relationships was ever-present on my mind. Eventually I could not dismiss it and still sleep nights.

We spent much of our time pointing out the faults of other members

I came to understand that all of those people of the past meant something to me or I wouldn’t still be so upset about them. If I wanted to enjoy the peace of mind that is promised in the program, I would have to make things right with them. It occurred to me that no one’s perfect and I had to find a way to neutralize my resentments. 

If you have ever thrown a rock out into a pond and seen the water rings expanding outward, you would know how I feel about just about everyone that I have dealt with in the past, including myself. My rings of resentment are colliding with their rings and their rings are colliding with everyone else’s rings at the same time. In the past their rings always threatened me and I could simply drink them away.

Empathy for those poor souls that continued to struggle

In the program I come to understand I am fortunate to have found the solution to my problem. Unfortunately many people may never find the resolution. As a result, with this understanding, I am no longer threatened by what they think of me. I no longer judge them on their behavior since I was once in the same boat as they were. I am not the person I was before I discovered A.A. Whether they know it or not, I can be compassionate and have empathy for those poor souls that continued to struggle the way I used to. 

I no longer judge them on their behavior since I was once in the same boat

Bitterness and hatred are no longer part of my vocabulary. Resentment was the act of reliving all those unfortunate conflicts of yesterday. A close friend of mine once said “all forms of criticism and character assassination stem from low self-esteem.” That one statement changed my whole way of thinking when it comes to judging anyone else on this planet.

I am not God. By understanding and accepting everyone just the way they are, my self-esteem is at a level where I need not judge anyone. This does not mean that I must be a doormat for others to step on. People will sometimes cross my boundaries at one time or another, but I do not have to roll in the mud with them. I can gracefully back away and not engage. I can treat them with respect and let them be. I can still wish the best for them with the understanding that they may never find the answer to their problems. Yet I am willing to help if I can. It is as simple as that. 

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