Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Self Blame

It is hard to be cheerful or happy when you’re scared to death. This holiday season many of us are feeling stressed and fearful about our futures. In addition we are feeling angry and resentful. We may be in fear of, or have lost our job or lost significant amounts of money in our retirement accounts. In some extreme cases we may be losing our homes.

For the addict/alcoholic we have a tendency to beat up on and blame ourselves for our unfortunate circumstances. We spend a great deal of time beating up on ourselves for perceived mistakes that may lead to losing money, job or home. The other feeling is, I’m defective and I deserve this.

Self blame is a useless exercise and only serves to distract us from sober thinking and paralyze us so we are unable to take any action. It enables us to feel shame and guilt and does not do anything to effect a change in our circumstances. It is not uncommon for the alcoholic/addict to have a tendency to take on more responsibility for a situation than is realistic. Often when we find our self in a difficult or unhappy circumstance we do have some responsibility for it. The alcohol/addict tends to take all the responsibility for the situation. It is important to recognize that the need to be completely responsible is directly related to our need to control. “If it is my fault I can fix it.” The feeling that we somehow deserve life’s negative outcome serves to reinforce our tendency to be a victim.

It is an important component of the recovery process to honestly take responsibility for our actions and make amends wherever possible. It is equally important to be willing to let go of events that are not our responsibility and outside of our control. Navigating this delicate balance is essential to maintaining a sober mind. The shame associated with being a victim deserving of bad things leads to anger, resentment, depression, isolation and loss of the ability to ask for help. The result is loss of mental sobriety and in many cases physical sobriety.

Whatever has been lost in the current economic crisis it is critical to protect both our mental and physical sobriety. It is important to acknowledge what actions created the problem and to not lose the lesson. I have heard it said at meetings that there are no victims only volunteers. It is important to keep our head where our feet are and use the tools of the twelve step program to not fall in to despair; to stay in the day and enjoy our life and our holidays.

As the end of 2008 approaches it is my hope that we all have a better 2009.