I once had to drink three pots of coffee to quit a job.
But I'll get to that in a minute.
Welcome to another Cage Match! Today, it's Rigid vs. Self Disciplined.
In a word, I think the main difference between them is fear. (Damn. That guy is always turning up and ruining everything. I hate that guy!)
I was talking to a sponsee on the phone earlier, and they were observing that they used to do a written 10th Step every night (for the new kids, AA's Step 10 says: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. Many AA's like to do one in writing, often at the end of the day.) When my sponsee did do a nightly Step 10 (in a little journal they'd bought for just that purpose) they felt much better overall. They couldn't pinpoint exactly when they stopped doing this good habit, it just sort of... fell away. This particular sponsee is pretty willing, and it would be fair to say that in many areas of their life they're pretty self disciplined. Funny how sometimes good habits, even for people who are generally self disciplined, can just sort of fall away. (To my mind it may be useful to think about why the good habit falls away, to try to prevent its falling away again, but it's even more useful to pick up the new habit again, and sort out the "falling away" stuff after you're back into action.) Being self disciplined about certain AA tools is a sound practice -- if I do the deal when it's no big deal then I'm already doing the deal when I really need it.
The thing about self discipline is that it has room for mistakes and minor interruptions -- it's got some flexibility. I think this sponsee is easily going to get back into writing their 10th Step at night, because they are moving towards something: In this case that feeling of peace they get when they're really active in working the Steps in their life.
Rigid is a whole other breed of cat. I've been rigid, and while I can sure get busy behind that, it's all about fear. Fear of failure. Fear of not doing what I promised myself I would do. Fear of missing out, fear of screwing up, fear of not achieving the goal. My god, rigid is exhausting.
In fact, I believe that when I'm rigid I'm motivated by fear of failing to achieve a goal and when I'm self disciplined I'm motivated by wanting to achieve that goal.
How does this impact AA, and my sobriety?
Because people who are rigid about their recovery seem more prone to snap, in my observation. If I'm rigid about things I've got a lot of black-and-white thinking going on. I'm closed minded, usually. And I'm living in a lot of fear. I think that is fertile ground for alcoholic thinking to creep in. ("Therefore, the main problem of the alcoholic centers in his mind, rather than his body" "Alcoholics Anonymous", AA's Big Book, pg. 23 Though in the interest of accuracy they're talking more about the curious mental blank spot in that specific passage.)
Self discipline is the long distance runner -- the pace may vary but you keep going.
Speaking for myself -- and in a general way about alcoholics, based on my observation -- rigid is a state alcoholics slide into much more easily than self discipline.
When some sponsees are new to working with me they ask if I want them to call me on the phone every day to "check in". My answer is always the same: "If you like. Call me as much as you need to, it always helps me to get out of myself, and your call will help with that. If you want to make a commitment to yourself to call me every day that's fine, but if you don't, that's ok too."
Here's the rigid part: So then some of them decide in their head to call me every day. Great! Love hearing from them. But then they miss one day -- and then I don't hear from them for a week (unless I call them first, which I usually do, to talk about this very thing). I don't hear from them for a week because, in the alcoholic mind, it goes like this: "I was going to call every day! I missed a day! I ruined it! Now I can't call at all!" (of course that's an oversimplification, but that does seem to represent the logic chain). And that's how being rigid works against us. There's no breathing room with that.
Self discipline is working towards calling every day. If you miss a day you get back to it a lot quicker, because you're trying to call every day, not trying to never-miss-a-day-calling.
OK. Now comes the drinking three pots of coffee to quit a job story.
After I was about ninety days sober I got a second job. So I was working full time in the day, going to a meeting every night, and then working late nights and weekends. It was good that I was so busy, it kept me from thinking a lot. (But I have a very vivid memory of driving from the day job to the night job once, zipping along in my poor, battered alcoholic car, thinking about how -- at the time -- it had been months since I'd woken up with a hangover -- and prior to that it was probably ten years of waking up with a hangover every single day -- and just being so amazed and overjoyed by that fact I got choked up.)
While this was a great schedule for a while, I couldn't keep it up indefinitely, and eventually I had to give notice at the night job. Except the guy I worked for was a powerful, difficult personality. And at that time I didn't have the skills or tools or experience to be able to stand up to someone like that -- so I kept trying to give my notice and the conversation would always kind of just... go south.
Finally, I'd had it, and although it wasn't premeditated, I spent the afternoon drinking cup after cup of coffee (three pots worth -- no, really), working myself up into a caffeine-fueled frenzy. I exploded into work, and had this crazy, intense, over-the-top conversation -- practically picking a fight, just so I could work up to having enough momentum to give my notice and finally quit. (Later, when I told my sponsor about the whole thing, he observed that it takes more rocket fuel to launch than it does to fly. Took me a while to get that.)
I think sometimes that applies when it comes to being self disciplined. Sometimes I have to be really rigid first -- really get super crazy intense and put the no matter what! around something for me to get in forward motion. Then, eventually (hopefully) I can downshift from the intensity of being rigid and kind of hit my stride with self discipline.
Sometimes it takes more rocket fuel to launch than it does to fly.
Of course praying helps a lot, too, on this.