One of the driving forces for me as a therapist is that I’ve been there. It’s one thing for someone to say something to try to inspire another individual. But, when the person has an outsider’s perspective, it can be difficult to reach beyond the mask that most of us put up for the world to see. This blog post is my own life-altering event. It is a very raw and personal experience that showed me exactly how judgmental and ego-driven I had become, and how one defining moment opened my eyes and deflated my self-created and self-righteous view of how important I thought I was.
This particular story starts when I was 6-months clean and sober. As most people who hit the bottom, I went through the process for clean living. I ended up living with my mother, and had been going to 12-step meetings.
Naturally, a person with a little bit of knowledge can be extremely dangerous – both to themselves and with others. I was no different.
There was a 12-step meeting on Tuesday afternoons at 1:00 that I normally went to. I had self-inflated my ego to the point that I felt the people in attendance at that particular meeting were so blessed that they had me in attendance. I had actually been clean and sober for 6 months and had all this knowledge about recovery.
So, I show up at this one particular meeting, and I was sitting there thinking rather highly of myself. The day’s topic came around – how to maintain a contact and a bond with the higher power in your life. I thought to myself, how blessed those people were to have me in their presence. I would share with them my great wisdom. They would be so glad that I was there to inspire them – to show them the way.
While I was waiting for my opportunity to speak, this person comes in. I recall thinking how much better I was than him. I though how it looked like they drug the river for the guy. He was dirty. He had a dirty sweater on. He hadn’t shaved. And, I was thinking to myself that he came in there just to get some coffee or a doughnut. I even recall thinking that he didn’t have a dollar to put in the basket like I did. And, I was sitting back, feeling pretty smug – feeling pretty doggone good about myself, that I was at a higher stage in life than this particular person.
I couldn’t wait until it came to my turn to share, because I was going to bedazzle the folks at the meeting. And, when it was finally my turn and I talked – in my own warped, ego-driven mind, I thought that I had said words that would make Shakespeare weep with shame. Then, I returned to my seat. And, I sat there all smug, and smiled.
Then it came to his turn. To this day, I truly wish that I would have recorded what he said. He spoke about a bond and a connection with this higher power that – it still gets me emotional – that it was beautiful. For the first time, I realized it was more than me. I was so moved by this man’s words I got up from that table after listening to him, and I went into the bathroom, and I wept with shame. I think I wept all the ego out of me. Then I came back a changed man, and sat down for the remainder of the meeting.
At the end of the meeting I went up to this person and put my hand on his shoulder. I shared with him exactly what I thought of him when he walked in. I told him exactly what was going through my mind, and all the horrible assumptions I made. And, this guy put his hand on my shoulder. He looked at me, and he smiled as he said, “I have a wonderful life. I hope you will, too.” And, he walked away.
This guy didn’t have a belt on. He didn’t have socks. He was dirty, and he hadn’t shaved. Even though this was a long time ago – it still strikes me today how that was the day that I started my recovery. The 6 months leading up to that day were filled with my own self-boasted ego. But, that was the day that ego was stripped from me. That was the day the creator put someone in my life to show me, to teach me a lesson – to give me a life lesson. And, that was the defining moment of my life, right there.