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Doing the Next Right Thing

Remember the post last week where I accidentally outed myself as a recovering alcoholic during Mass?

Well, I’ve had another program-related outing. It is a follow-up about the experience I had with my children’s Sunday school teacher, and it just goes to show you: This program works.


Back in the day, one of my biggest drinking triggers was resentment. If someone had a nicer outfit, better job, or even was having a good day (and I wasn’t), I resented it, without even bothering to find out the source of my discomfort with other people’s satisfaction. I just drank over it, did nothing to correct my self-justified sense of irritation, and made myself (and everyone around me) miserable. I was a real joy to be around, let me tell ya.

Mmmm. I feed my resentment with this stuff. Source:

Mmmm. I feed my resentment with this stuff. Source:

In sobriety, I still struggle with resentment; but, the difference between then and now is that 1) I acknowledge I have the problem (and it is my problem) and 2) I work hard to let it go. Because if I don’t, I will find another way to ‘anesthetize’ myself (shopping, running, chocolate, workaholic tendencies). Honestly, after eight years in the program, I am only about 65 percent good at really letting things go, and I don’t do it immediately, willingly, especially if there is a lot of sea salt caramel chocolate around. But I digress. It’s about progress, not perfection.

So, after my experience with the catechist last week, I talked to my sponsor, Courtney. I told her that while my logical brain knows that I’m powerless over what someone else thinks about me, I still feel the hurt that this person could turn against me, and yet, he is an excellent teacher to my children and is not in any way like that towards them. In fact, this teacher may not like me at all, but he is excellent with my son (who has ADHD and has had a very hard time in any kind of traditional classroom), who likes him very much.

“It is pretty incredible, the way he works with my son, who has made real progress just in this once-a-week class,” I told Courtney. “It is almost like a miracle.”

And then, I mentioned to her that I had an email this morning from the parish seeking nominations for catechist of the year, and I was thinking about nominating that teacher, but I still felt resentment towards him for his attitude towards me.

Courtney listened to me harangue about my feelings (she’s a great sponsor; basically, she just lets me get the crap out of my system), which, she reminded me, are not necessarily facts.

“Tell me,” she said. “What do you think the next right thing to do would be?”

“Submit the nomination for this guy,” I said, without hesitation. “But in doing so, part of me feels like that is acknowledging that his dismissal of me is acceptable.”

Resentment-is-like-taking-poison“Nonsense,” she said. “What he feels or thinks about you is none of your business. Besides, that has nothing to do with the excellent job he has done with your children in that classroom. That is what you are acknowledging,” she said.

Then, Courtney added: “Watch out for resentments; they can do a lot of damage to someone in recovery.”

Finally, as we parted company, my sponsor said, “I want to see the draft of that nomination you write. And, submit it anonymously.”

I went home, drafted the nomination, cce’d it to my sponsor, and submitted it to the parish office. Anonymously, just as directed.

I have to say that after I did that — I felt immediately better. And then, I just forgot about it.

Yesterday, I got an email note from this catechist, briefly thanking me for the nomination, because the pastor said it was one letter in particular that got him the Catechist of the Year award from my parish. In a nutshell, he said that the pastor showed him the letter, which was anonymous, but he knew it was me because of what was said in the letter.

“Your words meant a lot to me. I didn’t expect it. It was special. Thank you.”

I will be honest with you. I didn’t want to write the nomination for this fellow. But once I started writing, the words just began to flow. After I submitted the nomination, I remember thinking, ‘even if this doesn’t get anything for him, it made me feel better.’

I mentioned that to Courtney when I emailed her the copy of the letter. “That’s the result of doing the next right thing. Keep up the good work,” she replied.

Sobriety can be hard work. But it is worth it.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled Emmett Wilson research program! Stay tuned!


Categories: Addiction

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Communication, Arts, and the Humanities
The University of Maryland Global Campus

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