"I've got to stop auctioning myself off to the low bidder."
When we are ashamed of ourselves, we listen to those who criticize us, because we fear that they are right.Those who have a negative, resentful spirit are usually willing to share their negativity with us.
If we “auction ourselves off” to these “low bidders”, their negative spiritual state will rub off on us, and pull us down to a level at which using alcohol and other drugs seems reasonable.
The Twelve Step programs have always noticed this, and urge the newcomer to "stick with the winners." In recovery, we can stop listening to those who tear us down, and deliberately give our time and attention to people who show signs of being happy, joyous, and free. We can also challenge ourselves when we ruminate on the depressing and distressing ideas that the “low bidders” offer us.
One meaning of “low bidders” is those who are sicker than we are. Another meaning of “low bidders” is people who are reflexively critical. That is, they automatically find fault with us and others, just out of habit.
As we recover, "low bidders" will step forward to tell us we're doing it wrong. They will tell us that we don't need so many meetings, or that they liked us better when we were drunk, drugged, or in denial. They call us selfish, bribe us to return to old ways, shame us for keeping the focus on ourselves, criticize us, or try to stir up doubt.
One person at a meeting recently talked about how hard it was to put down the drugs and take up a clean and sober lifestyle with "the committee of idiots" living in his head. Most of us have heard from that committee. The committee of idiots speaks in the language of hostility and contempt: "Why don't you ever...? How come you never...? How many times do I have to tell you...? When will you grow up? You ought to be ashamed of yourself! Why can't you just be normal?"
In adult children of alcoholics and in abuse survivors, the "low bidders" often appear in the form of worriers. Because our life experiences are so confusing, the brain has a hard time distinguishing between hostile, indifferent, and loving input. Thus serenity and worry, fear and trust, confidence and confusion all enter the mind as equally valid. With this confused background, it's natural to grab on to the strongest messages coming in, and those are often the most critical.
As we change, we follow our program's advice to "stick with the winners." The winners are those who are taking on the new way of life that these programs offer.
The AA big book suggests that we pray each morning that God will direct our thinking, especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest, or self-seeking motives. (p.86) If we release our own dishonesty, self-seeking, and self-pity, we will also let go of dishonest, self-seeking, and self-pitying people. Our thought life will be placed on a much higher plane, once we’re giving ourselves to a Higher Power and this simple program.
John MacDougall is the Spiritual Care Coordinator at The Retreat. His book, “Being Sober and Becoming Happy” is available from Amazon.com.