Sunday, October 13, 2013

I Changed My Words and My Life began To Change

Early in my recovering from alcoholism I was very aware of my generalized guilt over – well, over everything. I had truly messed up my life in a big way and was now very apologetic about my life and about me. I was very apologetic to my children, especially, but also to virtually everyone everywhere. I was constantly apologizing – literally. “I’m sorry you feel that way.” “I’m sorry my sharing brought up bad, disturbing memories for you.” I simply didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I didn’t want to be an agent of pain and hurt.
Several people in the program commented to me – quite often actually during coffee after an AA meeting – as to why I was always saying “I’m sorry….” or “I feel bad….” They’d go on to tell me “Don you’re not really sorry. You may regret some outcome you didn’t intend, but you’re not really sorry. ‘Sorry’ is the wrong word. It’s not your fault that your sharing dredged up someone else’s bad memories. Why don’t’ you start using the word ‘regret?’ It’ll help clarify your real feelings to yourself.”
I did and it did.
I began saying “I regret that my discussion of my early memories brought up bad things for you, too. They’re painful. I know.” And people began responding by saying, “Thank you for sharing. Yes. It’s painful, but if you hadn’t shared, my memory may not have bubbled to the surface.”
Wow! These folks were not hurt or pained because of me. They were grateful. My constant apologizing was keeping the focus on me. Using the term ‘regret’ opened the door to have the focus of the conversation on both of us – sharing the growth (usually accompanied by some pain) that was occurring simultaneously in us.
There is this great quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi: “Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.”
I didn’t know I wanted to change my habits, my values, and my destiny. All I knew was that my life sucked. I wanted to feel better, act better, and be better.
My constant apologetic words had become a way of life for me – which kept solidifying my feelings about myself. These feelings were not very nice. They were feelings of poor self-esteem or low self-worth. My words were constantly reinforcing this self-image I had: Unworthy. Guilty. Shameful. My words were reinforcing my feelings just the way drying concrete solidifies into hardened cement.
How do I undo that?
Changing my words of ‘sorry’ to ‘regret’ began to affect my thoughts and my actions. It really helped me begin to allow my life to begin changing, my self-esteem to begin growing, and my self-image to begin blossoming.
This is part of what I think AA members mean when folks say “Act as if…” or “Fake it ‘til you make it.” By simply saying different words or doing different little actions I began making significant differences in my thoughts and feelings, which continued to alter the words I used, which changed my actions, my habits, my values, and my destiny. Just like Gandhi predicted.
It’s pretty simple and very effective. I still say “I’m sorry,” if I really need to apologize for my words or actions. But most of the time it’s not truly an apologetic situation and so I’m regretful – not sorry. So I say “I regret…”
But, little by little, it works.
At least it has worked for me. I see no reason why it wouldn’t work for you as well.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
#2 October, 2013
Copyright, 2013

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