Through a little faith and effort, a husband’s longtime holiday resentment becomes a gift to someone he loves.
Cliff, an old-timer in my home group, used to say that in order to recover, I would have to see things I don’t want to see, hear things I don’t want to hear and do things I don’t want to do. How true that has been for me.
In my first trip through the Steps, I listed my resentments as shown in the Big Book. With the help of my sponsor, I tried to see my part in all these situations. But some of my resentments persisted, even though I could admit having some part in creating them. I felt “justified” in holding on to some of these resentments.
When I completed the Fifth Step with my sponsor, I reviewed my progress. My sponsor was big on honesty so I tried to be honest with myself as I reflected and thanked God from the bottom of my heart so that I might know him better. As I did this, a wave of relaxation and reassurance came over me. It was undoubtedly a spiritual experience for me.
In spite of this beautiful and very real experience, I held on to some of my resentments and sometimes they reared their ugly heads again and came roaring back. These were those “justified” resentments. As I was working the Sixth and Seventh Steps, I was confronted with a big one. This had to do with my wife’s Christmas decorations.
Over the years, we had accumulated more and more boxes of decorations that needed to be brought down from the attic each year. I grumbled about it and even ruined a couple of Christmases for her with my bad attitude. My view was that this was all fine for her, but why did I have to devote so much time on the Thanksgiving weekend to bring down at least 50 boxes from the attic, set up the tree (sometimes multiple trees) and more? She didn’t have a job (another resentment of mine), so why couldn’t she do all of this excessive decorating by herself?
I was in therapy with a counselor when I did my Steps. Both he and my sponsor and other friends in the Fellowship all came up with variations of the same idea to deal with my resentment. Why not try being kind about it? Why not try to see the joy she gets from it? Why not try tolerance in this situation, giving her the right to be wrong? Or how about just supporting her?
In my drinking days, I would have considered this being hypocritical. I told myself that I couldn’t lie, I decided that I must be honest with her. Then my sponsor reminded me that the honesty of the AA program is to help me get honest with myself, not to bludgeon my wife with a club of truth.
They suggested I be willing to try this idea of kindness and to be open to seeing her joy, exhibit a little positive enthusiasm or just work at not showing my unhappiness. No one twisted my arm. They were just sharing their experiences, and I grudgingly agreed to give it a try. I now see this as an act of faith.
It was indeed miraculous. And it worked. A little bit of effort—with faith—returned remarkable gifts way out of proportion to the effort I put into it. My wife was so grateful for my change in behavior and we actually had fun.
After the second year of my change in attitude, my wife started talking about how she felt bad about her disorganization and having so much stuff. The boxes reduced in number over the years without any effort or management on my part. In our new house, she actually built a small closet in the garage that holds almost everything. Amazing.
This kind of result has continued to come about every time I’m willing to use the process to see what I don’t want to see, hear what I don’t want to hear and, especially, do what I don’t want to do.