September 1, 2021

I Breathe, Meditate, Eat Right & Do Yoga—Why am I still an Asshole?



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Warning: much-needed strong language ahead!

I have been in Alcoholics Anonymous for 23 years, and sometimes treat it as free therapy.

I hate to think about where I would be without my weekly meetings and the people who have guided me over the years.

I don’t know about you, but I struggle with anger, jealousy, insecurity, egomania, self-righteousness, judgment, and all kinds of other fun character traits. I am constantly refining my rough edges and trying to be the best human I can be in this world, but sometimes something will pop out of me that isn’t pretty. Something deep-seated and raw will come up from the fiery pit within and I will feel a seething rage and justified anger.

Shouldn’t I be healed by now? Shouldn’t I be done “working on myself?” I have read all the books, I breathe and meditate, I eat right, and do yoga. Why am I still an asshole?

I recently had a situation where I realized I love hearing about dirt on people. I love digging in deep and learning about how shitty someone is and feeling some kind of superiority over that person. What is that?

Do I not have a heart? Am I not a kind person? I guess not. I’m not one who will necessarily kick you while you’re down, but why do I get enjoyment out of hearing about someone struggling?

My only assumption is that it is some kind of deep-rooted jealousy or survival instinct.

And when I hear of others struggling, it makes me feel less alone. It makes me feel more human, but it also makes me feel like I know what’s best for that person and I get super self-righteous about it.

Why am I telling you all this? We can’t heal what we don’t acknowledge and this is a part of myself I am ready to throw into the fire so that I can rise like the fucking phoenix that I am. It’s not cute to rag on others and although it feels good at the moment, afterward I feel like nothing but an asshole.

So, here are some steps I’m taking to better my asshole ways:

1. Get honest.

If someone is talking shit about someone to me, as much as I want to jump in and keep the embers cooking, I will change the subject. (Oh, this is going to be hard.)

2. Set boundaries.

If I am constantly getting pissed in my interactions with others, maybe these aren’t my people. I don’t have to like everyone, but I do need to figure out a way to be honest, kind, and somewhat considerate.

If I know someone is an energy dragon, it’s up to me to limit my time with that person and take care of myself. If I need to limit interactions with that person completely, that can be okay, too.

Sometimes we have less choice with family interactions (and maybe our own kids), but in most cases, talking to someone about the situation will tell you if you are in the clear to set that boundary. Protecting our own energy reserves is a real thing. It’s okay to not be a “yes” person. Saying the word “no” is a complete sentence. Stop fucking people-pleasing.

3. Be yourself.

If I’m trying to be a fake version of myself and sugar coating my conversations so that people will like me, I will hate my interactions.

I am who I am. I’ve been where I have and I need to be who I am in all of my interactions.

When I feel authentic, I feel more confident, which makes me not need to compare or create a shit show when things don’t go my way.

4. Believe that most people are inherently good.

It may not seem like it, but most people are trying their best. Most people don’t want to be unlikable (except you, Karen). If we don’t agree with someone, that’s on us. How can we work on being more loving and tolerant of others’ differences? (Except you, racists and homophobes.)

5. Find your inner zen.

Some people use crystals, chakra alignment, tapping, meditation, yoga, or a walk in nature. It’s amazing what these things can do for our psyche.

If we have plans with someone who triggers us, let’s make sure we are in fit spiritual condition and that we are emotionally stable enough to have that interaction. If not, it’s okay to take a raincheck.

6. Visualization.

Sometimes, I imagine the face of this dear old lady, Betty, from my AA meeting, on someone who irks me. I pretend like the person I am struggling with is sweet Betty. I would never talk down to sweet Betty.

7. Leave the space.

When struggling with other humans, it’s okay to go make a call, take a walk, or go run an important errand.

Sometimes knowing I have an exit strategy makes me feel calmer in my interactions. If I set it for a short period of time, I feel like I can handle it better too.

8. Dig deep.

Can this really be all about them or do I have a part too? Am I jealous, afraid? What is going on with me that I feel so much hatred for another? Can I dig deep and find the root of my rage? Can I share that with someone even if I sound more assholish than I already am? If we want to heal we’ve got to feel. We can’t go around placing blame on everyone else, we have to look within too.

9. Have compassion.

Annoyance and intolerance in others make me feel indignant and prideful. I like that feeling of superiority. Instead, can I peel back a layer and really see this person without my bravado and sense of judgment? We all have hurts and layers.

How can I show empathy and hold space for the weirdos in my life?

10. Prayers or mantras for centering.

Find a quote, prayer, or mantra that can bring you back to the present moment. Use something that keeps you centered and focused.

Let’s say I am a vegan liberal having dinner with meat-eating Trumpers. Should I just choose not to go ever? Should I wait until the meal is over if I know it will be difficult? Should I grin and bear it?

Usually, I choose not to attend. I took the liberation pledge, which gets me out of most events serving meat.

These situations can be tricky. I choose to see where I am on the day. I gauge my mental and emotional faculties and usually choose to do something else. Does that make me intolerant? It might. I am still working on the restraint of pen and tongue and have a small filter. If I think I am going to say something that will hurt someone else, I will try to avoid the situation.

I would like to evolve to be around anyone and still be as comfy as a clam, but I am not there yet (hence the tips above).

I am a work in progress.

I am sensitive and easily annoyed and I have the mind of a steel trap. I can remember interactions from a decade ago and I will burn with fury when I think of them.

Yes, I do the fourth step inventories from AA and I share with others, but I am also super stubborn and like to be right. I can be indignant and have a hard time bending.

We won’t like everyone and not everyone will like us (sad, but true). I try to remember that love and tolerance take precedence over me being right. I try to remember that everyone is fighting their own private battle and some people are spiritually sick; they may never evolve into deep, meaningful conversations. A surface-level life is all they are capable of. Who am I to force them into being different?

I don’t want to get drunk, and these thoughts and feelings I’m led to believe will lead me straight to the bottle. To let go of resentment, I will keep working on myself and keep wearing down these rough edges.

I am so much better than I used to be and it’s definitely progress, not perfection.

Here’s to being less of an asshole in the coming year. Cheers!

“Our next function is to grow in understanding and effectiveness. This is not an overnight matter. It should continue for our lifetime. Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear. When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them. We discuss them with someone immediately and make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone. Then we resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help. Love and tolerance of others is our code. And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone—even alcohol. For by this time sanity will have returned.” ~ Alcoholics Anonymous, Big Book, page 84. 

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