Tuesday, June 22, 2010

“Being Wrong”

I remember being new to the program and hearing someone share about how good it felt to be wrong. It was bizarre. It made no sense at all. ‘Why would anyone want to be wrong?’ was my thought at the time. Little did I know that, one day, I would feel exactly the same way.

Perfectionism is something a lot of us with the disease can relate to. It’s a control thing. If we can make something perfect—whether it’s ourselves, another person, some project, etc.--then we are in control and have proved that we can manipulate the world. We have demonstrated our power. Maybe we even garnered respect from others because of the demonstration. We have bent reality to our will. We are mighty. We even feel God-like at times.

Step One: We admitted we were powerless...

Some of us showed our perfectionism through knowledge. We were know-it-alls. God knows I was. Any subject I opened my mouth on, I was the expert. I knew everything about it and anything anyone else tried to tell me was flat-out wrong. Some people call this being hard-headed. I call it being an arrogant asshole.

There are all kinds of reasons behind the need to be perfect. A lot of us come from backgrounds where, if we aren’t perfect, we aren’t loved. We had to live up to someone else’s idea of what we were supposed to be like. Often times, it was an impossible task; we were set up for failure. And the love we needed was held over our heads, always just out of reach. We got the message that if we had just tried a little bit harder, then we would have gotten there. Many of us visited this evil on ourselves as we tried to quit. We tried over and over and over again, always unable to, and always feeling like it was our fault because we couldn’t achieve the impossible. We are addicts; we can’t ‘just quit’.

Being a know-it-all comes from a severely damaged self-esteem. For myself, I felt that emptiness inside, the pain and the loneliness. I didn’t know that I didn’t have to be anything other that me in order to be loved. I thought that the more I knew, the more impressed others would be by me, and that they’d respect and admire me for my greatness. There was no way I could have understood that it was my raging ego that turned people off. Even if I was talking on a subject I did know a lot about, my attitude was still a problem.

Working the program of Recovery gives us many opportunities to learn acceptance about the times we are wrong. It starts with surrender, with admitting that we do have a problem after insisting for so long that we didn’t. We make this admission to ourselves, to our sponsors. Every time we open our mouths to share in group, we admit it again. The process continues as we work a fourth step and see our part in the ways others had wronged us. We start taking responsibility. In Steps eight and nine, we learn how to admit to others just how wrong we were and become willing to do something about it.

Being wrong is part of being human. We have failings. We’re not perfect. Recovery teaches us that it’s okay, and that we don’t have to pretend anymore. We are going to make mistakes. It’s one of the ways we learn. There’s a common recovery slogan my sponsor uses a lot: make different mistakes. It’s one of my favorites, too. Making mistakes, being wrong, are opportunities to learn. If we think we know everything, then we aren’t teachable. We aren’t practicing the spiritual principle of Humility.

Today, I’m glad that I can be wrong. I’m grateful that I can see when I am wrong, and grateful that I can admit it to myself and to others. It means I’m a little bit closer to being right-sized.

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