“As we go through the day we pause, when agitated or doubtful, and ask for the right thought or action. We constantly remind ourselves we are no longer running the show, humbly saying to ourselves many times each day ‘Thy will be done.'” – The Big Book
It is a vast understatement to say that throughout my life I tend to get agitated. I understand that every normal human on the planet gets agitated. I am one of those people that not only allows myself to get agitated over every little thing in my life, but I also allow slight agitation to grow. It grows from agitation to increased frustration to fear to anger to rage. It happens all too often and it is one of my biggest regrets in life because it has had a detrimental effect on so many relationships.
I also find it nearly impossible to let things go. Giving things up are very difficult for me. Its one thing to confess to God, “Thy will be done” but an entirely different thing actually living that out. I want to be the one managing my agitation instead of surrendering it to Him. I want to act. I don’t want to just do nothing and trust. The thought of doing nothing paralyzes me with fear!
I am still trying to figure out the “why” and the whole “how do I prevent it” but the important thing for me is recognizing that its a real problem and its caused a lot of damage to my life. My addiction starts with toxic thoughts and grows and will turn into action (or acting out as we call it) very quickly if I am not careful. I cannot tell you how many times my acting out was a result of unnecessary stress because of growing agitation. Basically I act like a toddler. If things are not going my way – exactly how I expect it, a royal fit is inevitable.
I am very happy to report that I am learning that there is life, hope and peace in the pause. Whenever agitation occurs I am able to keep it in perspective and move on quickly by choosing not to dwell on it and obsess over it. This is not to say that I have perfected “the pause.” I still become short and occasionally snap at that student who is cussing me out. I still yell at drivers who do idiotic things on the road. I still express negative emotion to players who are not doing what I know they can do. Like I mentioned earlier, a lot of my behavior is normal and not necessarily unique to an addict. However, limiting prolonged agitation is important for my sobriety because it will limit those “triggers” that can quickly cause me to slip. It will limit my opportunities to dwell and obsess over negative thoughts. It is allowing for me to live a more healthy and full life!
Yesterday my growth in this area was tested to the fullest.
The pre-story in a nutshell is that the State of Alabama has decided to tax me on income that I earned while living overseas. They claim that I did not “give up my domicile” so therefore any income earned is taxable by the state. They gave me an opportunity to argue my case that when I moved away I actually MOVED AWAY.
I provided a mountain of evidence to prove that I did indeed give up my domicile in Alabama in 2008 and actually have not lived there since. So of course the great State of Alabama benevolently and fairly ruled……in favor of taxing me.
Back in the summer when I found this out and spend hours on the phone with the Department of Revenue, I did not do a whole lot of “pausing.” I very quickly graduated from being agitated to rage. 0-100. I did a lot of judging. I judged their motives, their reason and their intelligence. I was very condescending.
Yesterday was the day of my scheduled hearing. For this I needed to take a day off from work, drive 3 hours to Birmingham, and appear before a judge to personally argue my case. The hearing was scheduled for 10:15 am. I get up early, cook myself an omelet (actually finishing most of it – nerves effect my appetite) and head down highway 65.
Justice here I come!
Not so much. My bad news wasn’t that the judge ruled in favor of the State. Its that there was no judge at all. The hearing had been canceled. Cue agitation. I was so confused. I was pretty angry. I was engulfed in fear.
But something happened that I never thought possible – a pause. I chose to wait before calling the number provided to inquire about the rescheduling. I can’t say that I didn’t fantasize a little about cussing them out while demanding an explanation and a hand written apology or whatever nonsense would come spewing out of my mouth. In the past I would have certainly made such a call. I would not have waited at all because my insecurities would demand that I put them down so that I can feel better about myself. I would convince myself that I would be justified and right in doing so. It was my job to judge. You’re not an the pedestal – I am!
Not only did I wait to make the call but a true miracle occurred when I called. During the pause I told myself to try a new approach. Instead of showing frustration and anger in my tone and my words, just be matter of fact. Just ask about when the rescheduled hearing will take place. Period. I did and man it felt good! It felt good because there was no guilt after the conversation. I felt really good because the apology I received from the lady on the other line was genuine. I know that it was genuine because I didn’t scream at her and demand it!
So yesterday was a frustrating day in some ways. But it was a major victory at the same time. Judgment was put on hold (for me and from me) and ultimately that was what I needed.