That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.

Tom Sawyer Fence

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.”

Belief and Freedom to Choose


I am reading an interesting book called the Business of Belief by Tom Asacker.  He talks about (pp. 47-48) the well-known experiments at Yale University where volunteers thought they were administering electric shocks with increased intensity to individuals who could be heard but not seen.  Despite the verbal protests from those being shocked the volunteers were prodded to continue the process by the director of the experiments.  The director issued four instructions in sequence:

“Please go on.”

“The experiment requires that you continue.”

“It’s absolutely essential that you continue.”

“You have no other choice, you must go on.”

Asacker relates that “Despite expressing feelings that it was wrong, 65% of the volunteers inflicted the maximum voltage.  Even when subjects were screaming in agony. . . But something happened at the final prod.  When the experimenter would say, “You have no other choice, you must go on,” no one did.  Not one single volunteer.  They were willing to inflict, and endure, suffering for what they were led to believe was a worthy cause.  But only when they felt they had control.  The minute they were issued an order, they stopped. . .  No one can be forced to believe.  Belief depends upon the freedom to choose.”

This story really resonates with me.  When told I cannot not drink, smoke, overeat, or whatever other addictive behavior, my ability to remain sober or abstinent is not long-lasting – I will relapse.  I have found that knowing I have a choice to either live into the solution or live into the problem, live into recovery or live into my addiction, or quite simply, choose to live versus committing a slow, or not slow suicide,  has led me to long-term recovery, one day at a time.