The First Step, Again
“On far away-influences: You were certain the others disapproved of your behaviour without their having expressed disapproval. In solitude you felt a quiet sense of well-being without having known why; some far-away person thought well of you, spoke well of you.” Franz Kafka, Diaries, January 17, 1915
Why do we care what others think of us? I would like to think that I don’t, but I do. Today I am working on my 1st step again with my sponsor here in New York. I thought, “My 1st step? Really? Are you kidding me?” I have done the 1st step. I have admitted I am an alcoholic. My life was unmanageable. I cannot drink because when I do the thoughts in my head go nuts. I become unmanageable. When I was drunk and had these thoughts I wanted it all to go away. I did not want to live. It was all too much. So, I took away the alcohol. The thoughts are still there. Well, that is the part of my disease that is unmanageable. Disease. If I don’t drink then why do I still think I have a disease? If I don’t pick up, then I am ok. Right? No. I then have to work through how I handle these thoughts. Today I realized what makes me unmanageable now is what is between my ears. My thoughts. I allow what I think others think of me to take away my joy. I allow others to live rent-free in my head. I seek approval. Approval-seeking is unmanageable for me. It sends me to my knees crying not understanding why someone can’t understand me. I want to isolate. I want to focus on misery and obsess about how I can make someone else get me. When I stop and use the tools I have learned in my 12 Step program; then I begin to find my balance. My life becomes manageable. I realize seeking approval from another person is insanity. When I meditate, I then hear one of my favorite phrases I have heard in my 12 Step meetings. “It is absolutely none of my business what someone else thinks of me.” As long as I am doing the work to stay sober, being of service to others, doing the next right thing, being of service to my family and friends nurturing these relationships, and meeting my obligations, then I am doing what my God wants me to do. This is the only approval I need. Once I recenter and focus on this, I become the person I am meant to be. I don’t need another person’s approval. I know what makes my life manageable and what makes it unmanageable. It is hard some days to be so open and honest about my thoughts as I stay on this path in sobriety, but I do know it is something I must continue to do. It is not because I am brave or because it is pretty. It is real. I will continue to do the work and be available for these moments in my life.