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The Promises

In recent years it has become popular to read the "Promises" (read them here) in A.A. meetings. At first I was opposed to this because there is almost never any mention of these promises being a result of working step 9, that a great many other "Promises" have to come to pass before these are even possible, or that these promises are actually a part of the greater Spiritual Experience talked about in step 12. And of course, the newcomer has little, if any, understanding of what the "Promises" mean. As an example: Fear…of economic insecurity will leave us usually gets translated by the newcomer to mean I won’t be poor…LOL. The 4th step teaches us that "fear of economic insecurity" is a character defect that has little or nothing to do with money! So, if you read the "Promises" in reference to your 4th & 5th steps you’ll see that what we are being promised is that many of our character defects will be lifted as a result of working step 9! But, never the less, even if misunderstood, the "Promises" are a message of hope for the newcomer that things will get better, and if nothing else, the A.A. message is one of hope for the newcomer.

So, how does one get these "Promises" to come to pass in one’s life? The simple answer is to work the twelve steps! But, as we will see, there are promises that come with steps 3 through 8 that must come to pass first. If you have missed out on any of these I would suggest that you go back to that step and redo it until that promise comes true for you!

Before we cover steps 3 through 9 lets take a look at steps 1 and 2.

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

The first four chapters of the Big Book and the Doctors Opinion are about steps 1 & 2, and are meant to bring the reader to accept three ideas about themselves AND one decision about their life. The three ideas are:

  • That we were alcoholic and could not manage our own lives.
  • That probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism.
  • That God could and would if He were sought.

No alcoholic can proceed with the steps and hope for ANY of the promises to come true until he comes to accept these truths about himself. Bill W. went as far to say in the original manuscript (found here) of "How it Works",

"If you are not convinced on these vital issues, you ought to re-read the book to this point or else throw it away!"

Then the alcoholic must make a decision about his life:

"Being convinced, we were at Step Three, which is that we decided to turn our will and our life over to God as we understood Him. Just what do we mean by that, and just what do we do?

The first requirement is that we be convinced that any life run on self-will can hardly be a success. (Underline added) On that basis we are almost always in collision with something or somebody, even though our motives are good. Most people try to live by self-propulsion. Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way. If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great. Everybody, including himself, would be pleased. Life would be wonderful. In trying to make these arrangements our actor may sometimes be quite virtuous. He may be kind, considerate, patient, generous; even modest and self-sacrificing. On the other hand, he may be mean, egotistical, selfish and dishonest. But, as with most humans, he is more likely to have varied traits." (Alcoholics Anonymous "How it Works")

If the alcoholic has reached this state of mind, accepted the three ideas about himself and has made this decision about his life, he is ready to experience the "Promises" of steps 3 through 12! You may ask, "Can I work the steps even if I haven’t completely bought into these ideas?" Well, many people have and have gotten something from it. Each of the steps (3 through 12) have at their foundation spiritual principles. Any attempt at living life based on these principles will bare fruit. But, if what you are longing for is the "Promises" of step 9 to come true you will have to back up to steps 1 & 2 and become convinced! (OR if you are convinced and have worked the steps without the 9th step "Promises" coming true, you will need to back up to the step where you missed its "promise")

Ok, lets stop here for a moment. You find yourself unconvinced of these ideas and can not make this decision, what to do? How do you "work" steps 1 & 2? The ONLY definitive answer to that question found in all of our literature comes from the 12 & 12: "Try some more controlled drinking", I know that sounds harsh, but it is effective! Truth is though, rarely have I found it necessary to give that suggestion to anyone (but I have). What I usually suggest is that you re-read the Big Book (first 4 chapters), read the stories found in the back of the Big Book, and attend lots of speaker meetings. I have seen this work for most folks, but if all else fails and you are still unconvinced then by all means go drink. If that doesn’t convince you, nothing will…LOL.

Now, for the promises. As I cover these I will not try to explain how to work these steps. There are very clear and simple directions for each of them in the Big Book and hopefully you have a sponsor who can help you with them as needed. And, I will not cover all of the promises, just the ones I consider necessary for the "Promises" of step 9 to come to pass. (If you, dear reader, feel that I have left something out, please leave me a comment and I will amend this posting to include it).

Step 3

Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Many of us said to our Maker, as we understood Him: "God, I offer myself to Thee — to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always!" We thought well before taking this step making sure we were ready; that we could at last abandon ourselves utterly to Him. (Underline added, Alcoholics Anonymous "How it Works")

Step 3 Promise

When we sincerely took such a position, all sorts of remarkable things followed. We had a new Employer. Being all powerful, He provided what we needed, if we kept close to Him and performed His work well. Established on such a footing we became less and less interested in ourselves, our own little plans and designs. More and more we became interested in seeing what we could contribute to life. As we felt new power flow in, as we enjoyed peace of mind, as we discovered we could face life successfully, as we became conscious of His presence, we began to lose our fear of today, tomorrow or the hereafter. We were reborn. (Underline added, Alcoholics Anonymous "How it Works")

Step 4

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Next we launched out on a course of vigorous action, the first step of which is a personal housecleaning, which many of us had never attempted. Though our decision was a vital and crucial step, it could have little permanent effect unless at once followed by a strenuous effort to face, and to be rid of, the things in ourselves which had been blocking us. Our liquor was but a symptom. So we had to get down to causes and conditions. (Underline added, Alcoholics Anonymous "How it Works")

Step 4 Promises

We avoid retaliation or argument. We wouldn’t treat sick people that way. If we do, we destroy our chance of being helpful. We cannot be helpful to all people, but at least God will show us how to take a kindly and tolerant view of each and every one.

Just to the extent that we do as we think He would have us, and humbly rely on Him, does He enable us to match calamity with serenity.

We ask Him to remove our fear and direct our attention to what He would have us be. At once, we commence to outgrow fear.

We have listed and analyzed our resentments. We have begun to comprehend their futility and their fatality. We have commenced to see their terrible destructiveness. We have begun to learn tolerance, patience and good will toward all men, even our enemies, for we look on them as sick people.

We hope you are convinced now that God can remove whatever self-will has blocked you off from Him.

(Underline added, Alcoholics Anonymous "How it Works")

Steps 5-7

Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

There is a solution. Almost none of us liked the self-searching, the leveling of our pride, the confession of shortcomings which the process requires for its successful consummation. But we saw that it really worked in others, and we had come to believe in the hopelessness and futility of life as we had been living it. (Underline added, Alcoholics Anonymous "There is a Solution")

Step 5-7 Promise

Once we have taken this step, withholding nothing, we are delighted. We can look the world in the eye. We can be alone at perfect peace and ease. Our fears fall from us. We begin to feel the nearness of our Creator. We may have had certain spiritual beliefs, but now we begin to have a spiritual experience. The feeling that the drink problem has disappeared will often come strongly. We feel we are on the Broad Highway, walking hand in hand with the Spirit of the Universe. (Alcoholics Anonymous "Into Action")

(Note: this promise does not say maybe this will happen or sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, it says Once we have taken this step, withholding nothing…)

In my mind steps 5 through 7 always go together since the working of these steps is done at the same time (at least according to the Big Book). I believe that many miss out on this "Promise" by separating these steps by days or weeks. I also believe that this "Promise" is the most important one and that if you miss out on this one the rest of the steps will have little to no effect on you or your life. With the exception that helping another alcoholic WILL keep you sober, you will just be miserable! If you have missed out on this promise I would strongly suggest that you go back and do another 4th step, then work steps 5-7 on the same day as outlined in the Big Book! Repeat this process until this promise comes true for you! Don’t give up, it will come!

Side note: Over the years I have seen many who missed out on this promise try to replace it with religion. Please don’t get me wrong, I am a strong believer in religion. I consider myself a Christian and served as a deacon in my church for 5 years. The Big Book suggests that we return to our various religions, especially since we will have so much to offer in light of having had this 5th step Spiritual Experience. What I’m talking about is the person who tries to replace walking hand in hand with the Spirit of the Universe with rituals, liturgies, works and prayers written by others. Not to say that any of these things are bad in and of themselves. Even the Big Book says Faith with out works is dead, but they are not a replacement for faith. And even though these things can add to the spiritual experience found in steps 5-7, they will not bring about the spiritual experience. (At least I have never known an alcoholic to get it that way, else church would have worked for many of us long before ever coming to A.A.)

Steps 8 & 9

  • Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  • Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  • Now we need more action, without which we find that "Faith without works is dead." Let’s look at Steps Eight and Nine. We have a list of all persons we have harmed and to whom we are willing to make amends. We made it when we took inventory. We subjected ourselves to a drastic self-appraisal. Now we go out to our fellows and repair the damage done in the past. We attempt to sweep away the debris which has accumulated out of our effort to live on self-will and run the show ourselves. If we haven’t the will to do this, we ask until it comes. (Underline added, Alcoholics Anonymous "Into Action")

    Our behavior will convince them more than our words. We must remember that ten or twenty years of drunkenness would make a skeptic out of anyone. (Alcoholics Anonymous "Into Action")

    Steps 8 & 9 Promises

    If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. (Underline added, Alcoholics Anonymous "Into Action")

    Again, I cover steps 8 & 9 together because the Big Book does as well. As I said earlier, I believe that these "Promises" are the result of the work done earlier in the steps as well as steps 8 & 9 and are the culmination of the earlier promises. That these promises are the final touches on the Spiritual Experience that came with steps 5-7.

    Step 10

    Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

    We vigorously commenced this way of living as we cleaned up the past. We have entered the world of the Spirit. Our next function is to grow in understanding and effectiveness. This is not an overnight matter. It should continue for our lifetime. Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear. When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them. We discuss them with someone immediately and make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone. Then we resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help. Love and tolerance of others is our code. (Underline added, Alcoholics Anonymous "Into Action")

    Step 10 Promise

    And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone, even alcohol. For by this time sanity will have returned. We will seldom be interested in liquor. If tempted, we recoil from it as from a hot flame. We react sanely and normally, and we will find that this has happened automatically. We will see that our new attitude toward liquor has been given us without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it. We are not fighting it, neither are we avoiding temptation. We feel as though we had been placed in a position of neutrality safe and protected. We have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for us. We are neither cocky nor are we afraid. That is how we react so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition. (Underline added, Alcoholics Anonymous "Into Action")

    I threw this one in as a bonus…LOL. But, really, I believe that this promise is the benchmark for all the rest of the promises. If this one has not come true for you, something vital is missing in your program. Please go back through the steps and see what might be missing. The answers are there and will come to you if you work for them, that’s a Promise!

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    Thanks!

    God will constantly disclose more to you and to us. Ask Him in your morning meditation what you can do each day for the man who is still sick. The answers will come, if your own house is in order. But obviously you cannot transmit something you haven’t got. See to it that your relationship with Him is right, and great events will come to pass for you and countless others. This is the Great Fact for us.

    Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit your faults to Him and to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.

    Just want to say thanks to all my friends, sponsees, grand sponsees, my sponsor and of course God for all the understanding and support that I have gotten the past couple of weeks!  God has brought about great miracles in my life recently. Equally as amazing has been the love of all those close to me. Times of transition have always been scary for me (typical alcoholic thinking I guess…LOL)

    We’re not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be!

    Again, thanks to all for making it easier to transition forward!

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    Recuperation vs. Recovery

    An alcoholic, at the termination of a long and painful spree, decides that he has had enough. This decision is announced loudly and vehemently to all who will listen. His sincerity cannot be questioned. He means every word of it. Yet he knows, and so do those who hear him, that he will be singing another tune before many weeks have elapsed. For the moment he seems to have accepted his alcoholism but it is only with a skin-deep assurance. He will certainly revert to drinking. What we see here is compliance in action. During the time when his memory of the suffering entailed by a spree is acute and painful he agrees to anything and everything. But deep inside, in his unconscious, the best he can do is to comply — which means that, when the reality of his drinking problem becomes undeniable, he no longer argues with incontrovertible facts. The fight, so to speak, has been knocked out of him. As time passes and the memory of his suffering weakens, the need for compliance lessens. As the need diminishes, the half of compliance which never really accepted begins to stir once more and soon resumes its way. The need for accepting the illness of alcoholism is ignored because, after all, deep inside he really did not mean it, he had only complied. Of course consciously the victim of all this is completely in the dark. What he gets is messages from below which slowly bring about a change in conscious attitudes. For a while drink was anathema but now he begins to toy with the thought of one drink, and so on, until finally, as the non-cooperative element in compliance takes over, he has his first drink. The other half of compliance has won out; the alcoholic is the unwitting victim of his unconscious inclinations.

    Dr. Harry M. Tiebout, A.A. Trustee from 1957 to 1966, and was chairman of the National Council on Alcoholism in 1950


    Over the years I have seen thousands of alcoholics of the type Dr Tiebout describes in this passage. They come into A.A. with strong convictions to stop drinking, but you can see it in their eyes and hear it in their voice, all they really want is the memory of the horror of their last spree to go away. We who have found recovery know that unless they do too, they will drink again and that the next spree for them will be even worse! But, you can’t convince them they need "recovery". When the memory of the spree is fresh in their minds, they think that is all the motivation they need. And with a little "support" from A.A. they are sure that they will never drink again! Attend a few meetings and cling to the memory of the "last drink". LOL, how many of us in recovery felt this exact way many times!? Always drinking again (some times over and over) until we finally surrendered to the fact that we would need so much more than willpower and "support" to quit drinking!

    In my early recovery I hated working with this type of alcoholic. At the time, it seemed pointless. Everyone knew that they would drink again, probably within a few weeks. At each meeting they attended you could see the memory of their last spree leaving them, thus the motivation for not drinking fade as well. We alcoholics seem to have a built in "forgetter". If we had to rely on memory to stay sober we’d be doomed…LOL! Any way, I actually enjoy working with these folks now. I have found that if I can teach them enough about the disease of alcoholism before they drink again, John Barleycorn will teach them the rest and they will be back, much more likely to surrender!

    In recent years I seen the rise of a type of alcoholic that is like the one described above, thinks willpower and support are all that are needed to stay sober, but differs in motivation. This type wants to simply recuperate from the effects of alcoholism. Simply put, he wants the "bad" things in his life to stop AND for "good" things to start happening. Of course this sounds good and is the very reason many of us come to A.A. in the first place. Few us come to A.A. to find "recovery", fellowship, God, or to become better human beings…LOL. The problem for the alcoholic that is simply recuperating is that even though he hears all about what is needed to "recover" from alcoholism, he takes as proof the fact that bad things have stopped and good things are happening that all he needs is willpower and support to stay sober.

    The sad part is that merely stopping drinking will bring this about in the life of any alcoholic. You don’t need A.A., God, the Fellowship, the Big Book, a sponsor, or anything else to make the "bad" things brought about by drinking stop and for good things to start happening. Just stop drinking! In fact, every active alcoholic intuitively knows this, that’s why they stop! (From time to time)

    Unfortunately, there are many in A.A that will give the "program" and attending meetings the credit for this turn of events in this alcoholic’s life. And they will point to the "good" things happening in this alcoholic’s life as proof that they are working a "program"! Of course the real problem is that "not drinking" is the real explanation for the events in this alcoholic’s life and unless they actually do work the program (ALL of the twelve steps) they will drink again.

    There is a solution. Almost none of us liked the self- searching, the leveling of our pride, the confession of shortcomings which the process requires for its successful consummation. But we saw that it really worked in others, and we had come to believe in the hopelessness and futility of life as we had been living it. When, therefore, we were approached by those in whom the problem had been solved, there was nothing left for us but to pick up the simple kit of spiritual tools laid at out feet. We have found much of heaven and we have been rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence of which we had not even dreamed.

    More About Alcoholism (Big Book)

    Unlike the alcoholic discussed earlier, the "recuperating" alcoholic can stay "sober" for months, perhaps up to a couple of years. Pretty much for as long as new "good" things keep happening. But, the time is limited! Sooner or later something "bad" will happen and without a spiritual foundation they will be driven to drink for lack of any other choice. OR because the "good" things are so called because they appeal to self will and pride, thus doomed to disappointment. Leaving an emptiness greater than before quitting drinking, thus again driven to drink for lack of any other choice! OR the hallmark symptom of our disease, "Restless, Irritable and Discontented" kicks in and they (as always) are driven to drink.

    How do you spot this type of alcoholic? He’s been in A.A. more than six months and has not worked steps 4 & 5 yet AND points to the fact that his life is getting "better" as proof that he is working a program. How do you work with this type of alcoholic? I guess in the same way you do with the first type of alcoholic I discussed, try to teach them as much about the disease of alcoholism before they drink again (which they will) and hope John Barleycorn teaches them enough so that when they return they will surrender!.

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    “Suddenly I realized what the matter was. My basic flaw had always been dependence — almost absolute dependence — on people or circumstances to supply me with prestige, security, and the like. Failing to get these things according to my perfectionist dreams and specifications, I had fought for them. And when defeat came, so did my depression.

    There wasn’t a chance of making the outgoing love of St. Francis a workable and joyous way of life until these fatal and almost absolute dependencies were cut away.

    Because I had over the years undergone a little spiritual development, the absolute quality of these frightful dependencies had never before been so starkly revealed. Reinforced by what Grace I could secure in prayer, I found I had to exert every ounce of will and action to cut off these faulty emotional dependencies upon people, upon AA, indeed, upon any set of circumstances whatsoever.

    Then only could I be free to love as Francis had. Emotional and instinctual satisfactions, I saw, were really the extra dividends of having love, offering love, and expressing a love appropriate to each relation of life.

    Plainly, I could not avail myself of God’s love until I was able to offer it back to Him by loving others as He would have me. And I couldn’t possibly do that so long as I was victimized by false dependencies.”

    (Grapevine, January, Bill W.  1958) Full Article Here

    This article has a great impact on me over the years. I first read it early in my sobriety when the book “Language of the Heart” was published. Of course back then I had little understanding of its implications for my life. At that time the only thing I could depend on for anything like “prestige, security, and the like” was A.A. its self. And fortunately, the oldtimers back then made sure that I didn’t depend on A.A. too much…LOL. And “Those adolescent urges that so many of us have for top approval, perfect security, and perfect romance…” had long past before coming into recovery.

    The early years of recovery were like a fairy tale. Things I never dared dream of came true; higher education, career, family, deacon in a church, recognized member of the community, sponsoring lots of people, starting meetings, DCM, etc. Without realizing it, I had worked very hard to build the perfectionist dream the article talks about. For a time it seemed that I had achieved it AND that it would last forever!

    But, alas, it all fell apart. The details of how all this came about will be discussed in another posting. Suffice it to say, it was about 50-50 between circumstances beyond my control and character defects that I had yet to recognize and work on. As my world fell apart I fell into a deep depression. It was at this time I picked up this article again. I must have read it a hundred times (along with the St Francis Prayer). As Bill W. said, I knew the answer was in that prayer, and that the action was to break those dependencies. But how? Once again, the answer was lost to me.

    In the years that followed, the depression worsened. Circumstances and choices I made (which still seem right to me) pushed the hope of regaining that perfectionist dream ever farther away. Which I realize now, was the source of my depression. But, at the time, I could not see that. What I saw, was that my life (God) was conspiring to make me give up on all the things that I had thought would bring happiness! In fact, I came to believe that personal happiness (at least for me) was to be given up. During these years of depression, I threw myself into service to family, A.A., sponsees, etc. I gave up on career, friends, romance, prestige, security, etc. For this is how I came to interpret the St Francis prayer.  Had not St Francis himself given up great wealth, prestige, and romance to pursue a life of service to God and his fellow man? And, “It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life” surely meant that happiness was to be only found then.

    One thing that I did learn during this period is that service to others, regardless of the motive, is rewarding! So rewarding in fact, that it made the depression manageable and kept the thoughts of suicide at bay. I know from my own experience, that no matter how bad things are, helping another alcoholic/family member/stranger will keep you sober and alive for at least that day! As Bill W. notes in the 12&12 two-stepping can carry you for a long time. But, as he also notes, it is not a life filled with happiness and joy.

    I have heard it said that normal people can think themselves into right actions. I suppose this is the theory behind “Positive Thinking”, and that positive affirmations can change peoples lives. But, it has been my experience, and from what I have seen in other alcoholics, that we have to do the opposite! I have to act my way into right thinking! After years of being of service to others simply because it was the right way to act, the thinking slowly started to catch up. I realized that being of service to others was an act of love to them. Whether or not I felt that love, they did. And, if they accepted that love, they were then open to receive an even greater love from God! A Love that had the power to change them. By simply doing the right thing, I was a “channel of God’s peace“. At first this realization was a bit disturbing. If God was using me to offer His love to others AND was changing their lives, what about me? I don’t know if it could be called a spiritual awaking, but it dawned on me that I must have had God’s love along. Surely I could not give away what I did not have, and I had seen too many lives transformed before my very eyes to doubt. A quick survey of my life made me see that God had supplied all my needs in spite of me…LOL, and that His love had flowed through me the whole time!

    This awaking opened the door to incredible things. Willing and eager sponsees flocked to me. (Several of these sponsees others had given up on entirely, but they worked the steps and started sponsoring others!) My home group grew and went through a wonderful transformation, eagerly reaching out to the newcomer. Miracles became the order of the day for many! It was an amazing time. My depression was nearly lifted (though not entirely removed). And, of course I basked in the “The sunlight of the Spirit”.

    I wish at this point I could say, “Then, I lived happily ever after!”…LOL. But, such is not the case because there was still an issue yet unresolved. “Those adolescent urges that so many of us have for top approval, perfect security, and perfect romance…” returned with a vengeance and with them my depression returned with a vengeance as well! “My God, how painful it is to keep demanding the impossible, and how very painful to discover finally, that all along we have had the cart before the horse! Then comes the final agony of seeing how awfully wrong we have been, but still finding ourselves unable to get off the emotional merry-go-round.”

    In my post on the 7th step you can see the beginnings of the work I have done to get off this merry-go-round. The defects I described in recent postings run deep in me, and yet another 4th &5th steps has been needed to get at the heart of my perfectionist dreams. I finally understand what Bill W. meant when he wrote “Reinforced by what Grace I could secure in prayer, I found I had to exert every ounce of will and action to cut off these faulty emotional dependencies upon people, upon AA, indeed, upon any set of circumstances whatsoever.” There is still much work for me to do. My defects and perfectionist dreams have not only hurt me, but all those close to me. Repairing the damage will not be easy. Some friendships are lost for good I fear.

    In the end though, I think I finally understand. “This seems to be the primary healing circuit: an outgoing love of God’s creation and His people, by means of which we avail ourselves of His love for us. It is most clear that the current can’t flow until our paralyzing dependencies are broken, and broken at depth. Only then can we possibly have a glimmer of what adult love really is.”

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    Step 7

    For a variety of reasons that I’ll explain a little later, my sponsor has strongly suggested that I work on step 7 for awhile. For the past few years I have focused on steps 10-12. These steps require a fair amount of work, action, persistence, and willpower. Even though God really does most of the work, these steps (10-12) require participation in the process. I have found comfort in this process because I could actually affect the outcomes, thus feeling less "powerless" in my life!

    In a recent 5th step, and from close friends, I have become aware of some character defects that I have been unaware of. Immediately I began to "work" on these defects using steps 10-12. Though this process heightened my awareness of the depth of these defects, I got little or no relief from them. In fact, in some cases they became worse…LOL. I was really at a loss for why. Steps 10-12 have allowed me to grow in ways I could not have imagined.

    I explained all this to my sponsor and to my surprise he suggested that I focus on step 7. Of course, early in my sobriety I had taken this step often to great affect. But, admittedly, I have neglected this step since then. I do instruct my sponsees to work this step AND see the change that occurs in them as a result. But for me, until my last 5th step, my defects were always the same. I have gotten a great of relief from these (though not entirely removed…LOL), and steps 10-12 have helped me grow in the areas that were relieved. So, doing the 5th, casually working 6-9, and focusing on 10-12 has worked just fine for me.

    As I mentioned before, this process has not worked on my "new" defects (not really new, just couldn’t see them). So when my sponsor suggested the 7th step I was eager to try. I read what the Big Book had to say about step 7 (Here) and what the Basic Text had to say (Here). I was almost disappointed! I was ready do some work! But, as it turns out, the only "work" to be done is to "humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings". This had worked for my alcoholism and addictions. This had worked in the beginning for my very glaring defects (though I always suspected that self preservation had played a part). But could this step actually relieve these defects that had been so ingrained in me that I couldn’t even see them until 19 years in recovery AND many many 4th and 5th steps?

    Happily, the answer seems to be yes! Once I stopped trying to find a way to "work" step 7 and simply became willing to have God to remove these defects and asked Him to do so, I have gotten a great deal of relief (though certainly not removed entirely). As it turns out, only God can do this work in me. Of course the work I can do begins. Repair the damage done to others by my defects and find out how God would have me live a life that is not ruled by these defects.

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