1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7…ok, where’s my parade? Where are the accolades? Where is the applause?
Intentions. Motives. Expectations.
All these things get entwined, don’t they? They do for me, at least. It has been said that the world judges us by our actions, not our intentions. As an alcoholic, my intentions were wonderful – Nobel Prize winning, in fact. My intentions could be etched in graphite or burned onto titanium, preserved for later generations to study and reflect on. But really, when put up against the light of my (in)actions, my intentions might as well have been crafted on an Etch-A-Sketch. You see, my intentions truly were sketchy – dubious and shady, if you will. I say that because the underlying motives were sketchy. And then the added expectations that came from my intentions and actions created resentment. And we all know resentment is the number one offender for alcoholics, which leads to being sick again and then to drinking. And to drink is to die.
But let me back up.
In my deep heart of hearts, when I set out to do something, I really did mean I would set out to do something. The thought was concrete. The intention to do something was solid, and unwavering. To me, at least. Whether I went through with the action is besides the point. I already gave myself brownie points for thinking about thinking of doing something. That’s worth something, isn’t it? No? Tough crowd here. Ok, next step then. Alright, I am going to do the thing I set out to do (let say for example, I am going to treat my mother to a home cooked meal at my house). I’ve invited mom to come to the house for dinner (after delaying it, making excuses, etc.) So far so good. Now, my motives for treating my mother to dinner? That’s what I examine next. I want to be selfless. I want to be a good son. I want to pay a little bit back for all the wonderful meals she made me. I want to see her smile. But I’m an alcoholic. My motives aren’t that clean. Really, what I want is this – to look good (because I don’t have much self-esteem), to have an excuse to go to the liquor store (I need wine for that dish!), to feel some love (because I feel unloved), to get compliments on my food (because I don’t value myself in any way) and to look like the martyr (self-pity – I can roll around in self-pity all day). See how this is already falling apart? My intentions are now self-serving. I am not doing this for mom, I am doing this for me.
So what I have done is what all good alcoholics do – cover a bad motive with a good motive. I am flying with a bomb on board. And believe me, in my life, that bomb often went kaboom and scattered shrapnel on a lot of people.
Now mom is over and I am slaving over a hot stove, refusing help (martyr) and indulging self-pity (oh, they don’t know what it’s like being me – let’s have another splash of wine for me, and quietly chug some vodka on the side for strength). But I’m a good son, right? Right? (No self esteem). These internal conflicts are pushing me more to the drink. But it doesn’t end there. We eat dinner and I get the compliments I soooo craved for (“lovely seared salmon, Paul”) and then what do I do? I deflect the compliments (not worthy, low self-worth, selfishness). I then have expectations creeping up on me…like why didn’t they compliment me on the potatoes then? Why aren’t they going on about how I set the table? Why aren’t they putting away the plates and cleaning up after me? Why aren’t they phoning their friends right now and just raving about this dinner that I haphazardly and sloppily put together while trying not to spill my drink? Then, tada!, expectations turn into resentments. They are selfish. They have no manners. Don’t they know how much work I went into to do this?
Intentions. Motives. Expectations.
Multiply this example by 20 or 30. That’s what would be going on every day for me in my mind…if not more. Add the guy that cuts in front of me at Starbucks. Add the cashier who didn’t say bye to me when I said bye to her. No wonder I drank. No wonder I wanted to get out of my own head. No wonder I pushed down every emotion I had and never wanted to feel them. I couldn’t stand it any more. Selfishness puts us through wringer and back. What a way to live…if you call that living. No wonder we look fine on the surface and yet are getting shredded up inside.
Fast forward to now. I am very clear with my intentions. I know when I am trying to fool myself or others. I stay focused on what it is I am truly trying to achieve. I detach from the results. I don’t put expectations on anyone or anything. The act of chopping wood and fetching water is my mantra, the joy of itself, the work. I come to everything and everyone as clean as I can be, motive and intention wise. I watch my feet as I take the actions I need to. Sounds easy, and it’s getting easier. But the reward for this? I don’t have the resentments I used to. I am not disingenuous with my approach. Where I once gave you the shirt off my back and expected a fur coat in it’s place, I now expect nothing but a slight chill. Do I still carry a bomb with me sometimes? Sure do. Intention are like metal detectors- I have to walk through them and check my motives…if there is a beep, I step back, empty out my expectations and walk back through again.
No beep. No bomb. No boom.