A list came across my desk, describing what I would call stepping-stones to relapse. Since my abstinence has been good for almost four years, I didn’t give the list much thought. I have been so busy being busy, I considered myself safe from the harm of slipping and eventual relapse. Among the stepping-stones were some character defects to which I could relate: exhaustion, dishonesty, impatience, argumentativeness, depression, frustration, self-pity, cockiness, complacency, too high expectations of others, lax disciplines, use of mood altering chemicals, too many wants, loss of gratitude, unrealistic “it can’t happen to me” thinking, and omnipotence.
Wow! What a list. I’m a lifelong compulsive overeater who has used every one of these excuses for not working my program. If I were to address these stepping-stones, I would say, “Oh, I’m exhausted from the service I do. I deserve a treat.” But am I exhausted or just feeling sorry for myself, i.e. self-pity and unappreciated? Is this what’s really going on, or am I being dishonest or impatient, not taking the time to pray and meditate? I would rather be argumentative. Having been in program for a long time, I realize this thinking frustrates me. Frustration often leads to depression because I want things to go my way and don’t want to feel like I’m not okay. Inevitably, my alter ego steps in thinking she will save the day. I get cocky and think I know better than others. I can slip into being judgmental. I become complacent and begin letting up on disciplines that remind me to take care of the weeds in my own garden and not worry about others’ gardens. Prayer and meditation go out the window. Before I know it, I am looking for mental and physical diversions to keep the focus off myself.
When I’m not keeping the focus on myself, I am at risk of becoming judgmental and expecting too much from others. My priorities become askew, and I think how nice some junk food would taste. Luckily my Higher Power steps in and reminds me how these mood-altering treats have sent me on a path of no return, where a slip would become a relapse. I’ve been there and done that, when I want too much but am unwilling to put the effort into working for the peace and serenity abstinence has always given me.
So as I ruminate on my life’s landscape, I remember the “sunlight of the spirit” and my gratitude for the gifts OA has given me. Most important, I must remember that slips and relapse are more likely when I sport the attitude that it can’t happen to me. I am not omnipotent. Only God is. I have a Higher Power, but I am not my Higher Power. So as long as I practice the OA Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions and do service to the best of my ability, I will have the strength and courage to walk the path and avoid the stepping-stones to relapse
~ Taste of Lifeline pp. 134-136