What’s wrong with trying to control life? What’s wrong with holding the people around us to a higher standard?
The problem is that addicts expend a lot of energy trying to micromanage the universe and the people in it. What happens when people and circumstances don’t measure up? We’re angry, disappointed, depressed and resentful. And isn’t that a perfect recipe for a binge? We figured if we couldn’t control life, we’d control how we dealt with it, which is to say, how we’d get our fix.
We learn in recovery that our expectations have been largely to blame for our unhappiness in life, many times driving us deeper into our addictions. Nothing was ever quite right. People didn’t meet our standards, life fell short, our circumstances frustrated us and our plans fell through. We spent a lot of our time being irritated and we usually let other people know about it.
So,why do alcoholics have unrealistic expectations for people? We thought there was something good or noble in it. We wanted things to be “right.” What we didn’t realize was that our expectations were actually a sort of selfish entitlement in which we tried to play God. Rather than letting His will be done, we imposed our own. Rather than “live and let live,” we told others how they should be. When we tried to control life and circumstances, we were fighting an uphill battle and causing others a lot of distress in the process.
It wasn’t just other people we wanted to control. In some cases we have had unreal expectations of ourselves and the images we should be presenting to the world. We’ve practiced deception in myriad ways such as lying to protect addiction, pretending that we were better than others and without fault or hiding the mess of our lives. We weren’t living up to our own expectations and we certainly couldn’t let anyone else see as much.
What we learn in recovery is that the only things that count are honesty and the acceptance of reality. We can live in our fantasies and expectations, but it won’t get us sober. While we’ve worked so hard to keep ourselves from hitting bottom and fought to try to live up to the expectations we had for ourselves, we have to admit that hitting bottom can be the very best thing because, in the end, it is God humbling a drug addict or alcoholic. We need to see that God is God and we are not, thus there is no place for our expectations, our schemes or our pronouncements on how the world and other people should be. We simply don’t always know what’s best.
We learn that the only business we should be minding is our own. And instead of setting unrealistic expectations for ourselves, we seek to know God and His will for us. We seek His definition of growth and recovery and stop trying to micromanage the process.
This is easier said than done for people who are used to controlling the universe. How do we really learn to trust God and let go of our expectations? In short, this is what the 12-step program is all about. We don’t have to force it; we simply work the steps and it happens naturally. We are used to trying to change ourselves and usually we failed. When we are following God, we are relying on Him to change us and help us live up to the expectations He has for us.