The saddest thing regarding victimhood is that it is nearly always unconsciously self imposed. The book spells this out a dozen ways for me but it seems that the longer I am sober the more aware I become of just how cunning, baffling and powerful my disease is and in the subtle ways it whispers ridiculous lies to me about you, me, my place in this world and my relationship to God. Every day. All day.
“To thine own self be true” from Shakespeare’s Hamlet emblazoned on the backs of our recovery chips doesnt mean for me to protect myself and honor my truth (whatever the fuck that is), read in context it is telling me to be honest with myself – then I can lie to no man. ‘Victimhood’ is among the greatest of my self imposed prisons. If I am a victim I have no peace and no power. Its hell on earth.
Tragically, my disease works hard to keep up with my recovery. The phrases ‘what I did yesterday doesnt keep me sober today’ (aka resting on my laurels) and ‘my daily reprieve, contingent upon the maintenance of my spiritual condition’ take on huge ramifications as I get further into recovery. Much the way the 4th step covers my character flaws in raw, basic terms but by the 10th step we’re looking at the same things in minute shades of gray, my defects find new ways to spin themselves into the driver’s seat as i trudge this path of happy destiny.
Hence I’ve come up with a few spins on the step process for sponsees who’ve been around awhile. Its fairly easy to do some going through the motions with the steps once we have the discovery process down. Turning a few things on their heads specifically designed to jar me out of my autopiloted victim stance does wonders for fostering a psychic change even 20 years down the road:
• In step one I will often ask older sponsees to write down everything during their day that frustrates them or pisses them off. We all know the AA politically correct answer to the question “What do I have power over?” (in Stepford/cult/pod person voice) “I have power over my own thoughts and actions. I have no power over those around me.”
Good sponsee. pat. pat.
This all but ruins the entire rest of the step process because I’m building a house on the foundation of a lie. In principle, yes. The sponsee was telling the truth. But its the truth told from pulling the string in his back. The honestanswer is that everything in my day that pisses me off or frustrates me is something I think I have power over. And these are the things that I need to focus on in steps two and three!
• Step four has me write who I’m resentful at, what happened, the areas of my life affected and finally my part. HUGE set up for a victim stance. What dawned on me after having been here awhile is that I am the only common denominator in all these scenarios. So I have long timers read the list backwards: I am (selfish, dishonest, inconsiderate, self seeking & frightened) [column 4] because I dont trust God in these areas of my life (sex, security, social ambitions, emotional, financial security, self esteem, personal relationships) [column 3]. It causes these situations (the resentment) [column 2] with this person [column one].
The look of horror, rationalization, resignation and acceptance the first time the committee gets knocked off their lazily tilted board room chairs using this redirection is just fucking awesome! When the lightbulb goes on over their heads its truly having a ringside seat for a New Freedom and a New Happiness. There are of course exceptions. I dont read the childhood stuff, what I refer to as ‘original sin’ resentments backwards. I had no hand in being raped as a child, or abandoned, or otherwise abused. What i have them look at there is in how I’ve made countless, blameless people pay for the harms done me as a child.
As a whole, this redirect makes looking at my character defects in 6 & 7 a great deal more productive.
• Step 8 & 9. I do NOT put myself at the top of my amends list. This is a wildly unpopular move from most other’s perspective. I do this for a couple of reasons. If I’m looking at these steps from the view of Brotherly Love and Justice and I am following the directive in the book of being hard on myself and easy on the other fellow then putting myself at the top of the 8th step list taints everything else I do here. I had my best interest in mind during every shitty thing I am attempting to clean up here. Loving myself first before I can clean up my messes is a circular, empty exercise in selfishness and self centeredness. I gain self esteem by practicing esteemable acts, in this case making things right, not by thinking more about myself. We close most meetings with the Lord’s Prayer. In it there is the passage “[God] forgive us our trespasses AS we forgive those who trespass against us.” Reread that. The ramifications are huge. What it says there is that I am forgiven as i forgive you. It also says that I am impelling God to make this happen. I need only be willing and to practice brotherly love to make it so. I am purely a conduit for God’s love to work through me to make things right and as it flows through me, to you, I am forgiven or cleansed with that love as well. Boom. That simple. That cant happen by thinking about myself more. And I am by no means a christian. But the principle is Universal.
I hope these lil tidbits help. They’ve given me great freedom from the sneaky little traps my mind lays for me. In making me a victim it retains its control. Being a victim separates me from you and God. As the old saying goes “I identify my way in and compare my way out”. That includes the sneaky trick of lamenting others’ victimhood.