I’ve never actually kicked a goose — or punched a cat, for that matter — but boy, have I fantasized about it.
…The geese-kicking, not the cat-punching. What I mean to say is, I don’t have anything against animals in general, but I really hate geese.
I forgot how much until I started (occasionally) running again on the Delaware Canal towpath, which is a wonderful place except that it’s basically one long, narrow, winding outhouse for worthless water fowl. This morning I was out there trying to log a few miles before assuming my groove on the couch for the weekend, and sure enough, when I wasn’t zig-zagging to avoid stepping in their shit, I was yelling out loud at a gaggle of them to GTFO and stop just standing there for no reason and blocking the trail. My actual words were, “MOVE, YOU MOTHERF*CKERS!” and when they didn’t immediately comply, the idea of kicking them (briefly) occurred to me.
Maybe you can see why I chose the topic I did for this post, and why I relate so much to the attached “Simpsons” clip (it’s funny because it’s true!) It’s become very clear to me since I swore off my drug of choice 216 days ago and no longer have booze to numb out my innate emotional intensity, that I, unfortunately, am an angry girl.
I’ve heard it said that recovery from addiction is like playing Whack-a-Mole, because just when you think you’ve made progress dealing with one issue, another one pops up. I absolutely agree with that assessment, and while there are many “moles” manifesting themselves in my sobriety, this one is taunting me most at this very moment:
Apparently, I have I subbed out alcohol for (*checks Simpsons glossary for official spelling*) rageahol.
I would say one of my absolute biggest pet peeves about living in a society is people who drive too slow. Few things trigger the losing of my shit quite like ass-draggers out on the road. Since I took a job that requires commuting twice a day at peak travel times, suffice to say a lot of shit has been lost over the past year.
I’m not proud of this. In fact, I understand how stupid and pointless road rage really is, and I do actually try to keep it from blazing whenever it ignites. And yet I find myself in the middle of a bonfire EVERY TIME.
I’ve been involved in a couple of road rage incidents in my 41 years, but never was I the actual outward aggressor. No, my freak-outs either took the form of profane tirades within the confines of my own car, or just really bad physical discomfort that exploded inside of me but never breached the surface of my body.
It actually hurts, feeling that anger and having nowhere to put it. I’m not actually an aggressive person in the sense that I have the desire to fight with fists — or feet. I internalize the aggression, and it ultimately poisons me, and that poison infects my interactions with the world around me. This is why Dr. Melfi’s line in “The Sopranos” that “depression is rage turned inward” always resonated with me, as did the entire storyline where Janice goes to anger management classes and they talk about what’s really going on when folks get to sipping on the rageahol.
The leader of Janice’s group explains it perfectly: Rage is what happens to control freaks in situations they cannot control.
Anger, like all negative emotions, only really hurts the angry person. This becomes very clear when you observe other people’s road rage. For example, I’ll never forget the time several years ago, when some dude stopped in the middle of Swamp Road and threw a half-full Slurpee out his window back at me because (I guess) he thought I was tailgating him (he was going like 15 mph, so…) It startled me, but it didn’t hit my car, and he wasted a perfectly good beverage. How miserable must a person be to chuck trash at strangers?
Earlier this week, I drove in front of someone laying on their horn and flashing their brights for literally five minutes because they thought I’d cut them off when the road narrowed from two lanes to one. I mean, maybe that hurt the people who were asleep in the homes we passed at 6:15 AM, but mostly it just made the horn-blower look like an idiot/lunatic.
Of course, I am just as big an idiotic lunatic when it comes to getting worked up about shit I can’t control. Road rage is only one example; we don’t have enough time to go into all of them. If you’ve ever been around me for a few minutes, you’ve probably seen the principle at work (sheepish grin.)
Just because I don’t always throw an outward fit — or throw objects — when I’m irritated doesn’t make me any less in need of behavioral change. Rage isn’t healthy. It can be dangerous. Not dealing with it when you know it’s a problem would be no different than continuing to drink when it’s clear the drink is destroying your life.
The cool thing about a 12-step recovery program is that only one of the steps is about the addiction. The other 11 are tools for living, and can be applied — if one chooses to apply them — to the process of becoming a peaceful, useful agent of change for better in the world.
So, in theory, I can continue to work this program and become less angry, less anxious, less gluttonous…less f*cked-up, I guess, is the long and short of it.
Hell, you don’t even really need 12 steps. The whole blueprint for inner peace is right there in The Serenity Prayer, right? It’s so simple! Accept what you can’t change (anything outside yourself , including people AND animals), change what you can (how you react to those things/let them affect you), and in every situation, recognize which is which (see parenthetical comments above).
Of course, there’s also the part about serenity requiring a person to have strength, courage and wisdom, which is a pretty tough trifecta to pull off — at least for me. But I suppose that’s why it’s a prayer.
Another thing the 12 steps teaches you is that once you admit you’re powerless over something and your shit has become unmanageable — I’m going to say “yelling expletives at geese at 7:30 AM on a sunny Saturday while on a jog through nature” qualifies as an anger management issue — asking for help from a higher power is pretty much your only hope. 😉