Taking it on the Chin in Recovery


In another lifetime, I lived in New York and worked for a now defunct company called American Legal Systems. My title was VP of Sales and Marketing, a job that consisted of overseeing the sale of multi-million dollar litigation support projects and then, when they inevitably went tits up, explaining to a room full of litigators, why the project was late, over budget and not working in the seamless way we had promised.

There is nothing quite like sitting at the foot of a thirty foot conference table with the most cruelly articulate people in the country, explaining a line item for lunch at Four Seasons (a congratulatory celebration we threw for ourselves for getting the big sale) to separate the women from the girls…

I remember one meeting in particular because the gentleman conducting the interrogation was one of the nicest guys I had ever worked with. Surprisingly sweet for someone who made a tidy living arguing big dollar insurance litigation. I vividly recall this meeting, because we had a good working relationship and somewhere in the middle of the pile of Change Orders he had stacked in front of him, he snapped. I just sat there and took his vitriolic rant, because he was right – we were a bunch of “pissant, no-talent hacks and pick pockets.” It is certainly one of the reasons I resigned from the company and the main reason they went belly up soon thereafter – we were good at selling the concept, but lousy at following through…

There is a fine art to taking it on the chin. To actually listening when you are being scolded instead of formulating the answer or excuse you plan to use when the diatribe ceases. In recovery, there are times when loved ones feel the need to remind you of how horrible you were while you were drinking. It always begins with, “God – remember the time…” and it’s tough to listen without feeling hurt, embarrassed, turning off, preparing your answer or getting angry in return.

But there is much to learn from these trips down memory lane.

DARA Thailand’s excellent blog post, Learning to Listen in Recovery reminds us that we learn to talk a lot in treatment and in recovery, but listening is every bit as important. Unbiased listening helps us to uncover the things we should be working on – both within ourselves and in our relationships with others.

I am all for listening without bias. I am all for getting the issues out in the open, dealing with them and putting the negatives of the past behind us. I am also against belaboring. I think it is valid to listen – really listen – and then at some point it is fair to say, “OKAY. I get it. I was a total shit. Now can we talk about something else?”

Today I’m not drinking because I am listening without bias…

How come you’re not drinking?