I heard someone in a meeting describe a tendency of alcoholics to “take up causes.” As soon as I heard this statement, I recognized the inclination in myself. The causes referred to were not just political movements or philanthropic missions. They included things such as making sure the rude cashier at the hardware store never gets another job as long as he lives. Taking up a cause, noble or petty, lofty or foolish, provides a natural outlet for self-will that is seeking a field day. There is a physical sensation that comes with my will taking up a cause. It is a kind of fierce energizing that revs up and grows in mass at the same time. The longer it goes unchecked, the more momentum it accumulates, and the harder it becomes to reverse. It helps me a lot to have the phrases I have learned in AA. By using them in reference to what I am experiencing, I am able to stop the normal snowball effect. Identifying “self-centered fear” helps me get over my anxiety about what might happen to me in the future. Identifying “self pity” helps me crawl out of the muck I am rolling around in. And identifying a “cause” that I have taken up helps me stop, take a deep breath, and ask if it’s really worth it.
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