“For patience and tolerance is our code.” I wonder how many of us in recovery can honestly say that IS our code. For me, it is more like I wish it were my code. In our society today, for all people, impatience and intolerance does seem to prevail. We all know folks who are not in any 12 Step Program (because they do not need to be) but may seem to be the most impatient people we know. Young people today have a deep sense of instant gratification. I want it and I want it NOW is their code and although we might find that attitude immature, we do all live in an “instant-everything world”. How many times have you been sitting at a red light and the second it turns green, a horn blares? In today’s world, a lack of patience and intolerance stirs a lot of emotion and results in such things as road rage. When I think of it, anyone who shows impatience and intolerance demonstrates an “all about me” attitude. How rude is that??
There is no doubt in my mind that when patience and tolerance were determined to be important enough to take their place in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, it meant that we had to practice these two virtues with everyone we came in contact with. This time of year provides many opportunities to practice patience and tolerance as we are forced to wait in traffic, long lines at the stores, and security lines at the airports. There are many opportunities on a daily basis for us to practice patience and tolerance. Little courtesies become a part of our lives and we marvel at our new serenity once we stop demanding others cater to our wants and understand we are not better than they.
And so in recovery we become gentler, kinder people to everyone around us. But we need to view patience and tolerance in a different way and this time is really is all about us! When we were in the throes of our disease our lack of patience and tolerance only added to the chaos and drama of our lives. We made decisions without thinking of the consequences (insanity?). We said things that hurt others. In general, we did what we wanted, when we wanted and waited for nothing and no one. We were intolerant of others and their ideas especially if those do not coincide with our desire to drink, drug, gamble, eat, etc. No wonder many of us isolated. We couldn’t bear to be part of the human race. It was all just too base for our egos.
Our dilemma, once we begin working the 12 Steps, is this: can we practice patience and tolerance for ourselves as we try one day at a time to remain clean and healthy? Why is it easy to apply these to others yet so difficult to apply to our own lives and recovery? I think it is difficult for some of us because when we finally have that moment of clarity, we know we can have a better life and we want it now. Patience is clearly not one of our virtues. I thought if I worked the steps quickly the Promises would be instantaneously fulfilled! I didn’t want to wait for all of the good things to come to me. The reality is the good things were already there waiting for me but I needed time and patience to find them. There are some that still elude me. Perhaps I am not ready for them so patience and tolerance must be my code.
And what happens when we can’t seem to find the patience and tolerance within ourselves to take our sobriety one day at a time and work the steps? We probably stop going to meetings, stop speaking to others in the fellowship, the defects reappear, and before we know it, we convince ourselves that these steps don’t work and we are off and running in our addiction. How many newcomers say things like “I’m working so hard. Doesn’t it get any better?” And, of course, the answer is absolute, positively yes! If we look at earnest at the slogan “one day at a time”, it isn’t just telling us to be free of our addiction(s) but also to take the program and our progress one day at a time…patiently and with tolerance. Logically (as if we were logical people) we know that for most of us we were addicts for many years so why now would w possibly believe that we can heal and be whole in a short period of time. We should be as patient with ourselves as we were careless with ourselves when we were “out” there!
Don’t compare yourself to anyone else thinking that they really get it and you are still waiting for big things to happen. This is when we have to remember that God has a plan for each one of us. God was extremely patient with us as He must have waited and waited for us to turn to Him. So, now we must pray for patience with ourselves and to understand God’s plan for us. Patience is a virtue. It always was and always will be. Love is also patient. Maybe in order to be patient and tolerant of ourselves, we have to continue to learn how to love ourselves.
Namaste’. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.
Like Grateful Recovery on Facebook. Kathy L. is the author of "The Intervention Book" in print, e-book, and audio.