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Big Book 12 Steps (RIP Denis Johnson)

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Letting go of what? Everything? Baggage? My drinking? Just my crazy thinking? My past? What? I didn't know. Nor could I read, retain, and apply my recovery as others seemed to do..I'm stuck with myself.

 

Big Book suggests selfishness self-centeredness, the suggested root cause of alcoholism. Fine. So what are they talking about "selfishness". Well? To get a good look at selfishness they suggest looking at resentment. Looking at resentment without the thought of others involved. Straight into the mirror. Resentment in me, mine, why the anger? I'm angry because I'm afraid of the outcome? Fear? Anger rises from fear? No coping skills? I lash out at fear in an effort to control it? I'm angry because I have lost the control over the situation? I'm what...emotionally threatened then afraid? What am I afraid of? Not being in control? Why the dire need to hang onto "control" for my emotional security. Eh.. selfishness, lack of control, ...Security affected, resentment? Why the need to jockey for position with every person place or thing I am threatened by? Don't I have any self reliance at all? Geeze ..Why am I always threatened? I am full of resentment so I'm what.."full" of fear first? Self-centered to the extreme? And why especially toward the end of my spiral into the depths of self am I threatened by all things and not just other people? I'm creating it. I am so self centered I can't get out of myself. As if I myself are the threat to my self, just being there in all thought creates an impending doom. No matter what I think or do it'll never work, I'll never succeed at anything. I'm failing before I begin. I hate myself yet put myself, my thoughts into everything? Holy extremist! How does somebody get this screwed up!

 

Or wait..I'm assuming this is new or maybe just developed since I began drinking alcoholically? This must be "why" I began drinking alcoholically!  Or has it been like this all along..This is self centeredness? Fear? Self centered fear? Me involved in everything, I must control  the world and everyone in it to create my self esteem? Well one big problem with this whole alcoholism thing is, I think I know what everyone thinks? ok...I'm a people worshipper, a survivor. I think, you think, therefore I am complete with your thinking and substitute it as my own. Why? Alone I am nothing. So? Everything is centered around me, has some effect on me. I am the wheel hub. But if I still have no direction or willingness to change, that doesn't really answer anything, it just gives me another word to work with, a tool in my AA recovery tool box. The philosophy of me..Just like my Higher Power, my access to the Spiritual realm. Something to talk about. Sure I talk about God with others as if myself a true believer. Yes, the talk option is in the box somewhere too..I had it this morning when I was talking to God. When I had God on line one..

 

What, I'm supposed to think about my Higher Spiritual Power all day? What about me? Eh..the best I can do is God is my co-pilot, my buddy. God is my partner. I screw up and God fixes it.  Some well intended delusional self will but I think I'm surrendering because I'm banging out meetings , asking for help and not picking up each day, the half measures they speak of in the Book? C'mon, I'm doing the best I can here! I actually believe somehow this new fellowship thing, this new found AA acceptance can keep me sober and show me the way to sanity. Well? hey..I'm half right, it is a start. Getting a glimpse of who I really am in the meetings.  I kind of pretty much sort of stopped blaming everyone all the time and have a tiny bit of willingness to see myself as the creator of my alcoholic demise. For someone who denied any responsibility at all ever? This is good. I don't drink, go to meetings and ask for help and something's happening..

 

 Still the nagging selfishness, the self will I relied on always. It's not as if I haven't tried to find a way out of my self. A lifetime of effort yet my best thinking got me here. The whole "better philosophy of life" thing? I have tried it with many different arrangements many times. I add the latest brainstorm assuming a better result. The latest intellectual cure for my so called "flawed" spiritual condition. The malady. Then all or nothing and as usual, nothing wins, I'm not right with God or the right God or God at all? Just put more effort into it and figure it out! USE YOUR HEAD DAMN IT! Yep, that too. More people. What people think. What I think they think I think.

 

Sober now for months I thought the next step naturally is a relationship? Be happy with a normal wedding, home, family, furniture, lots of normal personal stuff accumulated would fix it, they would fix me? Nope. Again? Nope. And again. How about in Florida? Nope...California? Massachusetts? Nope nope nope. I kept bringing myself with me. I create a seemingly normal situation based on what I see others doing then use it up. Not realizing they unlike me, have developed coping skills to face life. The others seem to do ok but me? They leave my empty shell behind and take whatever emotional security I had stolen with them? Now what? Alone again, more guilt and shame. I search out someone new to save me fix me. NEXT. Mama! Yeah! I'll fish the AA Fellowship with a humble nice guy lure and see what I can catch this time..After all? My history isn't my fault right? I'm just a nice guy looking for a nice woman. It's everybody else that's a whacked out alcoholic here.. I am still in denial. I believe my delusion and really think someone new will be the answer. Me the humble handsome nice guy and her the blessed virgin. We're not really at the end of the line in AA, no. We're dating like adults do. Now we're adults dating uh huh. It'll all be different this time! Forget that just days ago I was desperately searching for some new person place or thing. Distraction, new stimulus. Give me a reason to live because when I am alone? I just want to die. No, she's here now so that's over.. I have purpose now. Thank God.

 

Still stealing, still worshipping people. I put a grand last ditch effort into controlling others. I get lucky and make an adult decision. As the now sober father she never had but's here now, I make a wise complicated decision on my daughter buying new tires. This goes unexpectedly well and now I'm prepared to run her life with my tire buying expertise making up for lost time. A simple decision really, common sense. But with me? Mr. expectations? A great event with ticket tape parade celebrating my parenting skills. As if on visiting day I take my daughter to save the world just to prove a point to my ex wife. That whole I know everything about everything except when to shut up thing.  Need marriage help? How about guidance raising a daughter. No problem I have lots of experience with tires so I can help. Need financial advise? Money market? Sure, I recommend the P- 265/75/17 steel belted radial. Not realizing it was simply a good decision on buying tires I milk it for everything it's got as if the one good thing is now a multi-pass. I push harder, forcing validation, me me pick me! I know what to do in your life! Nope.. sorry Charlie, she's had enough and retaliates. I sulk in my selfishness and self pity. I found a decent set of tires, I didn't give her a kidney. I spiral in abandonment, seemingly acts of betrayal, not getting my selfish needs met, then? Oblivion. I run. You don't want my help? That's betrayal to me. You have no respect for me when hey, I am the father even if by default. Now I attempt to validate myself. I try and make others pay for how I feel. Show me all the attention, look how you have hurt me by not meeting my selfish needs. I am unwilling to admit my need for control and am convinced I am only here to help.

 

More blame. More self pity. More of my extreme self. More mental hopscotch, an intense self destructive game I force myself to play even knowing I never win. As if I simply don't know any better. I again fall into the emotional void and struggle to survive. The coping skills are not there, there's nothing there at all just my need to be accepted or loved, valid. People will save me. I set myself up once again thinking I know what's best for others, yes all will respect the martyr. I do what I think you want me to do and you'll like me? Not good enough for my emptiness, I need to be worshipped. I don't just need an emotional security boost no, I need to be the center of everything.  Most will abandon me at this point. I am again left with my empty self, angry. I put everything I had into you and you took it. You actually ran with it but I see it as stolen. You stole from me, deceived me, you don't love me when you said you did.. I am a failure, and at a certain jumping off point I seem to expect nothing more. Another failed relationship. Failing, I'm used to it. Poor me. Don't they know how much I care? I have so much love to give, why won't they take it? Nobody understands me. The self pity is extreme, I wallow in it. I like it really, It gives me purpose in a sick way. A sense of security in the familiar as mentioned in the Book.

 

Going along with the gag..What if recovery or say, living a life sober and free with alcoholism was so simple that I just couldn't grasp it. I was just too full of fear, too self centered, too extreme. Too damn intense, too complicated always fighting for control with my arrangements I can't just be a part of anything no, I must be all of it! Like the answer was right there in front of me all along? Oh no..Not the "I'm my own worst enemy" thing? Almost everybody had said that to me over the years! What if it was true? What if success in life was all about coping skills and I had none really. Or none that had developed sufficiently anyway. What if I was too self centered to participate in much of anything. As if frozen in time. Wouldn't that be funny to wake up one day and find that all my life I simply lacked the power to support myself and grow emotionally?  As if I never learned to care enough about myself to care for myself? Damn! That I grew from a "he just doesn't listen" wayward child to wayward adult with basically no coping skills.. That I was stunted really. Not stupid, stunted. Immature. An immature adult, an adult child, still. As if I grew from "he just doesn't listen" to the realization that "I can't listen". Well? It does kind of fit.

 

Can't I blame anybody? Did I ever have a chance? Poor little innocent Stepsherpa. The victim. The abused. The killer kitten.

 

 After extensive 12 Step work, the selfishness I'm seeing? I believe I did at one point have the makings of self reliance in me. I had a Spirit, willingness. The ability to grow and learn. To care enough for myself to care for myself. The Spirit I was born with.  At some point in my life I had lost my power, my Spirit, my willingness.. I had it and then lost it, given it away. Or maybe it was stolen. Either way? It was gone. Withered away over time or in a great one time event, this reasoning seemed to matter little unless I was looking to blame. I was tired of blaming, it only made my angry. The problem is, was, looking back I found it gone. My Spirit was gone. And truth be told? One of the first of many "truths" to come my way? I was 4 years old tangling with a grown man engulfed in an psychotic rage directed at me. Finally an explanation for the reoccurring tunnel vision. I've spent most of my life reliving this garbage, cowering in the corner with him coming at me full tilt sometimes for months at a time everyday at some point.. My fragmented or shattered ability to face even the simplist of lifes challenges was overwhelming from then on, that point. I became angry, agitated, doubtful and afraid of everything. How come nobody else seemed to have this in their heads? Where is everybody? I am again feeling alone, the square peg the frustrated dictator in need of validation unable to generate his own self esteem. LET ME IN! LET ME BE A PART OF YOU PEOPLE! I became completely lost and alone. Disconnected.

 

In most situations especially emotional ones where I needed coping skills? Needed to rely on self? Create balance? The self reliance broke down and failed always, leaving me to rely on others that were not there for me, they failed to meet my arrangements. Unable to let go of any of this I held on tighter. I held onto my survival.  I was convinced I knew everything? I didn't.. I sought courage and strength as I witnessed others apply themselves with success but me, mine, my self reliance?  I was simply not there to answer the call. Emptiness, alone I would rely solely on others to like me so I could like myself. Again and again I would see this foggy picture of myself. Basically? I was full of crap. I would validate myself with my delusional arrangements, create my own self worth. A wild attempt at somehow becoming all things to all people in an effort to negotiate my life's constant upheavals. I believed everybody was everything and I was nothing. Mentally retarded maybe? Autistic? Something, something wasn't right that's clear as another's face in my mirror. Nothing but self hate yet I couldn't figure out what I ever did that was so wrong? Worse even, how could the 12 Steps fix something I myself have worked on my entire life. No, I'm just crazy.

 

A collector of sorts. A thief. Expectations on everything. Even the act of giving had a price. I would steal my emotional security creating many memories and events that time would not heal. More bad compounded with bad still.. Everything good was bad.  What I said and did over my lifetime was nothing short of horrific to review. I was mortified at what lengths I would go for acceptance. Shamed by my weakness. Any excuse seemed pathetic. If I wasn't demon possessed then what? What was I then? A thief, just a common thief with a side of liar and cheat. The shame was overwhelming. I stole security, emotional security, everyday. And I kept it all. Every manipulation, every selfish arrangement and yes, every drink. It was me. Who I had become was who I always had been. A spiritless human wandering life on self will. My will, your will, somebody's, anybody's will. An empty void of existence looking for validation in people but never finding it. Yep, a collection of all things to all people, that's me. That perfect guest until I am emotionally threatened as if my one friend has another friend?  Then I will assassinate anyone's character who gets in my way.. You're my friend? I have all of you just as I give all of me to you. Obsessive. No room for anyone else. I can't control two or three at a time no, just you. I need you, you are my reason for living. Befriending another is an act of betrayal.

 

So obviously somebody sick in the soul like me isn't going to live without some heavy anesthesia. Too hard on myself? Oh yeah, you got that right! Yet I could no longer drink with sufficient force to remove my self. I threw booze and any drugs at my wicked "self", money, the love and support of others, anything I could. Nothing worked until AA. there I could rest a while at least. Fellowship. A new game. Fresh blood. I was rescued. AA was my big break finally. Oh I had been there before but this time? This time I was mush, tired, I was a hopeless drunkard. The booze and drugs nolonger took my pain away and I nolonger cared about myself or my survival. I had seemingly given up..

 

So here I go. I could put the booze down temporarily sure. Meetings, 90 in 90..all that. Join a group, coffee maker job, greeter, set up clean up, popular sponsor..Out of sight out of mind, don't drink between meetings. It would work for sometimes months at a time. But "it" would always come back. I would always come back. My history, my guilt and shame just waiting. The nothing I was. I felt hated, despised and really? Why wouldn't I! I despised and hated myself! Way too sensitive, the slightest challenge was an absolute act of betrayal. Nobody was safe from my self centered fear, my extreme selfishness.. Most of what was in my own head created by me. So in the end? I would self destruct for no apparent reason. I had lost the power of choice. A state where there are no feelings to fight. No decisions to make. No more people to please. Nothing. The empty void. Not even a fantasy to somehow delude myself into feeling some hope. Some new manipulation new arrangements? Completely dead inside.

 

To live. To continue on with or without alcohol. To simply be? I had to somehow let go of my self, I was the problem and well? I had to go. But where? How? I'm seemingly "found", rescued in the AA meetings but what next? I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop at some point everyday still.  Oh I'm getting better sure but painfully slow, recovery isn't coming fast enough for me to remain sober. I'm living each day sober sure, but plagued by this overwhelming impending doom that will eventually wear me down. This self hate, I just can't out run it sober or drunk. I think, what the hell did I ever do that was so wrong that I would hate myself so deeply?  Apparently I needed to go back some 20 odd years and ask my father. He knew. Daddy knew. But he wasn't telling. I was on my own. I began my 12 Step journey by stepping on to the suggested Spiritual path laid out in the Book.

 

I was introduced to the Big Book 12 Steps, more like introduced to a state of grace really..One day in AA I was once again backed into a corner, my head racing uncontrollably, self centeredness again running to extremes, desperation with a side of paranoia and then all stop. Something was different. It seemed as if I had no control over any of it , it just happened. As if I somehow stepped onto the Spiritual path suggested and I can't even explain how? Willingness? Desperation? Near death experience in sobriety? I simply bottomed out sober maybe? I can't say how or why, it just changed, everything just changed one day. 

 

I got a sponsor familiar with the 12 Steps as they are laid out in the Big Book as if I was picked up and dropped in his path. As if it was meant to be.. This could quite possibly be one of my smartest or wisest or I don't know "best" moves to date if in fact I had anything to actually do with it.. For me it was face first into a sign post! Didn't even see it coming. An awakening of sorts? All the sudden I could retain what I read for more than a millisecond. I mean I could read and share at the meetings before this but as soon as it was over and I was interacting with people? I'd forget everything as if I never read it. I was back to surviving on my own, minute by minute in my self centered fear trying to create some validation, some self worth with what I perceived as a good stage character.  Back to relying on selfishness driven by self centered fear. Back to being the untreated alcoholic. The emotional user. Back to my usual song and dance, all things to all people. As if playing a roulette wheel. The odds are somebody will accept me if I play to everybody, throw myself on all the numbers I'm bound to win somewhere...

 

Now, I'm no authority on Bill Wilson's initial work, his mindset, his directions for a way out of alcoholism to the suffering man. But I liked it or what I could understand of it. I was the suffering man, I got that much. At least I was somebody? A starting point of sorts. This was new? I read Bill's story in the book. I presumed this guy was out of his mind and really? It drew me closer. I felt secure, I was interested in this Big Book 12 Step thing. I read more  "THERE IS A SOLUTION" then "MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISM". 'WE AGNOSTICS" even "HOW IT WORKS". I had seemingly gone deep. Although other AA's, actually alot of AA's said I should keep away from those "know it all" Big Book thumpers? I was all in, out of my old comfort zone, out of the security of the deep dark people forest. Something in the Big Book 12 Steps was offering me hope as if new, a new hope. Even though a lot of the "your problem is only this big" crowd had kicked me to the curb, these people were my fellowship friends  my so called AA friends. The abandonment hurt, it did hurt me. I didn't understand the betrayal yet I refused to drink over it and kept on my new found 12 Step path. The suggested Spiritual Path.. Big Book, Sponsor, 12 Steps. I was all in and thought of little else. I lived for my Thursday night Men's Big Book 12 Step meeting. It's all I really thought about. These guys spoke fluent crazy but were living quite good sober lives?  I felt a sense of belonging.

 

I reviewed Step 1.  Can't make rational decisions around using/drinking alcohol or leaving it alone? Hopelessness.. Despair? Impending doom? Alcoholic or just plain crazy, it fit. It was me. I was the broken man. Not me and my ex-wife or me and the teacher or cops or daddy or bar buddy no, me.. it was only me now. I was the alcoholic. I was the problem and I lacked the power to change any of it. Not only could I not stay stopped when I put the booze down but my life, my life was just an out of control mess I or anybody else could not fix. I held on to guilt and shame as if it was all I had and well? It was. I couldn't even try anymore. I was powerless. I had no hope. Somewhere, somehow? I got a bit of willingness. So small I didn't even know it was willingness. I thought I was just moving to the next right thing people were talking about. Yeah, something was going right? This was really something new and fantastic. I wanted more. I was obsessing on something that would not hurt me? Maybe there was a way to put the monkey down and live with this alcoholism sickness after all.

I became willing to believe. Step 2.

My own conception of a Spiritual power greater then myself was suggested. Not too hard terms. Almost as simple as I had admitted my hopelessness I became willing to believe and not really doing much more than reading the Book, asking for help and showing up at my new Men's Big Book 12 Step meeting sober. Could it really be this simple? Is this the don't drink go to meetings ask for help thing? I didn't understand anything much until I had arrived at the 3 pertinent ideas in the Book. Willingness had brought me this far, I did have willingness and was beginning to think it just may be a God thing, a Higher Power thing yeah. Not really comfortable using the God word yet if ever? Religion, not my thing thank you. The end of Step 2 where it reviews the abc's. (A) I am alcoholic and can not manage my own life (B) probably no human power could relieve my alcoholism (C ) God could and would if He were sought. Convinced? As convinced as I was ever going to be so, aside from the capital H on He which I thought the Book was saying was Jesus and that was something I myself was not all that convinced of? I was at Step 3. I was ready to make a decision. Yes, Religion was lurking. I was not a Dr Bob religious type believer or Catholic so where it said the wording of the prayer is optional? It can be my own? That was good for me. I believed, boy did I believe. I just didn't believe like others in the main stream of religion. Would this hurt me? I wasn't sure. I was drawn to a creative intelligence underlying all things as a spirit of the universe. I liked it, I was comfortable. It was something I wanted to be a part of, something I would be willing to humble myself to. A God of my understanding. Plus it "was" mentioned in the Book so.. But even then, even with all this willingness? Still not enough to let it all go and be free of my self, my haunting self always lurking..No, it basically said my belief in my God (nomatter how deep rooted and convincing) would have no permanent effect unless followed by a 4th Step. So I prayed to pick up the pen and put it to the paper. That was it? Use the 3rd Step to write a 4th Step? Made sense. Alone I certainly wasn't able to see myself so if there really is a Higher Power? If there really is something I can tap into for courage and strength? I'll give it a try. I will pray for direction or meditate on which direction to take. All roads led me back to the pen and paper. Write down and face myself. Ok.

 

I have to say. A thorough 4th Step following the Big Book guideline is well, it begins as an awareness of sorts then an in your face awakening. A baseball bat to the face awakening really. Time to get up! You're late for life! Answers! I was actually getting answers to why I was like I was! I was selfish and self centered to the extreme. I wasn't some unique freak of nature! Some lost mental defective mal adjusted to life, nope? I was an alcoholic! I drank because I had no choice, no ability to choose. That was me. I had no spirit only fear. Fear and more fear. Great! Now can I let this all go? Can I finally just begin a new? Be reborn? No, not yet.Not ready to let it go. Ok, little stuff sure but the big things that dominate me? No, not yet, more work to be done. Don't give up on myself. Don't quit over not getting my needs met when I want them. Don't quit because this 4th Step isn't fixing me fast enough. It's not a 4 Step program right? It's a 12 Step program. Enough said, I get it, keep going.. I needed a bit of faith now. Willingness to believe. I got just that, just what I needed. No more no less.. Willingness was indispensable on the Spiritual path just like it said.

 

Weird. I couldn't really make a decision and say some majic words to let go, empower myself up and over what had me obsessed but if I didn't feed into the selfishness and fear it would pass. Always. I became an advocate of the term "this too shall pass". I began saying it to myself everyday all day as if a mantra. At night when the demons of my still unresolved life's work of woulda shoulda coulda's would come hard and fast? When I was afraid and alone in my bed at night? Over and over I would repeat to myself "this too shall pass", "thy will not mine be done" "thy" being my Higher Power. And eventually I wake up to a new day. It passed! Problem was? The next night it or "I" was back again with a vengeance. Ah. Good day sober? Good AA meeting tonight and this morning..Now to bed for some sober leg shaking face twitching closet door moving something's under the bed darkness, I mean sleep. Tic Toc, here it comes. (I'm a loser and never going to amount to anything and now she's with him and they're doing that!) Thy will not mine be done thy will not mine be done...( he's everything and she is never coming back!)Thy will not mine be done thy will not mine be done thy will not mine be done....eventually? I seem to pass out and wake to a new day. I'm surviving on willingness and meetings. Now, I know I can't live like this for very long, me with a few notebooks full of myself, my 4th Step. I'm like a full dumpster. The more it sits around full the more it stinks.

 

Step 5. Letting my God know that I know. Surrendering myself, revealing myself to God and humbling myself before another of my kind. This proved to be the most freeing piece of my AA program. Up until this point life was really about what I was like, why I thought and acted like I did. Why I drank like I did. Step 5. I had actually changed overnight or over a few nights.  My first real indication that I could surrender my self and my Higher Power would take it. I was now a believer of sorts. I could feel it, it was in me, this power, this Spiritual Power. My life changed drastically.

 

Yeah, the Step 5 turning point. Amazing to me still so many years later. I'm going to pick up  at Step 5 later as it seems I'm writing a book here. What I was letting go of was important. The what it was like. You can't surrender what you don't understand. I needed to know, I needed to see myself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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