I'm referring to one of my experiences with the 7th Step of the program of recovery as it is laid out in masterly detail in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. It was not about the conception of God anymore really. That is pretty clear. I have my personal beliefs in a spirit underlying the totality of all things. I'm good. Nobody can talk me out of or around it. This is about the process of surrender to this power that goes back to the beginning with my willingness to put down the booze. Actually a time I didn't think mattered really in light of what was to come next.
The willingness to believe turned commitment to my own sobriety has varied over time from the Heavenly Father, Mother earth and sky, to Quin the Eskimo, and back again and again. It's the process, the willingness to take action I can now see in others who value their own conceptions that may be quite different than my own. I am no longer alone yet have my own beliefs. I am not afraid as there is nothing to defend, nothing to steal.
It's the willingness that binds us. The willingness to give freely. The freedom from self centered fear. We can be vulnerable, we can take a risk with the emotional security offered through our willingness. I begin to live in the new world as if born again into the old. Step 7 is my second chance at life. The whole new pair of glasses thing. It's all just not about me anymore and well? I am relieved..
The Big Book Step 7 is short reading. I can assume it is also short in understanding. Limited in it's content. It isn't, there's a lot there. It just appeared that way as I still remained at times under a heavy fog of new found recovery. Unable to grasp the magnitude of the Big Book 12 Step process. It is a summary of my sobriety to this 12 Step halfway point with questions like, reviewing the first five proposals is my work solid so far? Yes. Am I cutting corners with my own selfish arrangements? No. Am I in fear of losing my emotional security if I let go of people or emotional enablers? Sort of still so I pray for willingness.. Are their any obvious half measures? No. Am I making mortar without sand, forcing my way through this whole 12 Step thing? No. Am I willing to serve my God and fellows who may or may not be suffering. Yes. This is who I am now, this is my purpose. My willingness is strong. The Book says it's indispensable and I agree. I see it now. The willingness is indispensable. I get it..
Now Steps 8 and 9. I will need room to move if I am to serve this purpose so it's time to clear up my street. I am sober yes and willing yes but still outside my AA safety net is a world of selfish bondage that chokes me, limits my movement. But I have seen myself in my 4th. It was me mostly. I am accountable.
Me caught over and over in my own self imposed crisis I could not evade, so I run. I must be sure not to keep running now. It would be easy to scoff. Expecting to hide behind my new singleness of purpose where I'm alcoholic and want to help others so I get a free pass. It would be easy to hide in AA discussion. I could make coffee, be the secretary of the group, treasurer, GSR, and also the greeter so I wouldn't have to work on myself. I could simply continue to use people to fill in my blank spots of self centered fear. I must be willing to continue to watch for selfishness in my Step 10. Fortunately for me it is suggested I look at Step 10 now!
Why watch? Well, it's subtle. I may be once again relying on expectations. No longer giving freely I expect credit where credit is due. Like hey! What about me here! Forget my flaws. I did a little work so now I'm ready to be happy joyous and free so bring it on! I can make a pretty long list of what's good about me as if a walking positive affirmation with my list of assets and liabilities. Full of myself as long as I keep clear of bathroom mirrors, the fellowship is my new enabler..
The historic and well horrific effects of my alcoholism haven't changed just because I did. Not everyone from my past tornado driven life got the memo. They're still there with the scars of everything from a cow landing in the living room to the many left with broken hearts. My path of destruction tearing up insides as much as outsides. Especially the historical section of town I have neglected or entirely ignored in it's overwhelming self imposed guilt, shame and above all, fear. The always useful out of sight out of mind plan where I just move away and never go back. There. Fixed.
But if I'm going to serve the suffering man in AA's 12 Steps I'm not going to be much help if I can only serve him from inside the meeting hall. A podium professor?I'll need to walk day by day in the Spiritual path with the new man as suggested. I am not a teacher in a kindness night class full of frothy emotional appeal or caregiver offering compassionate human aid. If that worked I would be, I have learned plenty and do care. The truth is? The new man may be well beyond that whole my love is all you need stuff or even I'll love you until you can love yourself spiel. Just as I was. Not saying it doesn't work for some.
My purpose now is to live each day as a power of example. I must keep my own house in order, show the way out. Hey, maybe give him a flashlight or warm coat sure, sandwich or a pack of smokes but I cannot carry him. If all he has is what I give him to give away to the next suffering man then, it's all just talk. He's simply giving what talk I gave him and keeping it as his own not realizing that when I left I took the action with me. Leaving big and informative talk is generally all good stuff but if no action is attached well, nothing lasts.
I will show him how I found my way. Making it clear I myself am not a special case. I am alcoholic, same as him. Do I have the courage to do this without causing still more harm? Will my relationship with the new man be more about doing what I say and not as I do? Do I have the strength to be responsible for myself sober? The willingness? Yes I do. This whole primary purpose thing, this willingness, I can feel it now. I'm not going back. I want to continue to grow in understanding and effectiveness. I can do this so bring on the suffering man.
Whelp? Apparently it's not as easy as I thought it would be. God hasn't told all the suffering alcoholics I'm here and ready to serve. Can't I kind of pick and choose alcoholics to help now? Like alcoholics who like to ride motorcycles or fish. Enjoy a decent meal. Some of these people in AA are really sick! I mean you got your mental health dual diagnosis, many of whom are lucky to move on to life without a bib, they are so heavily medicated. And your harm reduction alcoholics justified in avoiding abstinence suggested in AA? How do I deal with someone who is stoned picking up a chip for sobriety? Or the heavily medicated manic depressive type who believes everyone is also depressed and in need of medication sometimes because it's only safe to believe what they themselves think. Then there's a wide parking lot filled with broken self abusing and abandoned PTSD drinkers and addicts unable to move freely on their own power. Not mentioning the wide array of folks who for whatever reason hate themselves, even cut, tattoo and pierce themselves over and over. Those that are hell bent on making themselves pay for their disgusting images of mind and body. Obsessed with a standard set too high they are always failing to worship the right media Gods of their chosen misguided culture. And of course the addict who is simply addicted to themselves and everything on the planet and beyond who can fill in any blank space with any addiction.
What about predators? Sexual predators. Bullies and bigots. I mean this is AA and alcohol is a symptom of underlying causes right? Eh.. so to get to the underlying causes we get into the 12 Steps, right? This means if I'm helping the new man as a guide to the 12 Step way out of himself, then I am going to be exposed to a lot of causes and conditions, right? Alcohol is a symptom? We drank alcoholically for a reason.....Right?
Step 7 is a buffer of sorts. I can have purpose without being personally involved. Oh I get the whole be friends thing, that's great for rides to meetings or coffee and conversation. Smile and welcoming handshake. Fellowship camaraderie. Make a friend, plant a tree, save a whale. The sponsor and the new man biding time sharing bits of honesty before and after the meetings every other day. The boys! Just hangin yo. Yeah, me and my AA buds.
Lest I forget my real purpose is to serve the suffering man and my God with my own demonstration. I must be careful to not be so heavenly I am no earthy good. If I think this service is now a personal moral mission where I now see myself being a moral judge? The character police? Like, not what would Jesus do but what would I do if I was Jesus' son. Connected. Representing the one true God? The famous one? I'm on the wrong track or missed something along the way. Let me say this. My 5th Step was laced with guilt and shame hiding under rocks and behind trees so now I multiply it by what, a hundred or so 5th's I witness from others as I guide them in the work? If I can't understand and maintain my purpose for being there I may find myself lost in a dark co-dependent forest on life's horrific human nature walk of reality. This world of untreated alcoholism can humble me, I can wish for the security of soft and furry lions tigers and bears in comparison to the horrors of untreated alcoholism..
Walking day by day in the Step 7 realm of my spirit is critical to keeping my own house in order. Especially if I am on the firing line in AA 12 Step Big Book sponsorship. Otherwise I become selfish, emotionally needy. The whole Jim Jones thing, what about me and my needs! Oh yeah? Well here have some kool-aid because the world is a ghetto and nothing will ever work. They're coming to get you! Or the Big Book professor, the intellectual sponsor who is really more of a AA cut and paste king, a historian constantly making front page news for themselves by using others.
So yeah..I become extreme once again. Not even a cloud in the sky and boom! Emotional thunderstorm! Selfishness and fear surrounds me as I fall from grace. No different than the common immature sick boy who thinks he can handle his girlfriends past sexual experiences. You may think you are a counselor at heart, I mean you certainly want to be right? You want to be the caring loving person who can handle relationship stuff.. So all caring and supportive you dig up her past to lend help, maybe fix and repair her reason for coming to AA. You're "the real man" who can save her then huh? All she will need is you? You will have it all so you keep on, you can't stop yourself. You're both sober and life is going great but you just can't leave her life alone. The insecurity boils over again!
You may not believe you are searching for selfish control by gathering all information about your new mate. You deny it. It's not possible, you're sober! You can't be this sick and sober too. You may not see yourself trying to get control of her memories or her past in an effort to control her thoughts. You may even believe you love each other soo much you need to know everything about each other as you pump her for information by beating yourself senseless with every closing question putting a fast track time share salesman to shame. You need to know!
You can't see it. You can't understand. All you see is now you're treating your loving and caring sober future AA partner like garbage. This is bad sure but not as bad as it will be if others find out about you and your conduct. You're beating your bloodied mind with the bricks laid out in another's already traveled path as you steal what strength they have to somehow pave your own. In most I've seen the damage is so great, the path back is an impossible journey. There is no return trip. Most seem to suffer for a time until they have hurt themselves beyond repair and move on unsure why they were together in the first place. Remaining untreated they sit down to fresh new meat on the same cook ware. It will be different this time? Not even knowing what must change as if it comes with the new and different face.
They empower themselves with hopelessness. Delusion. It's here where I must remind myself that sure we're all here and equal. The common bond living one day at a time without one drink but, I don't want what they have. I've lived in the vicious cycle. I got into the 12 Steps when my life depended on it already. They're here to take what is offered as solution, a way out like I did. So, am I presenting myself as the solution? I must be sure I am giving freely. If my own house is in order I am usually giving or learning at least. If not? I am generally taking. Arranging my immediate life and it's surroundings selfishly in hopes of getting my own emotional needs met. The usual sign posts, people are in my way or nobody understands me..
So how much of that do you think you can handle? On to the moral of this story.
I'm going to fabricate this to not implicate any one in any way. I would never repeat anything heard by an individual in a 5th Step. There are absolutely no exceptions. Keeping a confidence is the spiritual backbone of my own sobriety. My life. I am simply a witness, I am not God nor can I determine any special circumstance outside keeping my mouth shut.
So I'm listening to a 5th Step. The guy I'm sponsoring is a bit reluctant and not really into it and well? Neither am I really. It's a beautiful day, the weekend.. I mean he does the deed, has his 4th Step writing and is ready to read it in it's entirety. A pile of notebooks and willingness to surrender it to his God and another, me. I'm the AA Big Book 12 Step sponsor sure. I have prayed for direction to be a participant but I'm also watching the world go by outside my sunny window. I am praying for direction intermittently as I feel myself wander from my primary purpose occasionally. Yes this is a life and death errand, Oh look! A squirrel!
So we get down to it. First day, second day. We pray. We ask for guidance, for honesty, I pray for willingness to keep a confidence. He begins with his 3rd Step prayer and is off! Reading and surrendering resentments over and over, selfishness and how these have had dominance. He is very thorough. It's a good solid 4th. I'm grateful for him. The honesty is in my face. We look at his fear notebook and the trains of circumstance from when the fear appeared sometimes many years ago. The evil and corroding thread of his existence clear now, self centered fear developing a code of conduct over time.
We are into our third day of reading his 5th and now comes the sex notebook. I myself am no stranger to sex problems. Nevermind the many 5th Steps I have witnessed where most are selfishly out to generate their own self esteem or at least fantasize on getting their own needs met by repeatedly pressing their God given feel good instant gratification button. Hey, the Book says we all have sex problems we'd hardly be human if we didn't. So praying, reading and listening all the sudden he's mumbling. Whatever, everybody gets a little quiet when reading those deep dark secrets surrounding sexual conduct you are convinced are unique. I mean sure we believe and have courage and faith that our God will take us to better things but man, the shame? The guilt? The fear can be a wild snarling bear.
The door creeks open, it comes up from the cellar as if buried there forever. Up the stairs and into the light. He's a predator!
Did I just hear that right? A real predator sitting there reading right in front of me. The guy who goes after little girls and boys. A pedophile! Jesus Christ a freaken diddler! An emotional kitchen magician. The king of betrayal! The weird uncle who's in that void where he's much older than you but not as old as your parents. You trust him and feel like an adult around him, special.
I couldn't even hear another word. I was in trouble. My face was hot and sweaty. I was instantly stressed. I needed to make a move.
Now I've heard it all sure but seemingly always from the victim perspective never from the actual predator. Sure the boys growing up behind the barn stuff everybody wants to hide and are sure no one could know. The drunk safaris that include anything and everything found alive or dead on the open tundra. But a real life predator? I was shocked. I wanted to stop right here! That's it! Get out of my yard you pervert! You're nothing but street scum! AA judgement cometh!
Well? That whole duck and cover episode lasted all of a minute and I knew I was way out there. I saw myself running full speed up over the fence and off the reservation. I'm judging this guy. Not bad enough that I'm playing God but thinking God would never accept someone like this as if I myself knew what God wanted. Like I'm the God representative here! Mr. AA pure and clean having elected myself to the God part in this stage play. No need to read for the part, I got it. I was God now. We're talking an extreme bout with self will here. Blindsided myself really. I was one way and a moment later, another. Like standing on the tracks waving as if I control the train, the tracks, the scenery and then? Splat! Over! I'm done!
It was all I could do to stop him from reading and ask if he minded if I go into the other room a pray for a moment. It was fine so removed myself and staggered into the next room and to my knees. Man! What's happening! I cupped my hands tightly at my forehead. I asked God to show me, help me. I know I'm full of self but I can't shake it. Please direct me to what you would have me be. All of the sudden out of no where all I could see was Step 7. Why Step 7? I had done my Step 7 years before. I was fine with Step 7. I had forgotten the 7th Step prayer word for word but I still get the idea?
It's easy to get caught up in optional wording like it says after the Step 3 prayer. Just go with the general idea. I'm guilty of filling in blank spots. But that 7th Step prayer was so important when I surrendered and said it. "God I am now willing that you should have all of me good and bad". Good and bad. Like all of me and everything I am? I am willing to serve my God and my fellows. I remember it. I said it and at the time I believed it without a doubt. But now? Here? I have let go of my spiritual service, my willingness was gone or at best fragmented. I was no longer on a spiritual path walking with the suffering man, nope. Now it was personal. I could see how this guy was a mess sure. How he had harmed others as far as I could tell sure. But the fact that I was taking it personal? Taking his inventory? That was on me, my problem. I wasn't here for that. I began to gain focus as I looked at myself.
I again prayed that God should have all of me good and bad. That God remove every defect of character that stands in the way of my usefulness to my God and my fellows. Yeah Step 7. It fits! God grant me strength to go out from here to do your bidding amen. I felt better, better about myself, stronger. I was faced with something that because of my spiritual weakness took me right down.
This wasn't about me and what I thought or even believed. This was about the man and his willingness to humble himself to his God and man. I could feel his devastation when he admitted his wrong. It wasn't my wrong. I had no business going in there and visiting his wrong as if it was mine. It was his. I was a witness. I agreed to the job. I was supposed to be spiritually fit supporting the man on his life and death errand instead? Hours were going by and I was complacent. I was thinking about sitting in the yard on such a fine sunny day instead of being present. It was me. I let myself down. As bad as I wanted to take control of the situation, as much as I wanted to justify my anger for my lack of coping skills? I was at fault and I knew it. I was not responsible for my own thoughts and the fear came. And with the fear I was off! He didn't make me angry I allowed myself that dubious luxury. I felt comfortable in my skin now that I had seen myself. I thanked my God, I knew it wasn't anything I did. I felt better simply because I was back and spiritually fit. I had regained my willingness.
So I came back to the table and suggested we pray together and we did. He with his 3rd Step prayer and me with my 7th. We got back to it and I remained focused. I wanted to serve my God and this suffering man. I wanted to honor my 12 Steps, my spiritual willingness to grow in understanding. In a weird way I needed this wake up call. I was lax in other areas of my life also. Sometimes full of myself and skating on yesterday's sobriety. This yanked me right into the now!
We wrapped it all up that day. Me with my new attitude and outlook and him with the sexual ideal of a changed man. A man who has seen his true self and become willing to be accountable. It was good actually. Both of us became thorough and honest. He went on with his Step work and I continued to sponsor guys with a better stronger attitude around keeping my own house in order first if I am to serve the suffering and hopeless..
You can't transmit something you haven't got. See to it that your relationship with God 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 God and humble yourself to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past and join us. We will be with you as you trudge the road of happy destiny.