Thursday, June 7, 2012
Knowing Your Default Settings
Like many of us, I was born into a normal family. In my case, I was the oldest of six children with one brother and four sisters. The idea of “Default Settings” came to me many years after entering a 12 Step Program.
I am not a trained Therapist or Psychologist, but this book provides a venue for me to share my experience, strength and hope with others. If you are reading this book, like me, you are searching for answers or you might be struggling with a life-challenging experience. What I have learned is that, “if it is life-challenging, then it has the possibility to be life-changing”. Ultimately, it is up to you.
My Introduction to the 12 Steps
I entered my first 12 Step meeting in July of 1992. A few days earlier, I had learned that my wife, who I was separated from, had entered into a new relationship. I came by this knowledge quite innocently. My two sons, who were 6 and 8 years old at the time, recanted a story of spending the night at their mother’s new boyfriend’s home. I immediately felt a rush of nausea sweep through my entire body and I became physically debilitated. I couldn’t eat and all I wanted to do was sleep.
Six months previous, just after New Year’s Eve 1991 and following 3 days of not talking to my wife, I announced in dramatic style that I was leaving. I packed some clothes and went to stay at a friend’s home. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was using one of my oldest, tested, tried and true manipulative tactics to control my wife, except this time it backfired on me. She actually learned that she was happier without me (at least it seemed) and I sank into a deep depression. For some time I had tried to re-unite with my wife and my broken family, but she resisted. I had already put her through many years of my drinking and partying, while I enjoyed a career in the nightclub business. She had finally had enough.
So with this as a backdrop, I entered into the room of my first 12 Step Program. I recall that I could hardly sit in the meeting without becoming emotionally distraught. I struggled to fight back my tears because this public display of emotions was very out of character for me. Nonetheless, there I was sniffling and wiping the tears from my cheeks. What I experienced was that, in the presence of these strangers, I did not feel ashamed or embarrassed. Week after week I sat in that room, mainly listening to others who were braver than me shares their truth, while I continued to seek a salve for my broken heart.
Like the beginning of a rain shower, the gifts from attending the weekly meetings began to fall; first I felt one drop and then another until finally the raindrops falling onto me began a cleansing and recovery process that continues today.
Step 1: One of the first such raindrops occurred one weekend while I was out walking along the beach. It was early in my process and I was struggling with the way my ex-wife was raising our sons. Generally, I disapproved of her behavior and parenting style with our sons and, because I was no longer living with them, I couldn’t influence or control what was going on. My belief system needed me to be in control of what was happening before, in my opinion, she did something that was going to deeply scar both children emotionally. As I struggled with this dilemma I repeatedly recited to myself the first line of the “Serenity Prayer”, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change . . . ” I remember thinking “how in the heck am I supposed to get serene about the stuff my ex-wife is doing?”
As I struggled intellectually with the things that I thought I knew, and my frustration over the reality that I could not control what was happening (especially when I wasn’t there), I slowly began to get some awareness. I cannot control the action or behavior of another person. If I allow myself to be SERENE, then I can learn to ACCEPT that there are many things that happen day to day that I have absolutely no control over. I can get angry, I can threaten, I can cry, I can attempt to use any manipulative tactic that I have been taught, but ultimately, I am POWERLESS over others. The more I resist this principle, the more the level of peace and serenity is disrupted in my life.
This awareness brought me to my initial understanding of Step One.