Our weekly Breaking Bad post will be up tomorrow morning, but for now – addiction just can’t be put on hold. A story of resentments, forgiveness, meat-cleavers and self-reflection, from John Z.’s Grace in Addiction:
“Imagine a guy named Gary and another guy named Levar. Gary and Levar are not great friends, but they are – or rather used to be – acquaintances. Now they hate each other.
Here’s what happened. Both Gary and Levar are smokers. One day Gary found himself sitting next to Levar in the library at their college. Gary noticed that Levar had a fresh pack of cigarettes sticking out of an open zipper pocket in his backpack, and since Gary was fresh out of smokes, he asked Levar if he could bum a cigarette. Somewhat surprisingly, Levar said no, mentioning something about how the price of cigarettes had gotten astronomical and he couldn’t afford to spare any. Gary thought this response was ridiculous and stingy. And he didn’t expect it.
After mulling it over for a few minutes, Gary decided that Levar’s answer was so inappropriate that he would not accept it. He decided it would actually be helpful to Levar to experience one slight punitive consequence for his miserliness, even if only the cosmos noticed. While Levar’s back was turned, Gary snuck up behind his chair and slowly reached into Levar’s open backpack, pulling the exposed pack out of the open pocket. At the moment he was removing a single cigarette, Levar sensed something going on just behind him. Levar turned around suddenly, catching Gary in the act of stealing the cigarette, the pack still in his hand.
To the surprise of everyone, Levar screamed out an expletive and pulled out a meat cleaver from the inside of his blazer. In a single swooping motion, the cleaver sliced through Gary’s forearm. Gary’s severed hand fell to the ground, still clutching the pack. Levar had cut off Gary’s hand.
That was five years ago, but understandably, the resentment against Levar was still alive in Gary’s mind. Hatred for Levar seethed in him whenever he looked at the stump that used to be his hand.
Let’s look at Gary’s inventory. When asked about his resentment toward Levar, Gary easily rattles off a list of reasons that justify his hatred. Due to Levar’s disproportionate response to the situation, Gary has felt for years that his anger was well-founded. Nonetheless, that anger was robbing him of peace, and as far as AA was concerned, it was blocking out “the sunlight of the spirit”. To quote an old Taoist sage, Gary’s resentment “is a rock in his stream of consciousness.” Step 4 is designed to help Gary get past his resentment at Levar.
This is what Gary’s inventory looks like:
I’m resentful at: LEVAR
-I didn’t respect his “No” to my request.
-I tried to steal his cigarettes.
-I have been trying to make other people hate Levar, too, by getting them to take my side and by gossiping about him.
-I have not wanted to forgive him.
-Sometimes I don’t like to share either.
-I would be angry too if someone tried to steal from me.
-Smoking is unhealthy and not getting to smoke is not really a bad thing.
With the help of the inventory, Gary finally glimpsed his part in the resentment. Had he not tried to steal a cigarette after he was told he could not have one, he would still have an arm today. Although he found Levar’s stinginess outrageous, he had to admit that he sometimes refuses simple requests himself. With these important insights, Gary learned that he too was to blame for what happened. The long-standing resentment began to lose a little of its steam.
…We are reminded that we are powerless over our anger, and that we need help to be rid of it. In Christian terms, it is a prayer of repentance, and one which therefore opens us to God’s volition. Praying for God to save us from our anger and to show us how we can serve the people we resent soon becomes a regular part of our thought-life – if, that is, we have become honestly convinced of resentment’s futility.”