2nd Edition, Revised Material

I Am Always The Common Denominator Of My Life

If you only knew what you were doing to me. If you loved me you wouldn't act this way. Don't you care about me? You are making my life miserable. Sound familiar?

“Oh how I love focusing on you. If you would only stop doing this or that or if you'd start doing this or that, then finally, maybe I'd be happy. Relieved of the responsibility of self, it is so easy to be critical, resentful and dependent on you. If you only knew what you were doing to me. If you loved me, you wouldn't act this way. Don't you care about me? These were my constant thoughts.”
From “Wisdom of the Rooms,” by MichaelZ. Visit: theWisdomoftheRooms.com to sign up for free.

That description from Michael Z was a wonderful description of me, too, while I still drank. I blamed by boss, my ex-wife’s attorney, my second marriage, my over-whelming job – a lot of things were the reason I drank. My vodkas anesthetized my feelings until the alcohol, itself, became the problem. My standard line was: “If you had my life and my bad-luck experiences, you’d drink too."

Early in my recovery program with AA, two learning experiences led me to learn to put down the magnifying glass and start using the mirror. The first was a simple trick of grammar. I learned to stop saying, “If this or that bad thing happened, it caused me to drink.” I learned to reverse that sentence and say, instead, “Bad things happened to me due to bad decisions by me – because I was drinking at the time.”

I learned this by listening to an exchange in an AA meeting early in my sobriety. A guy said that it seemed like a lot of men in the group had done truly awful things when drunk. They had gotten caught, went to jail, got divorces, lost jobs, etc. He went on to say that he couldn’t relate because a lot of those things hadn’t happened to him every time he was drunk. When it was his turn, an old-timer said quite simply, “Stop. Think about it. Maybe you didn’t do stupid things every time you got drunk. But you’ve indicated that every time you got caught doing stupid things, you were drunk.”

After the old-timer shared, I remember thinking to myself – “Wow! Maybe I wasn’t drinking because of all my lousy bad luck. Maybe I was having lousy bad luck because I was drinking.” That realization began to alter my perception of reality and I began to get very much better a lot more quickly. I was able to begin to put down my magnifying glass, which I used to focus on all my lousy bad luck, and began to use my mirror to understand my role and responsibility that contributed to my bad luck.

The second learning experience happened when I was doing my Fifth Step with my sponsor, having completed my “fearless moral inventory,” or Fourth Step. A lot of my inventory had to do with my messed up relationships with my children and with all the significant women with whom I’d had a romantic relationship. As I was going through these failed female relationships, my sponsor asked me to stop and summarize the common denominators of all these women. I thought for a moment and began spewing out a litany of common physical characteristics, common behavior patterns they all seemed to possess, and common issues that kept cropping up. He simply sat there and slowly shook his head. I asked him, “What are you getting at? What do you want me to say?” Again, he just shook his head. Finally, exasperated, I said, “You obviously know the answer. Why don’t you tell me the common denominator?” He smiled and said, “Don, the common denominator of all your failed relationships is you.”


So simple. Although I thought I had learned that lesson and had “moved on” to bigger issues, here it was again. Over the 25 years of my growth in sobriety, that issue has come back to bite me time and time again. If the common denominator is not me but you, if it’s not me but the situation if it’s not me but the event – then I am a perpetual victim because I can never control you, situations, or events. I always will remain at the mercy of someone or something else. It’s a built-in pity pot victim mentality.

A Course in Miracles (ACIM) says in dozens of different ways, “Whatever is bothering me, upsetting me, frightening me, angering me, pleasing me, fulfilling me, satisfying me – remember, it is always an inside job. I am never upset for the reason I think. It is always the end result of my perception of my universe. It is always the result of my thinking.”

I am responsible for my happiness and my well-being. When things aren’t going right, my first reaction, still, is to find fault outside me. But, pretty quickly I can now stop and look instead at my behavior, my attitude, my thinking, my assumptions – all of which play major roles in how I perceive, react, respond, or contribute to the situation. That is to be my focus.

I am always the common denominator of my life and thinking. It’s always about the mirror, not the magnifying glass. When I use the mirror the opportunities to meet the Holy Spirit increase exponentially.

Thanks for listening, and – as always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.

Donald L. O'Dell
October 12, 2023

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