A Little Bitter

The author on three of the 12 Steps he keeps tripping over.

Mood music for this post: “A Little Bitter” by Alice in Chains:

Of the 12 Steps of Recovery, there are three  I keep tripping over:

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

To be fair to myself,  Step 10 isn’t a huge problem. No one is better at taking personal inventory and focusing on all my vulnerabilities than me. Promptly admit it? All the time. That’s why I have this blog.

The problem is that I have a tough time taking the other two steps, particularly the part about making amends to those I’ve harmed.

The pastor at my church, Father Nason, once joked that those who have trouble making amends suffer from Irish Alzheimer’s disease: They forget everything but the grudges.

I’d like to think I don’t hold grudges. I know there are people I have forgiven for the past, and I’ve tried to ask for forgiveness when it’s called for.

But I admit to some confusion over just who I’ve harmed and what they need from me. With that confusion comes a little bitterness.

Let me make a list of those I think I’ve harmed and see how I’ve really done at making amends:

The Marley family. As I’ve mentioned, the family of my late friend Sean Marley — the mother and sister, in particular — hate my guts because I revealed too much about his suicide in a column I wrote shortly after it happened. I don’t blame them for being angry. I did a lot of stupid things back then. My intentions weren’t bad, but the results were. I took their raw wounds and ripped them open even wider.

So here I am again, admitting it.

I’ve tried to make amends over the years, but I’ve gotten silence from the Marleys along the way. So there are a few damaged relationships that will stay that way for now.

I guess this is a case where trying to make amends would indeed be harmful to others.

My Mother: This one is so complicated I wouldn’t know where to start untangling the mess. I’ve hurt her big-time, along with a lot of other people from that side of the family.

I won’t get into the tit-for-tat, but the biggest problem is that we both have OCD and hers triggers mine. We just can’t get along these days, though we have made a few attempts to move on,. But the bullshit keeps getting in the way. I’ve long since forgiven her for things that happened in the past. But making amends for the more recent stuff is proving more elusive at this point.

My addictions: In this case, I’m the one I’ve harmed by engaging in slow-motion self-destructiveness. I’ve been forgiven for this a thousand times over by my wife, church and friends.

I need to make amends with myself on this one, which means making peace with the fact I have to permanently abstain from compulsive overeating and alcohol. It’s not easy because having to abstain makes me bitter sometimes. Not so much in terms of the food because I was happy to shake that devil, but the wine is something else. Not being able to have any really sucks sometimes, especially when I’m traveling. But I have no choice.

I know the coffee and Red Bull are replacement addictions and, though they don’t make my life unmanageable like the other stuff did, I know that from a physical health standpoint I’m going to have to dial it way back at some point. This makes me a little bitter, too.

Or you could say playing whack-a-mole with addictive behavior makes me bitter.

The good thing about bitterness is that the taste never lasts. Eventually I’ll find the solution to what keeps me from succeeding with those three steps.

It may take years, but the whole process is for life anyway.


8 thoughts on “A Little Bitter

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  7. Hi Bill, hope all is well. While I can see why the Marleys are mad at you, I don’t see how it was caused by your mental illness or addiction. You wrote a column about a fried who committed suicide. Am I missing something?

    speak with you soon


    • A good observation. Let’s see if I can clarify: The things that happened back then weren’t the direct result of mental illness or addiction, BUT IT fueled the depression and addiction that was to come. Specifically, guilt over those things helped fuel it. So once I started working the 12 steps, it became clear that one of the things you’re supposed to do is make a list of those you’ve harmed — whatever the root motivator — and try to make amends. Don’t know if that helps, but there is a weird cause-and-effect factor to this. 😉

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