Alcoholic or not, drug addict or not, a resentment, especially a long-term resentment, serves no productive purpose. The only task this bitter bastard child of hatred and fear ever accomplishes is to blacken hearts and erode souls.
I’ve been told time and again by those who have walked the path of recovery before me that holding on to a resentment will likely cause me to drink and or get high. I am grateful that has not been the case – yet. I have, however, found myself strongly holding onto certain resentments for so long a time that they have become a part of me; they only surface when I am reminded. The problem is that when they do arise, I experience such a nauseating, gut-wrenching sensation that spreads to the tips of my toes, the ends of my fingers and to the top of my head.
A particular resentment to which I allowed to fester for nearly a decade was the one I held against Cirque du Soleil.
In 2003, Cirque terminated the employment of Matthew Cusick, a performer with an HIV+ status. According to Cusick’s own website, “The company maintained that due to his medical condition, he could pose a risk of harm to both fellow performers and the audience.” To make the matter more frustrating was that the Bay Area Reporter’s Jim Provenzano wrote on November 13, 2003 that, according to the Cusick, the production company was aware of his HIV status from the day of his first medical screening for the job.
Eventually, Cirque du Soleil agreed to pay Cusick $600,000 for disability discrimination. An April 22, 2004 press release from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also explains, “In addition to the monetary payment to Mr. Cusick, the negotiated settlement requires Cirque du Soleil to appoint an equal employment opportunity officer to oversee the annual training of its employees on the laws enforced by the EEOC, with an emphasis on HIV/disability discrimination, and to post a Notice in its workplace about the resolution of the case.”
In these past nine years, whenever I’ve been asked to go to a Cirque show – even when the tickets were being freely given to me – I refused to go. I would get on my little soapbox and proclaim how reprehensible it was for Cirque to fire someone simply for having HIV. I vowed I would never attend a Cirque show until I the day when I saw them publicly announce that they were wrong.
Admittedly, I did not know about the settlement until shortly before writing this post; people had told me that they believed Cirque had made a monetary settlement with the fired performer, but they were never sure of the details. My response was always the same, “I’m sure whatever it was wasn’t enough!”
I was so angry that whenever a television advertisement would run promoting their upcoming show, I would immediately switch channels. I would put down any magazine which I happened to be reading if it contained a print ad. If I had to eat in a restaurant that displayed a Cirque poster, I would make sure my back was to the art. If a café played a CD from one of the shows, I would shut down my laptop and leave. Needless to say, I was holding on to a lot of hatred for an event that had nothing to do with me.
I was watching this year’s Academy Award show unaware that Cirque du Soleil was scheduled to perform. When they appeared on my television screen, I felt a burning hatred that I do not ever remember feeling prior to that point in my life. I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry. I wanted to throw a brick through the picture. My stomach felt as if it was going to spit out every ounce of food I had eaten that day.
It was in the middle of that performance that I finally realized that it was not Cirque du Soleil, or even what they did in 2003, that was causing such a negative reaction in my body. It was me. I had spend all these years convincing myself that that I had to hate the production company that my response had become Pavlovian. It was that realization that forced me to understand that if I did not let go of this self-sickening resentment, the response was only going to get worse – maybe even leading to a drink or a drug. It was at the moment of that understanding that I simply decided that I was no longer going to hold a resentment against Cirque du Soleil.
It was that simple. All I had to do was decide not to hate.
I no longer hate an organization that has done nothing to me.
I can watch their commercials without wanting to scream. I can see a print ad without wanting to cry. I can eat a meal facing a poster without wanting to vomit. I can live my life and let everyone involved with Cirque live theirs. In fact, I have even decided that I want to see their current show now playing in San Jose, California. If I don’t get to that one, I will most certainly see one of their shows the next time I am in Las Vegas, Nevada!
The most exciting thing about being able to move on from this particular resentment is that it was the most intense and visceral one left. So, if I can let go of something that strong, I see no reason why the others which are still within me won’t soon also be a part of my angry history rather than a part of my happy, joyous and free present and future!.