Mostly whiny, moderately bossy



Before my husband and I got married, I described myself to him as “mostly whiny, moderately bossy”.   I was trying something new, putting it all out there from the beginning, giving him every chance to get away while he still could.  Thank God he doesn’t scare easily!  Growing up, those words, whiny and bossy, are the words that I remember hearing most about myself when being described by my family.  It’s no wonder they stuck, and admittedly, sometimes they’re accurate.  Just ask my husband!

control-freakAs I have become more honest about my feelings, and more self-aware, I’ve realized that in those moments when I fall into whining or being bossy, what I’m really trying to do is control the situation, to make things go my way.   I am very aware that I am not unique when it comes to alcoholics…we want things our way and we want it now, and quite honestly, sometimes whining works.  More often though, it doesn’t, and that’s when things get rough.  Trying to control things that I have no control over never works!  Never!  I know this from past experience, yet I still fall into the whole “self-will run riot” that the Big Book of AA talks about.

The past couple of weeks have been difficult because I have been trying to run things that weren’t mine to run.  None of the things were really anything serious, no one’s life was hanging in the balance, and there wasn’t any danger of me wanting to pick up a bottle, but when I get started with the whole control thing, there is often a snowball effect; small things get big, and big things get ginormous.  We had problems with the office of our apartment complex regarding some maintenance that needed to be done that caused our place to have to be turned upside-down.  Then we had a rough weekend with my stepson who was having a rough time himself.  Then one of my best friends went to the hospital with a mystery illness that caused her to forget everyone and everything around her (she’s fine now, thank God).  Then my husband and I were on puppy duty, waiting for our dog to give birth.  Then coworkers kept getting fired – four in less than a month!  How’s that for workplace morale?  I could go on, but you get the point.  It’s been an eventful, and somewhat disturbing, couple of weeks.  And it took until today for me to remember what the real problem is:  ME.  And my desire to control things that I can’t.

I have often wondered why teachers and preachers repeat themselves so often when addressing their audiences.  Or why it is that I am drawn to AA meetings where you hear some of the same things over and over.  Here’s why:  We need reminding!  I need to hear the serenity prayer again and again, and I need to be reminded that my will mostly gets me nowhere, and I need to hear other perspectives that might improve mine, and I have to be reminded that having expectations lead to resentments.  Sometimes it’s hard for me to see the truth about things; that eventually my apartment will be fixed, that my friend will be okay, that my dog cannot house puppies in her belly forever, that there is workplace turnover everywhere, and that me whining or bossing others around isn’t going to fix anything.

So after being whiny and bossy today for the last couple of weeks, that’s what I am trying to do with this post, I’m telling myself the truth, and I’m relinquishing control to the One who actually has it.  I know that’s what works, I just have to remember it.



Turning over my will



Step Three of the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous says:

“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him.”

This week I am working on step three as I go through the steps with my sponsor.  I think that of all of the steps, this one is the hardest.  At least it is the one that requires the most effort on my part.  That’s because it’s really about giving up living in self-will, and instead, learning to live in God’s will.  For those of us that have struggled to always remain in control of everything, this is no easy task.

I lived a long time (40 years) before I ever heard about step three, and I spent most of that time trying really hard to be in control of things.  I spent a lot of energy trying to keep everything (including myself) together.  I thought at the time, that if I didn’t do that, then everything was going to fall apart.  So I worked, and struggled, and held on by my fingertips, trying to keep everything balanced and everyone happy.  The funny thing is, the harder I tried, the less I succeeded.  The more I tried to manipulate situations, relationships, and reality into what I wanted, the less control I had.  And all of that was when I was sober.  Once I started drinking alcoholically, I tried to control that too.  And we all know how that turned out!

The thing about living like that, in self-will, is that you can never make it work the way you want it to.  There is just way too much stuff that is out of our control.  There is a story in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous about the third step that talks about an actor who is trying to run the whole show.  If only everyone would do as he wants, then the show would be perfect.  He tries to control every aspect of the show – the lighting, the scenery, the other actors, the direction; and he does so with the best of intentions, he just wants the show to be perfect.  Well, the show doesn’t come off perfect as he wants it to, no matter how good his intentions are.  He is not in control…he’s just an actor in the show.  At the top of the page, in my own Big Book, I have written, “It is not the Jami show.”  I wrote that there to remind myself that I don’t get to run the show.  My show has a Director, one who has a perfect plan….even if it doesn’t match mine.  That’s where the rub is; when I know that there is a perfect plan, but it’s not the same thing that I had in mind.  That’s when it gets hard, and I have to remind myself repeatedly to let go, and trust God’s will.

So, as I think about the third step, as I have to do every single day, it’s not the fear of turning things over to God that gets me, it’s remembering to do it, because I pick up the same things that I have turned over time and time again.  I wrote a post last year about laying down my rock, giving up trying to control those things that are completely out of my control.  I wrote in that post that sometimes it helps me to go through the physical act of getting rid of something heavy and uncomfortable to tote around, in order to really understand the act of letting go.  I have to remember to lay down my rock, to let go, every single day.  I think that it’s human nature (or maybe it’s just my nature, I don’t know), to want to control situations.  When I remember to turn them over it really does make life easier.

These days, I am accepting of the fact that it’s not the Jami show.  I am accepting of the fact that God’s plan is better for me than my own.  I am accepting of the fact that I have to turn my will and my life over to the care of God.  And I am accepting of the fact that I will probably have to keep letting go of the same things over and over because I keep picking them up again.  I am okay with all of that because I know that I’m making progress.  And the name of the game is progress, not perfection.


Laying down my rock


Thy will, not mine, be done. That is the essence of the third step of Alcoholics Anonymous. While I have found that all of the steps are hard, I think that the third step was, and continues to be, the hardest for me. By the time I got to the program, I knew without a doubt, that doing things my way wasn’t working. So when I got to step three, I was thrilled at the thought of letting someone else be in control. In theory, it seems so easy, just give it to God. In practice, however, I have found that that isn’t the case. I don’t know if it is alcoholic behavior, or just simply human nature, to want to be in control of everything. I guess it’s probably both. Which means that we alcoholics are faced with a sort of double whammy.

It used to be that everything I let go of, I let go of out of sheer desperation, not out of willingness. I fought tooth and nail to control everything. I have gotten better. I am now able and willing to turn things over to God. The problem for me is, nearly every time, I take it right back! And that starts a cycle of giving it up, then taking it back, then giving it up…

When I was in rehab, both times, we did an exercise designed to teach us that trying to carry past hurts and resentments on our own was burdensome and it didn’t make them go away. We were asked to go outside, pick a rock from the rock pile, and decorate it according to whatever it was that we were dwelling on. It seemed a little juvenile and silly, but we did what we were told. What we didn’t know at the beginning was that we were going to have to carry that rock around for the next three days. We had to have it with us at all times – in bed at night, in the shower, on our meal trays. When we got tired of, or irritated with, our rock, we were supposed to reflect on the things that we were trying to control on our own. At the end of those three days, we finally got to lay down our rocks. At the same time, we prayed that God would relieve us of our burden, whatever it was. As I put my rock down, I felt such a sense of peace. It was actually a really emotional moment for me. I was giving up something that I had been carrying for so long, I didn’t know who I would be without it. Of course, I did pick it up again, metaphorically. But that sense of peace that I felt, however fleeting, impacted me. I made a decision, then and there, that that was what I wanted. Peace.

What I have learned since then (and yes, I have done this exercise on my own at home), is that the sense of peace that I feel when I lay down my rock doesn’t have to be fleeting. When I am really able to give it to God, and not take it back, that peace can last, and I can heal.

Thy will, not mine, be done. I will forever be thankful to not have to be in control. But, if you ever see me, I may just have a rock in my pocket. 🙂