In his short little book The Business of Belief, Tom Asacker writes:
Carl Jung noted, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” We have no control over fate. Fate chooses us, like our birthplace, our physical attributes or getting a flat tire on a rainy day. It determines our situation, who we “are” at that moment. But fate does not determine how we react, who we will “be.” (p. 101).
That distinction is very important in recovery and a common theme in 12-step meetings. The distinction comes down to the essence of choice. Here is a very simple example for me. A screaming infant on an airplane, in a restaurant, or grocery store line can either throw me into a fit of impatience and anger or empathy. It has nothing to do with the length of the flight, the type of the restaurant, the time of day in the grocery store, or other external factors. Rather, my response has to do with what is going on within me – most often, things over which I have a choice.
I spent a bunch of years doing the “yeah, but, you don’t understand. As a kid, I was sexually molested, beaten, etc. etc. . . .” as a rationalization for my behavior. I do not in any way mean to be dismissive of those destructive impacts either. However, at a certain point in recovery, I got tired of using these situations where I was abused as my bases or excuses to continue being a victim. I am very well aware that my relationship with my wife, children, and grandchildren are forever impacted by my past. As an adult, I am always amazed at how my responses to authority are still ways in which I am working out issues with my parents.
When I am active in my addictions, I savor the adversity of the past as license to enter oblivion and not deal with my reality. In recovery, I make a choice to live life on life’s terms and seek a solution. I find that the issues from my youth never are completely resolved but the issues no longer controls me as a life fate. That road begins with the Sixth Promise of AA “That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.”