In Alcoholics Anonymous, the abandonment of self to the program of recovery is one of the hardest aspects of the twelve steps. Bob D., does an amazing job of breaking it down and explaining it in a powerful way.
Trying to run the show and why we have to turn it over
While reading the Big Book, I get to the part at the bottom of page 60. It says we’re like an actor who wants to run the whole show. We are forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery, and the rest of the players. We are looking to arrange other employees at our work, the customers, the people in the grocery store, the people in traffic, and the people sharing in our AA meetings. For myself, if only my arrangements would stay put, if only people would do is I wish the show would be great. Heck, everybody including myself would be pleased. When I read that, it was like a veil lifted and I just sat there and thought, “Oh my god. That’s me. That’s exactly what I’ve been doing.” Now it is amazing to me that I could go through life being in that state, causing myself problems, quitting jobs, alienating myself from people, and ruining relationships. I never until that moment even thought about it. See, the greatest trick the ego ever does is to convince us it that it does not exist.
The ego hides behind a smokescreen of justification and chatter; it talks to me in my head. I say to myself, “I am running the show and this is going to be great for everybody.” My resentments and justification have to pack a punch. I mean, I don’t want to just get some little resentment just because the person hurt my feelings. I want to take my resentments to a global level. If I resent somebody in AA because they are doing something out of line, I will take it to the level where I think they are going to destroy Alcoholics Anonymous; now it is a crusade! The amazing ability to justify stuff is incredible and the alcoholic mind the book talks about even says, “In trying to make these arrangements our actor may be sometimes quite virtuous.” In this desperate need to arrange life so I will be better, in this desperate attempt to play God, I may be quite seemingly virtuous. I may even do it in a manner that is kind, considerate, patient, generous, even modest and self-sacrificing. I can do it all that way.
But if that doesn’t work, I can be mean, egotistical, selfish, and dishonest. I can say, “Don’t screw with me here. This is important. That is important. You don’t see it this way and if you do not see if my way, well then you are stupid. The first approach is what I always try first; the kind, considerate, patient, and generous way, nothing like a little sugar coating to get my way. But when we surrender to the program, we surrender all of this. We are no longer running the show. We are not the directors anymore, we are humble actors.
When we admit we are powerless over alcohol, we know that our lives under our own direction have not been working out very well. This is the wonderful thing about the 12 steps. There is a program, a process whereby we can uncover, discover and discard those things in our lives that have not been serving us. Many of these things are attempts to “run the show” and arrange life as we see fit. The burden is much easier not trying to run or control the own universe. It is a lot easier to just let go and live life one day at a time with gratitude.