The Pity Patter Of Little Defeats


selfpity1
I prefer the aerosol spray format, personally.

“Self-pity is easily the most destructive of the non-pharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure and separates the victim from reality” John Gardner

Self-pity.

The word itself (or compound word, at least) alone sounds desolate. The hyphen plays for dramatic pause. Looks wise, the hyphen resembles a metal bar between two heavy weights. A barbell that I can clean and jerk to build up my ego even further. Tone up my self-centred thoughts of despair. A workout for the Lower Me, the one that likes to play victim. And no one likes to play victim more than the alcoholic. If you asked me why I drank, I would scrawl out my grudge list on a piece of paper the length of a limousine, resplendent with the names of people, institutions and principles that just irked me. A revengeful list that acted as a blueprint for my blaming and eventually, for the bottle passing my lips. How dare it be my fault that I drank? If you felt like me when I didn’t drink, you’d drink too. I was a man who had a constant chalk mark around his body as he walked around. Victim.

Like alcohol, self-pity was something I wallowed in, straight up. Undiluted. It was part and parcel of my alcoholism. Like depression and anxiety, self-pity was part engine, part exhaust of the vehicle. Self-pity helped to drive the vehicle, and yet was a by-product. It was a toxic circle of life that fed upon itself in a sick manner of living. The more I felt sorry for myself, the more I drank, and the more I drank, the more I felt sorry for myself. Poor me, poor me, pour me another drink, as the saying goes. And that saying goes for good reason. Staying caught up in the moment, like a needle on a skipping record (just dated myself), I was in a rut that I couldn’t jar into moving. And even if I did, I found a way to get right back in to the swing of things. Pour me another drink.

wambulance
I’ve got this baby on speed dial.

While I found self-pity to be a wonderful companion in my active alcoholic days, I never saw it for the nefarious creature that it could grow up to be. And grow up it did. It became a relentless beast. Self-pity came easy to me. I didn’t have to struggle to feel sorry for myself. It was one of those things that I could tee up and crank out of the ballpark. Every. Single. Time. Self-pity felt comfortable, as comfortable as an inward faced nail-lined suit of armour could be. Self-pity was a security blanket. Self-pity was a favourite pet that I fed with anger and fear. Self-pity was my “go to” when alcohol was or wasn’t working. Self-pity gave me identity : Paul, Victim Extraordinaire. Nice to meet you. Here’s my card.

Now, I never understood, even into my sobriety, why self-pity was seen as such a big deal. So what if I was down on myself a bit? (Or a lot). So what if I kicked myself while I was down and thought less of myself? So what if I couldn’t count one good grace in my life? I wasn’t hurting anyone, right? I mean, I wasn’t out on The Paul Mental Anguish Tour hitting a phone or face-to-face meeting near you. So what was the big deal? I heard people talking about it as if it were as bad as drinking. Taking a quick look around on the interweb, I saw that there was voluminous amounts of bad press for the thing that had been a partner in my misery all these years. It took me a long time to wrap my head around this thing that at surface level, was nothing more than a “woe is me”. Seems that after talking to others on this recovery path, and doing a little research and soul-searching, I finally understood why self-pity is such a powerful narcotic, as Mr. Gardner’s quote describes.

self-pity-shirt
Seems a little ridiculous I know. Only half an hour for self-pity? I need at least a Lord of the Rings movie amount of time.

You see, while I may not be addicted to self-pity, I did find it intoxicating. And you know what? I find it the same today. If and when I choose (and make no mistake, I now choose to get into self-pity), it’s intoxicating. It’s a dip into the Forbidden and Lost Sea. It swells my head and closes off my eyes and ears. It hardens my heart and sends me into some hookah-like trance, complete with psychedelic white rabbit trips and a kaleidoscope of colours. Black and black and grey, namely. When I am immersed in self-pity, everything floats away. I am the only one there. I am grounded to nothing and my thinking reflects that. That’s the allure of self-pity – nothingness. Getting away from the real world around me and cuts me off from the sunlight of the spirit. Post haste.

Self-pity is fear and self-centeredness ripped on ‘roids. When I feel sorry for myself, I am fearful of something. Sounds odd at first. If I am scared of something, why would I sit in self-pity? Oh woe is me is my anaesthetic to things that bring fear out. The way it works is like this: when I am frozen in fear about something, I react by convincing myself that there is no choice in the matter. I am fated to be in some particular situation. There are no other ways for me to change things. That is because I fear making that change. And fear comes down to two things: afraid of losing something I already have, or afraid of not getting something I want. So if I am afraid of making a change in my life or environment, then I justify it by getting into a place of victimization. And in that victimization, I no longer am in the sphere of gratitude. I lose perspective. I start to see the negative in myself. I start to see the perceived pointlessness in the situation. Self-esteem gets trampled on and I find myself dropping down the ladder of spirituality. I head to the basement, where the creepy and furry and clickety-clackety things are.

Scaredy cat.  Man up, Princess.
Scaredy cat. Man up, Princess.

So I find myself feeling that the world has had some big Star Chamber conspiracy meeting and left me out. What’s the point of trying to change things now, I ask myself. I will probably fail, right? Why look worse than I really feel? And if I do try and fail, I self-sabotage. See Paul, you are a piece of shit. We knew it all along. Now have a good day now, y’hear? The other part of self-pity that truly trounces on us is that it takes us out of the chance of being of use to others. When I am wrapped up in self, I don’t see you. You don’t exists. All of a sudden I forget all the things that I should be grateful for. I can’t help you in any way because I am so entrenched in my own filth that I am immobilized. And the more I get wrapped up in self, the more I stay wrapped up in self. I am no longer of service to myself, or to you. I am gone. Sounds familiar, yes? My alcoholism worked in exactly the same way. My drinking wore the same shiny clothes to lure me into a dull shell of me. Game, set and match.

Now this all sounds theory-like. Convoluted, even. But here is exactly what happened to me the other night, to show just how quickly and effortlessly my mind can work and de-evolve and break down into a puddle of mush.

Scenario: I was at a meeting. It was a speaker meeting, which means that someone gets up and tells their story – what is was like, what happened, and what it’s like today. A typical way of describing their drinking days, how they turned things around and how the program / fellowship has worked for them in their lives today. The speaker was younger than me, and as he spoke, he used a lot of curse words. Not in an angry fashion, but I have always felt that when we speak at the podium, we clean up our language a bit. Most people do, but this cat was letting the f-bombs drop like a scene out of Apocalypse Now. When the meeting ended, I saw several guys come over to the dude and asked him if he could speak at their own meetings. I spoke briefly to a man I know well (he was one of my counsellors at my treatment center) and abruptly ended our conversation. As I walked up the stairs, I saw a newcomer with his new book and some pamphlets. I saw one member of the group talking to him.

Awwww...that's just mean, now.
Awwww…that’s just mean, now.

I jumped on my bike and raced home. I felt hot. I felt down. I felt out of sorts. I felt a small sense of the “fuck-it”’s (excuse the language…hypocrite!) creeping up on me. Not for drink, but for not trying to get myself out of it and maybe calling someone. I vented to my wife about my sense of worthlessness and went to bed resentful. I woke up feeling the same and went the entire 24 hours feeling like crap.

So, Pauly, what happened?

Here’s what happened – watch my ego just flying everyone like White Lotus Butterfly Twist Kicks from a Jackie Chan movie:

  1. Speaker used foul words. (Ego: judgement / feeling better than. I am better than him. Why am I listening to this. I speak better than this. My talks are elegant.)
  2. Speaker was approached by others (Ego: resentment. I have never been asked to speak at someone else’s meeting. Why him? His talk was shallow. Mine are deep. Fear: that no one likes me. That I am not worthy of their time.)
  3. Abruptly shut down conversation with friend. (Ego: selfishness. I wanted to sit in my pity party and didn’t want my friend to pick up on it. Starting to feel low about myself. Ego: sweeping statement / condemnation. Why do I have to lower myself in my language and diction to be popular? Do I have to talk like a truck driver and use one syllable words to be known in AA circles? Aren’t there any well-spoken people in the program? No point in trying to change this culture. This sucks)
  4. Ignored newcomer. (Ego: selfishness / sweeping statements / resentment: I always talk to newcomers. Always. And I walked past this guy because what’s the point these days? These guys never want to do the steps and they just go back out drinking. And someone is talking to him already – maybe they have more in common than I ever will with these guys. I know I always feel better talking to a new guy, but screw this. I like my pity party and anger. Feels like a silk glove. Fear: that I will be seen as a bad sponsor. That I am unlovable and not worth anyone’s time. That I will be seen as a fraud.)
  5. Vented to wife. (Ego: selfishness. Liked the attention of the woe-is-me tale. Felt unique. Felt better than. Felt hard done by. To my credit, I did mention that I was talking out of ego, and that it’s not like me to be like this)
  6. Didn’t call sponsor or anyone that night. (Ego: selfishness. Didn’t give anyone the opportunity to give me perspective, to be of service. Thought I could do it myself. Fear: That I would be told that I am full of crap (d’oh!). I would be told truth. That I am unworthy)
Hiiyyyyaa!!!
Hiiyyyyaa!!!

See how that worked? Yikes! And the next day was just a regurgitating of all that. Now, I was able to slowly dig myself out of there. I did speak to someone and I did use some readings and tools at my disposal. I was able to do something similar to what I just did now to give me clarity and focus and a handle to understand where and how this came about.

But I will tell you, that self-pity truly was dangerously intoxicating. I haven’t been that entrenched in it like that in at least a year. I am not ashamed to say that, because it’s part of the growth process for me. I will get into these self-pitying jags again, no doubt. I know myself and it’s just a comfortable place to land on the uncommon occasion. It’s not ideal, and it’s something that I work a lot on in getting myself clear on and clear of. Self-pity has always been my default. It’s not always easy to shift gears, but that is where my path takes me…learning to veer left when I normally dive right. Learning to zig when I like to zag. Feigning downward when the uppercut is jutting towards my jaw. Learning to polka and not diving into the mosh pit.

big-ego

See, this whole thing we do, as alcoholics in recovery, is all about getting to the causes and conditions of our behaviours and ways of thinking and reacting. Self-pity, fear, ego, judgement and other things used to eat my lunch on a regular basis. Pile them up like Lego and my thoughts and hands used to reach for a bottle of something. A bottle of Get Away Feelings was all I sought. Unfortunately, the bottle would often exacerbate these feelings and keep my jeep stuck in the desert sand. A desert where bones get bleached and dreams die. Not my idea of serenity.

Self-pity has no rewards other than pulling me deeper into self-pity. It cuts me off from others, from you, from the Creator. It’s like pulling a thread on a finely knit sweater and watching it dismantle, stitch by beautiful stitch. It’s like sitting in a box and breathing your own filthy exhalation over and over again. It’s like poking yourself in the eye hoping to help yourself see better. It’s a wasted process and a way to dull the roar without dealing with the lion. This is one of the greatest challenges I have in my own journey, in my path. Because the pull is often great, and like the drink, it always tries to find a way to bring me back to it. Sure I won’t get pulled over for having too much self-pity in my system, but that is no reason to indulge. My room for growth is limitless, as it is for everyone. Our ability to break through and get past what holds us down is in our capacity and limits. Through the strength of keeping tight ties with the Creator, with the fellowship of others, with counsel, with prayer, with written work, with mindfulness and meditation…all these things are at my fingertips, and it’s my choice whether I use them or not. I am not powerless over this. It’s whether I want to be there. It’s whether I choose to be in bleakness or gratitude. Darkness or brightness. Pain or love. Ego or selflessness. Self-pity or self-esteem.

Me.  At times.  The crown is a bit much, isn't it?  Or is it maybe the clouds and aura of invincibility and omnipotence.  Nah, I think it's the crown.
Me. At times. The crown is a bit much, isn’t it? Or is it maybe the clouds and aura of invincibility and omnipotence? Nah, I think it’s the crown.

My takeaway of what happened that night, and what I have learned since taking a step back and examining all this?

  1. I am no better, nor any lesser than anyone else. We are all God’s children. How we express ourselves is none of my business.
  2. Perhaps I am taking myself too seriously. Perhaps my talks are too pedantic. Perhaps how I talk to others is too professorial. I need to relax a bit.
  3. My way of communicating is my own. I need not debase or dumb myself down at the expense of trying to be popular. I am who I am and as long as my will aligns with His will, then I am okay.
  4. Fear still drives me.
  5. Reaching out to others is the only way I get out of this. Period. Humility is the key to all of this and I need more of it when these things arise. (See #2, taking myself too seriously)
  6. I am where I need to be.

I can only hope to further stretch and grow with this sort of inventory. Things are going to happen and I will get annoyed. I will be tested. I will find myself surrounded by people or in situations that I would rather not be surrounded by. I will find myself grasping at straws when I should be easily centred. And that’s life. It’s how I react to these things that brings me serenity and out of the morass of self-pity. I need to continue bringing myself to the light, to usefulness, to purpose, to love, to joy, to looking at the good, looking at the similarities, looking at what the heart has to say. Come with an open heart and open mind. If I do that, I am at least on the right path.

I don’t know about you, but I am ready to throw my old business cards out. Perhaps get new ones: Paul. Child of God. Extraordinaire.

I've missed the point, haven't I?
I’ve missed the point again, haven’t I?

56 Comments Add yours

  1. What a good lesson, Paul. It is so easy to get stuck in a place of self-pity. I find myself there a lot and have to dig myself out. I can see why you say that is a dangerous place to be. You are very wise and this is important stuff. Also- I love the Wile E. Coyote business card. Ha! 🙂

    1. I love Wile E. Coyote too. I have used his grim and smug mug in this space before. I relate to him. Chasing that elusive dream and causing mayhem and destruction around him. Never gets the point. Hmmmm…sounds like my drinking days? Oh dear.

      Dig away, Jeni. That’s what I need to do like I did that night, or else I just end up decorating that pit of mine, rather than climbing out. That’s what we alcoholics like to do – spruce up the joint rather than just leave. What a concept!

      Thank you for being here…and the lovely comments 🙂

      Blessings,
      Paul

  2. Excellent analysis of what every addict goes through just when we think we have it all together.

    1. Thank you Sheri – I am glad that you were able to identify in some way. It’s quite the trip we take sometimes, eh? <—- my Canadian showing, sorry.

      Thanks for being here!

      Love and light,
      Paul

  3. whinelessinwashington says:

    Paul,
    This is an amazing post. You just hit every single nail directly on the head, and drove that sucker straight down. The best part is that I was, as I opened up the site, sitting there FEELING SORRY FOR MYSELF over something at work. Oh yea. Major pity party, all alone, balloons and all. THANK YOU for snapping me out of it! WAY out. Everything you said is so true, and humbling. And difficult to do…but I’m working on it. Inventory, perspective, all takes time and grace from that higher power. And I think that higher power for your words when I read them. – Ellen

    1. Hi Ellen – I am glad that this resonated with you…and thank you for the kind words. I guess I am always (naively) amazed at how we all tend to think alike. I mean, it’s not like we alcoholics invented self-pity (or resentments, etc) but it just works a different way on us…and had graver (potential) consequence. So for this alkie, it’s about being aware. Because self-pity will swoop me up and take me on a nasty carpet ride. Willingly.

      Thank you for sharing yourself with us 🙂

      Blessings,
      Paul

  4. furtheron says:

    Brilliant post Paul – you really analysed that well how you reacted to it etc. Much better than I’d do that quickly – I’d spend a few days/weeks there before the pain made me realise I needed to do something!

    The being the victim thing is interesting. Early in sobriety I read a book by John Bird (he set up a great magazine/institution in the UK called The Big Issue) – one of his 7 steps to a better life was “Don’t play the victim”. He really connected with me at that time and I realised I’d did this (do it!) all my life. It is the easy option – as a victim I can blame someone else for my situation and therefore have legitimised it as “not my fault” and therefore allows me to shrug and say “well I couldn’t help it”. I absolve myself of any responsibility for what I’m doing and how I’m doing it.

    It is a power drug like you say – I keep getting dragged back there and I have to work at it like you say here – recognise it, and take action against it.

    BTW – I’d be one of the f-bomb droppers I get annoyed with myself over it but I can’t deny I do it! Something else to work on… 🙂

    1. That sounds interesting, that book. I have this habit of jumping on amazon.ca and ordering books unresearched after hearing someone recommend them. I may have to do that with your comments there.

      As for the f-bombs…you know, Graham, I was thinking about this when I read your comments. I think the reason I get disturbed about the swearing is that I used to be a *prodigious* cursing machine. Real bad. Was spoken about it at work many, many years ago. Every third word was “f*ck” or it’s derivatives, etc. So I think that when I hear others drop them, it reminds me of how I used to be and it’s not always easy to remember my old days. In other words, it has nothing at all to do with the person swearing. And it’s not a judgement thing either. it’s just me being uncomfortable with me. Another thing I have to get past…ha ha.

      Thanks for this Graham…and feel free to drop f-bombs whenever ya like around here 🙂

      Paul

  5. Lulu says:

    wow–I don’t even know if I’ve ever read your blog before…I just clicked a link from another blog. This post is very very good. I’ve certainly engaged in some of the behaviors listed and I don’t know that I ever pinned it to a sense of self-pity but it makes perfect sense. My fear of looking stupid I’ve always thought of as just a low self-esteem thing, but reading your example, I can see how I nurture and in some weird way enjoy that feeling rather than just getting over myself. The best part is how annoying I find self-pity in others. Ha!. How special to have my own pointed out to me oh so clearly. LOL!

    1. Hi Lulu! I used to do the same when I started blogging – just went from one blog to another and going down their “blogs I follow” list and immersed myself in one new blog after another (new to me, that is). That’s how I found all the fine folks around the soberspehere (and even non-recovery folks that I love reading).

      I was laughing when you talked about being annoyed in seeing self-pity in others…because I was commenting to Graham above about how I find the same thing about swearing in others…and that’s because I was such a sailor in my word selection when talking…ha ha. It’s that old “you spot it, you got it” thing that we hear about. The thing in others that disturbs us is often something we dislike in ourselves. And I am nailed every single time I take time to figure it out. Everyone that I find annoying represents a part of me that I find annoying about myself. What a drag…there isn’t a guilt free hate-on any more! lol.

      Anyway, so glad we connected! Thank you for being here, and welcome!

      Love and light,
      Paul

  6. Geez Paul – I didn’t even realize I did the pity party thing until I read this! There is still so much of ME that I don’t know yet. I just keep learning, and learning, and learning. Thanks for your post – be well! Trish

    1. I am learning all the time too, Trish. And just because I am aware of something or realize it or even jot it down here, doesn’t mean I have learned the lesson. I am just relearning and relearning all the time…ha ha. Things take a very long time to get into this thick skull 🙂

      Thanks for being here and commenting!

      Love and light,
      Paul

  7. Hi Paul!

    I’ve just got to say this… I am seeing a real evolution in your posts, and I am loving it! I have long been a member of your fan club, and I take away so much from everything you write. But now, in addition to your traditional wisdom, I am seeing so much more of your personal life, and I feel like I am getting to know more of you as a human being. It deepens the reading experience, and I find I can’t wait to read what’s next!

    On to the heart of this message: there is so much here, and for all of us, not just those of us in recovery. I have been experiencing some of the effects of self-pity in the people close to me, and of course it is so easy to point it out with others, not so easy to realize it with myself. As I read your post, and saw the crystal-clear picture you drew in your own experience, I realize that I engage in this behavior more than I realize, and now I must look at myself and see where I am letting self-pity derail me… I thank you for that.

    Also, I really gained a lot from how you broke it down, from self-pity to fear. This is one lesson I hear often in “the rooms” but has always escaped me personally: how is my feeling sorry for myself rooted in fear? But your example shows me how to make the connection for myself, and it is eye-opening!

    If there are officer positions available for the fan club, I’d like to nominate myself 🙂

    1. I’ll second that only if you nominate me as well! GO PAUL!!

      1. Isn’t this whole thing in recovery about ego destruction? lol.

        Thanks Clairey…keep smiling 🙂

        Paul

    2. Thanks Josie…and what you said about my posts shifting…I never noticed it I guess. But we’re always the last to know these things, yes? I have been always a bit of an arm’s length in discussing day-to-day things here. I am not sure why. But like the jogging thing, perhaps it’s the influence of your, and everyone else’s writing where there is more exposure at a personal level, rather than a pedantic way of approaching things. And it is true – I find that I am much more attracted to someone’s writing when I am getting to see glimpses or even whole portraits of themselves, warts and all, in the work.

      You know, Josie, I am just trying to get my head above water at times. This self-pity thing really likes to dance with me, so I have no choice but to break it down or it will break me down in a hurry. I too have heard this spoken about as fear based, and about how “bad” this is…and as I said, I had no clue why. I let this hammer me countless times in my sobriety, and didn’t do much about it, other than ride it out. So perhaps I am slow to this (I *am* slow to this) but I am grateful for others showing me the way to this…and I am glad that their teaching me has filtered down.

      Thanks my friend for your kind words…and allow me to put my pin on as a member of the mutual admiration society with you… 🙂

      Hugs,
      Paul

  8. Paul,
    Thanks for this post. It made me do a reality check and I sure do love a good pity party. My latest includes my therapist telling me that a part of me is still in denial. How dare she? Well, because she is on my side; I am paying her for honesty, not friendship; and it’s her job to call me out. So, back to the drawing board. Humility? Ha. This is where my blinders kick in. How can I possibly call someone for help?Who wants to hear my pop anyway? Well, I have to believe it when maybe my call to someone isn’t about me at all. Maybe my call might be to let them help me. Ugh. Self pity and denial. They seem to be hanging out together these days.
    At any rate, thank you for the thought-provoking post. I appreciate it.

    1. I think you’re right – self-pity and denial can be great chums. One is usually covering for the other…covertly. Such a sneaky pair.

      I am with ya on the humility front. I watch my feet (or hands) on that one. I can talk a good game, but can I follow through with it? I am taking the actions to show humility? Not always, my friend. I can sit back and be an armchair guru and no do anything. Picking up that phone is one action I can do to reach out or allow to be reached. Simple thing that phone…and yet can weigh 500 lbs. I don’t know…I do what I can and then sometimes realized I can do more.

      Thanks for *your* thought provoking comments. I need a good sit down now 🙂

      Blessings,
      Paul

  9. lucy2610 says:

    Absolutely brilliant. I need to print this off and hang it above my office desk as a constant reminder!!

    1. Me too, because I will probably forget this by the weekend!! lol

      Blessings and thank you for being here,
      Paul

  10. sherryd32148 says:

    Just a thought…

    2.Perhaps I am taking myself too seriously. Perhaps my talks are too pedantic. Perhaps how I talk to others is too professorial. I need to relax a bit.
    3.My way of communicating is my own. I need not debase or dumb myself down at the expense of trying to be popular. I am who I am and as long as my will aligns with His will, then I am okay.

    Read #2…refer to #3. You do not take yourself too seriously. Your talk are not too pedantic nor do you speak too professorial. You do not need to relax.

    Again…refer to #3.

    Sherry

    1. I know…a bit of contradiction there. I saw that as I wrote it and just did a “oh well, whatever” kind of thing and moved on…sharp eye there Sherry…:)

      But I was talking to an old timer about that whole thing about being professorial, etc. and the same has been said to him. Now, he’s a retired school principal..ha ha. I used to teach too. So I have that go-by-the-book mentality. I have that with my kids at times too. Rigid, I suppose you can call it. I think perhaps that is what I am getting at.

      Anyway, thanks for pointing that out…and getting me to dig a bit more here.

      Rigid.

      ugh. Another thing to look at …ha ha.

      Blessings
      Paul

  11. byebyebeer says:

    The way you described what happened at the meeting, well, I just get it completely. Such an uncomfortable, painful feeling, and you might not even always see it that way. Good for you to examine and open up and just recognize it for what it is. I hadn’t thought of self-pity as intoxicating, but it certainly does feel good in some sick way. You did a bang-up job of pinpointing why. And just absolutely love this title, you’ve such a gift with words.

    1. Yup – it does feel good in a sick kind of way. I mean, I don’t indulge it often, and even when I am doing it, I realize that I am getting soul sick. Sort of like when I would be gorging on some delicious chocolate, but knowing that I am going to pay for it, and even feeling a bit ill right then and there. The thing is that even in the uncovering, discovering and applying all that stuff, doesn’t mean I won’t do it again. It might help me arrest it at times, but it’s progress, I suppose. I am not changing overnight…that’s just a bit too out of my grasp 🙂

      Thanks for the comments and the kind words…

      Love and light,
      Paul

  12. gfnj says:

    Wow. What you’ve done here is build a model of introspection that we can all utilize and apply to our own feelings….and with a real life example to refer to as well. Thanks! I have a little thinking to do now.

    1. Thanks for the great comments. I have thinking to do too. Actually, I try not to think *too* much, as I get brain cramps. But when I get that burn in the pit of my stomach and that heart crushing, yeah, I need to do a little introspection. Seems like that is all I do at times, but as I balance that out with, let’s say, living, I find things go a bit smoother. I hope.

      Thanks for being here!

      Blessings,
      Paul

  13. Hi Paul,

    That was a great post and you have also shown the possible way forward out of that “self-pity” trap that many of us like to wallow in.

    What practices could we adopt that would allow us to avoid the “self-pity” situation altogether?

    Shakti

    1. Thank you Shakti.

      I wish I had the true answer to your question. It was most likely rhetorical, but a guy like me likes to have answers, even when he knows he doesn’t have them. Makes me a bit batty, but it’s in the seeking and not the finding that usually works for me. What I *do* do in those cases is try to find a way to help someone (even when I don’t feel like it) or pray. Or both. Being aware of my self-pity is a good start, but that alone doesn’t get me out of it. Being aware I have a broken arm is good, but unless I take the action to repair it, it remains painful.

      At least, that is how I see it at this very point in the Universe right now. Tomorrow might bring me another look 🙂

      Thank you so much for your visiting and comments – very much appreciated 🙂

      Blessings,
      Paul

  14. “I can’t help you in any way because I am so entrenched in my own filth that I am immobilized.” Oh man. What a great line to throw in during a round of Speed Dating. Says it all. And so succinctly.
    I read this piece last night and again this morning. Most excellent. On so many levels. Some pretty fancy xylophone playing there, Pauly. And everything rings true. Why wouldn’t it? Since you’ve decided to be honest, and all. I just love it. When someone as naturally funny and clever as yourself is ALSO committed to the growth that comes from honesty, and then goes through all the trouble to spell words on a screen that I can read, well it doesn’t get any better. Not for me at least.
    Which is sad really. That this is it. That I have nothing else. Besides this humble, tattered, multicolored coat of victim-hood.. My Victimhoodie, if you will.
    Ah self-pity, I wish I didn’t know you. You’re the one-night stand that keeps showing up at my wedding.
    As far as poisons though, I prefer my blend to have a little more self-hatred than self-pity. Like preferring more hops in your beer. More tang. I like to hate myself more than feel sorry for myself. Oh the self-pity is there alright, but it’s quickly overwhelmed by the boot-stomping of self-blame. Gives it a bold finish.
    But the discernment is trivial. It’s all fear-based. What difference does it make if it was a playful and fruity Merlot or Dark Eyes vodka out of a plastic miniature, if you still wind up naked in an elevator? The result is still that implosion of self-concern and paralysis you so deftly collared and ID’d. You’ve got a great eye, Detective, one able to see selfishness through all its clever disguises. You don’t let the martyr get-up throw you off the trail.
    Identifying the culprit is one thing, but I didn’t even know there was a crime being committed.
    As far as was concerned, there was no such thing as caring too much about yourself. Hell, I could keep shoveling that coal into my engine–all the way to Abilene. This is, after all, me I was worried about. Me. Not you. Me!
    You don’t get it. Nobody ever does.
    Your bullet-point deconstruction of the F-bomb Star Speaker Incident was nice and uncomfortable for me. Related–a lot. Painfully close. So thanks for that.
    I’m pretty sure I would have bolted past the newcomer too. On my race to whatever finish-line I had in my head at the time. And it’s only after driving away do I realize my mistake. It’s exactly what you said about being so lost in self-centered thought, that you disconnect from your immediate environment. And subsequently from your only means of grounding yourself. Many a night I’ve weathered gale-force winds from tropical typhoons, only to realize I was sitting on my couch. Warm and dry. Too much thinking and not enough being. And of course the thinking isn’t about how I’m going to get that preschool in Haiti up and running.
    Not yet at least.
    In the meantime, I’m going to try to be patient with myself. Give myself an f-ing break. And that has been an important discernment for me. The one between self-compassion and self-pity. I’ve always lumped them together and put both under the boot of self-destruction. Always tried to redeem myself by throwing me under a tank. Because if there’s one thing better than feeling sorry for yourself, it’s getting others to feel sorry for you.
    Turns out both are over-rated.
    Turns out slack trumps them both. Slack is king. Both giving and getting. People sure seem to respond better when I don’t judge them. And I’ve noticed that I don’t want to kill myself as much, when I forget to judge myself.
    I really should follow these bread crumbs. I suspect they might lead to that sunlit place spoken of in ancient myths.
    Once again, Paul, I am blown away by your work.Talk about a well-blended and potent elixir. It’s fearlessly honest, funny and free. It goes down really smooth, and invigorates me.
    And for the record, the crown isn’t too much. I think it’s the lighting. I told you not to go with the lighting director from the studio.
    That’s alright, Your essential divinity still shines through.
    Boy howdy, does it ever.
    Yer pal,
    Marius

    .

    1. ” You’re the one-night stand that keeps showing up at my wedding.” I tells youse, this had my howling for a frothy few minutes. Where do you come up with this? The same place that decided peanut butter and chocolate were a good combination, is where…some sort of Fantasy Island perhaps. Say hi to Mr. Rourke when you’re there next. Take some Corinthian leather while you’re there too, to reupholster the mailbox or knit a cozy for the Xbox.

      “What difference does it make if it was a playful and fruity Merlot or Dark Eyes vodka out of a plastic miniature, if you still wind up naked in an elevator?” This too had me going for some time too. I mean, naked is fine to a certain degree, but throw in voodoo vertical transport, and we are on a higher plane. Like Concorde level. But still grounded. That makes no sense. But then again, I wasn’t exactly making sense for the first 40 years of my life, and I am not exactly going to start now. I just have a lot fewer blackouts and a lot less to put in the recycling bin every fortnight.

      “Many a night I’ve weathered gale-force winds from tropical typhoons, only to realize I was sitting on my couch. Warm and dry. Too much thinking and not enough being” Now you speak truth, Mr. G. Honest-as-a-bagel-is-round truth. The kind that rabbit punches you while you’re reaching deep into the chest freezer for the last of the tofu hotdogs for the impromptu vegan potluck put on by your 5-pin bowling league. The kind of truth that makes me nod my head, with grim and sombre recognition, of the thing that used to keep my hand attached to bottle or can. Too much between the ears. That’s where the Caramilk secret is. The deep down ugliness of my existence that catapulted me to the nearest bar or liquor store. The tempest in a cracked teapot. Me. And you know about it, because you have been there.

      And that’s where the blood oaths and spit handshakes and the pinky promises all go down because we’ve been there, and we see that bruised and blackened third eye on others. We give them a nod and wink and how you doing, and talk about the affairs of the cœur. Get down to brass tacks.

      And put me down for some of that self-loathing you speak so well of. I can make that blend high octane too…or high octave with all the wailing of a banshee that I did as the world gon’ done me wrong, y’hear? But I know that blend you speak of.

      “Turns out slack trumps them both. Slack is king. Both giving and getting. People sure seem to respond better when I don’t judge them. And I’ve noticed that I don’t want to kill myself as much, when I forget to judge myself.” This is the thing I need tattooed on some part of me. Maybe the ear lobe…in Celtic. But this is awesome, Mr. G. Some monk must have whispered this onto your soul just so you can tell us here, because that’s the stuff that stirs the mind and spirit. Slack. Bring it on.

      You have brought some spicy and delicious Dijon mustard to this Plain Jane finger sandwich, kind sir. I will relish this. I ham certain of it. Sounds cheesy, I know, but at the sake of sounding crusty, it’s time to cut the boloney.

      Metric love,
      Paul

      1. Bravo, bro!
        That was the literary equivalent of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disneyland. Most delightful. So much talent lavished on one young man. It’s shamefully wasteful.
        Okay, so we’re officially spit-shaking on this one–no more guilt, no more shame. Because I don’t want to have to do it, if you’re not going to have to. You know, this whole be good to yourself caper. .
        F that. We go in together. And we don’t leave a man behind.
        Nervous as hell,
        Marius

  15. Paul, your writing is extraordinary! Thank you for this post. I so relate to this, especially when you mentioned how fear still drives you. It still drives me too, only now there is no armor. Just me battling fear…naked. Hey, at least the imagery is good for a laugh! 😉

    K.

    1. We all battle fear. I see this as I have deepened my 12-step work. At first I had tons of resentments going on, along with some harms and fears. Now that I have (hopefully) gotten past most of those (old) resentments (I still do get new ones, don’t get me wrong), I found that fears remain alone, for the most part. Old fears still permeate. New fears attach. It’s all fear, and out of fear comes anger. And anger manifests in many ways – not just yelling and physical – sarcasm, passive-aggressive behaviour, gossip, ignoring, etc. My specialities…ha ha.

      Yeah – thanks for the imagery…but in fact, all I see is that cat without the 3-D glasses! 🙂

      Blessings,
      Paul

  16. HighOnHugs says:

    Just noticed my reply to you Paul I placed on another comment! Whoops! So here it is…

    Wonderful! You are doing the work and ‘it works if you work it’! Love your honesty and comical view on things. I’ve had a stint (more like a few gazillion stints) on the pity pot. I swear I’ve had a ring on my butt from sitting on that pot so long! Keep ‘em coming Paul!! Always good to know I’m not alone!

    Sorry as you know I’m new to this blog world! Thanks again for being my blogging idle and mentor!

    Hugs,
    Clairey

    1. Aw Clairey…no worries! It doesn’t matter where it is, it’s where the intention and message lies. Isn’t that the best? We get to lay down our truths to one another and who cares where it lands at first, as long as it gets to the heart, where it heals and helps.

      I can count my rings like an aged oak tree, Clairey, from all those long and painful sits, as you so well describe it. The pot isn’t a pot any more, it’s a swimming pool, or an open grave of garbage, if I let it go on like I used to let it go on. And what’s the point these days? But like I mentioned to someone else, just because I get it here, and I am aware of it, and I am doing the work…doesn’t mean it’s going to happen again. I’d be foolish to think that I won’t roll around in this again, like a pig in his sty. It will happen, but even if I am 1% better at reigning it in or dealing with it quicker, etc. then I am a happy boy. Progress, not perfection, etc…

      And hey – you seem to be doing fine as it is in the blogging world. You have some wonderful stuff going on over there, and your honesty and positive nature is infectious. http://www.highonhugs.com y’all…check it out. I have many mentors out here…and frankly, I learn from everyone. But in the end, it comes down to having your own voice and staying true to it. i have struggled with that in the past, and still do at times, but if you write in Authentic Clairey, you’re doing amazing. And that’s where people will find you. Keep poking around – check out the blogs that others follow, join in the conversations and you’ll find people checking you out. it takes a bit of time, but it’s worth the camaraderie. I have grown exponentially doing this and the people I have come to know and adore are many.

      I am very glad that our paths have crossed 🙂

      Love and light (and hugs, of course!)

      Paul

      1. HighOnHugs says:

        Thanks Paul. The authentic Clairey cusses way more but other than that I am and always have been really good about saying exactly how I feel. The difference today with being in sobriety is that no matter how I feel or express myself, I check my motives! It is my intension to share where I am at in any given moment, struggles and all and do it without using or feeling like using is my solution. My hope is to let folks know they are not alone in life and there IS A SOLUTION a positive, loving, healing solution to life. Which for me is a practicing a program of recovery, asking for help, being of service and trusting and having faith in a power greater than my self! I am grateful to have folks like you living and breathing the life stuff that has become my greatest blessing!
        Hugs,
        Clairey

  17. Lisa says:

    This was amazing and inspiring. Loved it! I’m going to re-read, ponder, and write about it on my blog. So glad I found yours.

    1. Thank you Lisa! I look forward to checking out your blog!

      Blessings,
      Paul

  18. jrj1701 says:

    I use to have some good times sitting on my pity pot until some joker put a little superglue on it. Your words are like nail-polish remover, a cheaper, painless way to remove that super glue, wish I knew ya before I had to waste all that time and money not to mention the pain. Keep up the good work.+++

    1. Thanks JR. Yeah, I am not sure how painless it is, but I do know that feeling of being glued down. That’s the problem – sometimes you want a momentary reprieve and the thing has gotten you seat attached to that thing and you end up riding it like a rodeo bull. Ugh.

      I think we’re suckers for pain…especially of our own making, yes?

      Crazy….ha ha.

      Thanks for being here, as usual.

      Blessings,
      Paul

  19. Mrs D says:

    Ah the curse of the active, sharp, intelligent, busy, curious, insightful and honest mind. Yours is all of that.. and so you will always ponder, wonder, question, analyze, criticize, accept, wrestle with and delve into all of these things and more. I think for you there will be a great acceptance in recognizing this is who you are! It is a wonderful way to live.. alive and authentic and accountable. Bravo to you. That’s all I have to say. Bravo. xxxx

    1. Ah Mrs. D – you and your flattery will get you everywhere…lol. I think this is why we’re all here, interconnected and crossing paths…we are all seeking on some level, and we find something in others and within that create this mesh…and that is sometimes where I find my safety and my covenant. It’s with you and folks like you that I get to see where you take things, where you look at yourselves and that sparks something in me. All of this doesn’t come from a vacuum, Mrs. D…you are a spark for me.

      Thank you for being you.

      Love and light,
      Paul

  20. Oh, the wisdom and power in honesty and humility. Fear is our frustrated attempt to control what we cannot. And when we are out of balance in any way (and often body, soul, mind, spirit go whack together or align) our voice is the only one hear. We aggrandize our troubles and perceived needs, don’t see or hear those around us. That is why we are able to GIVE and SERVE when we are in spiritual health. I wish you a shower of blessings on your path to healing.

    1. Thank you, Diana. Thank you for the richness of your words and your seeing the direct line of fear in the realm of control. Fear drives almost everything I used to do, and has it’s claws in me if I am not spiritually in tune with the Creator. What fear does not drive, it’s love. When love drives me, happiness is a by-product. I don’t chase happiness – I create a space that hopefully it will swing by, have a cup of tea and settle in for a while. And you are correct – giving and service are the things that I try to do to create that space, and when I don’t, and hold back, I am caught in the vortex of self-pity. And I am never happy there, even if I think I am for a while.

      A shower of blessings back to you…thank you for being here. And being there.

      Paul

      1. Agree with everything you shared from experience and in insight, Paul. You remind me that the Bible says, “Perfect love casts out fear.”

        Blessings.

        Diana

      2. And thank you much for the follow.

  21. glenn says:

    This is about as well written a post I could hope to stumble upon in the search for recovery, living in solution, accountability, honesty, transparency…
    Reading it has been an inspiration for me to continue on my journey of self-discovery while living substance free. I understand and can relate to your recollection of a given occasion and the ensuing battle that goes on in one’s mind. I have experienced endless self-pity, resentments and unreasonable expectations of any human within begrudging distance. Thankfully, in sobriety I can now calmly step back to review my situation and how, in it, I am being selfish. It’s great fodder for self-discovery.
    Anyways, thank you so much for sharing in a manner that not only is insightful and inspiring but is also a manner that speaks well to anyone whether they have crossed into addiction or not.

    1. Hi Glenn – I am so glad that our paths have crossed. It’s always fantastic to run into someone who is on the same journey / path and has their take on things. It’s only when we share our experiences and stories that we can get even more connected to one another. That’s why the blogs are so important to me – not only writing, but reading (and I read tons of them!) – I get to feel a part of, and apart from. My meetings are still very important, but being out here is something I can do any time of the day or night and have the human interaction, even if it’s just written form.

      I think we all understand the inner workings of an alcoholic / addict. (Drugs aren’t in my story, but I sometimes use the word addict to encompass different addictions – sugar is a big one for me too) I think it’s very cool when I read people’s writings how much in tune they are with how I feel and how I think – I truly am never alone, even if my ego and the -ism wants me to see it that way…keep me separated from the Creator and you.

      Anyway, I took a quick look at your blog and am excited to read more.

      Thank you for being here – made my night 🙂

      Blessings,
      Paul

  22. big mike says:

    I relate,

    If I had dollar for every time I got on the pot regarding my own introverted- self centered- egositical- beat myself up-fuck evertbody else- thinking, I’d be a fucking billionaire. Like a baby crying and throwing its rattle. Boo-hoo I want what I want, when I want it. And I want it now!

    The only way out of this crappy thinking is what you pointed out in your great 10th step inventory above. Prayer, humility, acceptance, and asking for help. I dont have a drinking problem anymore, I have a thinking problem.

    We all have bad days. The gift of practicing the AA principals, is keeping those bad days from becoming weeks, months, and years.

    1. ” Prayer, humility, acceptance, and asking for help. I dont have a drinking problem anymore, I have a thinking problem.” You nailed that right there, didn’t you? Fantastic. Couldn’t have said it better myself. This is the solution. We talk about the problem, and here it is – what it is we need to do to relieve ourselves of that rattle throwing. Sure, as you mentioned, we have some bad days. We all do. I’d be worried if I heard someone tell me that they never have bad days. But it’s our reaction to them that gives us serenity. And we know that serenity is the bomb. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by, big mike. Means a lot to this alcoholic 🙂

      Love and light,
      Paul

  23. PAUL,
    You “TRULY INSPIRE” many. What a beautiful, Open, Honest post! OH those damn “Pity Parties”…..No pot needed for me…..LOL….I made a PARTY of it. The POOR ME’S, I’m a Victim, and I would be off to ZONE OUT behind a Slot Machine to not FEEL a thing! WHY do we as recovering addicts COMPARE ourselves to others in recovery?, then I have to remind my self about a phrase in 12-steps….”Principals before Personalities”…..We are only as helpful in our own recovery to others, when we don’t worry about others or compare our HARD work to others in their recovery. Right?

    I love that sign we have in “Gamblers Anonymous”, “WHAT you hear & talk about STAYS here”…..Oh I wish that where true by others….LOL….

    Hugs & Blessings friend,
    *Catherine*

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