How anyone can possibly stay married without practicing Step 10 is beyond me. My husband is also in recovery and we often go to our corners fixed on holding out to the death. We are like two rams from the Nature channel. We butt our curled horns together and when our fight is exhausted, we squat on our respective stools with arms folded tight across chests. I don’t know about him, but I am resolutely waiting there until he admits to being utterly ludicrous, and upside-down in his priorities. I feel as tight and immobile as a puffer fish. I am stuffed with righteous indignation, and it is very uncomfortable. Ironic that I am using so many animal references, but the reason is because I am speaking about instincts.
In the 12X12 Bill talks a lot about instincts. Our instincts are intended to serve us. They are meant to give us an intuitive response to certain stimuli. In alcoholics these instincts – fueled by fear – slam us straight into brick walls. He says when a man becomes a battle ground for the instincts, he can find no peace. He also says that sick alcoholics are incapable of forming a true partnership with another person. They always need to dominate people or cower beneath them. However, with the help of a higher power, we can experience a different reaction to life and to the people we love.
I know it is time for Step 10 when anger, fear or judgment fills my chest with heat. I use it when I need it, not at prescribed times of morning and night. I practice looking inward when I am about to shut-down, give up or say something I will regret. In the beginning, the best way to step back was simply going for a walk. It gave me just enough time and space to say a short prayer. Usually that prayer was something like this:
“Whatever Grace has brought me this far…please take this away. I know this emotion is no one else’s fault. This rage has been with me as long as I can remember, and it always defeats me. I can’t do this alone. Please help me. I don’t know what to do.”
Now, when my husband tells me to put on my seatbelt, and I want to jump from the moving vehicle because he just insulted my autonomy, I pause. I pray. I recognize that I am simply afraid he does not respect me because he is telling me what to do. The problem is not his direction to put on my seatbelt. It is my fear of what his statement means. So I ask Grace to sit with me while I let the wave pass. I ask for my fear to be removed, and my attention turned to what a higher power would have me be in that moment. Would it have me punish my partner and pout in silence? Probably not. However I can ask to be softened and for the ability to tell the truth. When I am ready I say,
“Can you ask me instead of tell me? I feel afraid you don’t respect me when you tell me.”
To which he responds with a smile to let me know I am being both ridiculous and cute,
“Sure. Sarah, will you please put on your seatbelt?”
“Yes. Of course I will.”
Problem solved. We don’t have to get divorced. Thank you Grace.