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Big Book 12 Steps (RIP Denis Johnson ll)

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My old friend DJ.


Step 5. Letting go. Surrendering my self. Was this really an option? I mean, could I actually be free? Well yeah..  I had proof sort of. I had seen the miracle of healing in others and I myself had stopped drinking. I drank to oblivion everyday and now? In AA? I had stopped.. I was touched by the hand of God? Everyone at meetings talked about a Spiritual Path, a Higher Power, talked about their God all the time. Or? maybe I just got beaned off the head with a Big Book. Maybe I was "so gone" I had nowhere to go , in my delusion joined a cult of alcoholics and mental defectives. Either way, I was different now, better because of it, all fixed? Compared to what I was just a few weeks before? Yeah. I was completely changed, a completely changed person. And that was enough for now. As close to being all fixed as I had ever been.. As if finally? The good part was here, the whole "new freedom and new happiness" thing.


Oh I was defiantly on to something now! Something big! I had stopped thinking about booze and drugs. That alone was remarkable. I didn't care what others thought about it all, I owed my new life to AA. The odd thing was? I didn't believe I was getting my old life back like many did. No, this was new. And besides, why in the world would I want any of my old life back? I knew one thing. My troubles were much bigger than alcohol. How much bigger I didn't know but the idea that I got screwed up solely from drinking was kind of silly to me. I had been damaged my whole life. I had been "damaged goods" since I was very young.


I felt different than the average fellowship crowd, the just "go to meetings" friends. I wanted alcohol to be my only problem sure. I wanted the drink to be why I was such an outcast. I tried to fit in but knew it was much deeper. I drank and used for a reason. I had been consumed with underlying causes. Plagued by my past. I didn't know why but one thing's for sure? I hated myself. I was dying. Rotting from the inside. Under the shave and haircut, the 69 Chevelle, the youth,  I was rotting away. I could no longer replenish myself esteem with the stolen emotional security of others. No self esteem boost from a pretty AA gal. I was doomed in AA. I was doomed out of AA.


In my own AA world now I was grateful I had written such a thorough and extensive 4th Step. It wasn't easy. I was at the end of my rope really. Hanging there alone. So desperate in the end, I would write all day everyday, my finger blistered from the pen and would bleed. I had myself a good pile of notebooks. Everything from the resentments in the beginning to the sexual ideal at the end. I followed the Big Book directions, the Books binder broken at the 3rd Step Prayer. Many others in and around AA or recovery had lots of good ideas. They were seemingly happy with them, I tried not to scoff but we were growing farther apart quickly.. They seemed to still be having fun, it was all over for me. No more fun. My life got serious like it had never been.  Others would say I'm being too hard on myself with this Big Book stuff. All that writing? That we're here to live and be happy? Happy joyous and free they said. I was now looking at myself and no longer really cared what others were doing or saying.. The happy joyous and free bus didn't stop here anymore.


I was completely out of options and I knew it. I had to write a 4th. I had to. I couldn't hardly do it but I still had to. It had brought me to tears. Isn't there any way around this? I could not pick up that 500lb pen! So bring on the easier softer ways! I, like many before me,  had at one point felt I had found a better 4th format and was considering a rewrite for the betterment of AA and suffering alcoholics everywhere. I mean really now, this Big Book was old. Dr Bob did all the work in an afternoon! Big on Religion. Of course he still was obsessed with drinking for years to come. I didn't want that. I wanted what Bill Wilson had, I wanted who he was. I was amazed by his work. It came down to the usual scenario, I didn't want to do the actual work suggested. Way too self centered to let go of any control I thought I had. I wouldn't ask my Higher Power for help to write no, I just figured I could do it on demand. Like now for some reason I could do what I had never been able, simply because I decided to. I'm sober going to meetings and invincible!  Didn't happen. I felt surrounded by better men than me. I confused humility with denial, serenity with depression.


I wanted to get well by talking about it, this seemed logical as if everyone was doing it this way. The podium meetings where people came in and talked then laughed and felt good. The discussion meetings where people shared a topic related to alcoholism and everyone felt better than when they came. The 12/12 Step meetings where everyone read and shared on any particular Step, always feeling better about themselves after.. Yet here I am in Big Book 12 Steps? Very little talk and lots of action? Lot's of willingness? Lot's of willingness to grow Spiritually.  Without Big Book 12 Steps format, recovery was as if some intellectual cure for my Spiritual condition was what was needed. Talk therapy? This was my best thinking. It was working with others so why not me? Other AA's were reading the 12/12 Book and then retaining the wisdom and applying it to their life. As if I do what Bill W did in his 12 Step essays i'll get the same results. Problem was with me? I couldn't retain anything. So, I know! Go to school! Tap into that (men in transition) grant money!  I would take courses, classes, "I'll get certified". Yes, I would take a course in Alcoholism. I'll be an addiction counselor. This will be the power I'm looking for, the saving grace.. Graduate at the top of my class and be somebody. Yup! Up and out of the hole! Maybe even a little Billy Wilson mixed in for good measure at the meetings. Hey, Silkworth's middle name is Dunkin. I have dazzling information, I've got skills!.. I could be an AA dynamo with my new found knowledge on the human condition! I'll carry a pocket version of the DSM. Yeah buddy! I can beat this thing! And get a certificate of appreciation along the way!


I did get some relief, some purpose out of the whole unchallenged self will thing but still? I was a mess inside. Like the Book said, self knowledge won't fix me. I seemed to know a lot about everything but not enough of what mattered. I was talking and talking but helping? Not so much.  It's lonely at the top, what attempt I had made at solving the great addiction riddle wasn't working fast enough. I had no courage, the self pity crept in. I'd grab at anything for validation. Again everyone was getting well except me. Don't these people know how intelligent I am? Or are they getting wise to me, I'm just full of crap in my new tweed sport jacket with suede like patches on the elbows. Pastel ties. Hiking sneeker/shoes? Stonewashed Levis..I looked like a recovery multi-tool. Still the people worshipper, maybe that's what they meant in the Book? It was just a cover for my untreated flawed Spiritual condition. Big Book 12 Steps is a Spiritual format! Why can't I get this through my head? Well probably? Because I don't control the Spiritual realm. Because I "can't" control the Spiritual realm. So anyway, finally? After eeking a last bit of emotional security out of anyone who would cosign my 4th Step writing dilemma, I simply ran out of people to use for validation and went to the Book. I read and meditated, prayed like my life depended on it. I finally figured out that's what I was supposed to be doing. I was ready and it was here ready for me as if it was waiting. The Book began to make sense. I got the Step 3 hint, I ask God to pick up the pen, put it to the paper, yeah. Allow me the courage and strength to write down and face myself. Damn! why hadn't I seen that one, ask God to pick up the pen..The pen flowed. And flowed.. As soon as this started happening? All the other stuff seemed unimportant. Me, my grand delusions of grandeur, my stage presentation, it was gone and I was writing hard, everyday. Bill W had put this format together some 40 years prior. A collaboration of life's teachings documented in masterly detail. Recovery suggested for the suffering hopeless alcoholic, a way out.I was connected, it was working. I was the suffering hopeless alcoholic sober, I would never be the same again.


Brain surgery of sorts. I had everything I was and had been, some fragmented some clear, all written in these spiral bound notebooks. The sorrow, the loss. People at the 12/12 meeting mentioned assets, what about assets? I tried but found none. Nothing I had ever done was worth saving. No part of my life was salvageable. I had written about a life unlivable, a person I could never face. A person I could never look at. Only through others eyes I saw myself. Only through retaliation from others I saw myself. Their reaction to my action? Where It all began I had no idea. Why the action? Who knows. I wanted to be found or saved, I wanted to join in, be accepted. I would do just about anything to be liked. "People" were my God. "Like me people" so I can like myself. These thoughts had to stop. I was sabotaging myself and was afraid I'd not even make it to do my 5th Step. All this garbage in my head, the self pity, selfishness, self seeking behavior, and the fear. The self centered fear was overwhelming still. It wouldn't stop! What I did, what they think, what I should have done. They hate me, she hates me, I hate me. Over and over. What did I say? I shouldn't have said that.


Many had gone for the meds over much less. I wouldn't do it. I wanted God. I wanted to believe. I wanted this Big Book AA. I somehow knew if I got my hands on some drugs that would relieve my fear? I'd quit. That's who I am, that's what I do. I quit myself.


My Sponsor came over at 5pm. Oh, Spiritual Advisor, sorry. I had quit smoking the day before and oddly picked up the house as if company was coming. I realized I just did it for myself? Weird. Also I was sleeping in the bedroom and not on the couch with the TV on all night. Weirder still. I had a fire in the fireplace.This was new. As if I cared enough about myself to have a fire and cleaned up house, laundry done...Anyway, I have all my Books and am ready for my 5th. We sit down at the table and my Sponsor say's a prayer to keep a confidence. I say a prayer to not leave anything out and read what is on the paper. First book open to my resentments. Second book lined up next to it. I read one then the other. Point the finger at them? Then look at myself. There are hundreds. I am emptying the dumpster. Letting my God know that I know. I see myself, the real me.

(1) first book                      RESENTMENTS                             THE CAUSE                             AFFECTS MY

                       DADDY                             beat me senseless at 4 years old               self esteem  (fear)

                                                               for watching another 4 year old girl pee    personal relations  (fear)

                                                                in the bushes                                        ambitions   (fear)

                                                                                                                            sexual relations  (fear) 

(1) second book (where was I at fault) open to same resentment


                         DADDY               SELFISH: I was a little kid and not accountable for much. Wanted to see the difference between boy's and girls

                                                  DISHONEST: I knew I was doing wrong. Something was wrong, she was hiding/we were hiding

                                                   SELFSEEKING: I was watching the neighborhood girl pull her pants down. This was a big deal to me.

                                                                         she had something I wasn't supposed to see (girl parts) so I wanted to see.

                                                    AFRAID: I was afraid my dad hated me for doing something that made him so crazy mad.

                                                                       Afraid of the screaming and hitting.

                                                      Afraid he would always be mad and hit me. Afraid to leave my room.

                                                        Afraid the tunnel vision I have will never go away.

                                                         Afraid I did something so bad It can never be made right.

                                                         Afraid when he see's me it's all he thinks about. He thinks I'm perverted.


So here we go. Hundreds of resentments, hundreds of turning it around and looking at myself. Now, I may have been a problem before this first memory but I can't say. I do know that after that episode? I was never the same. As far as I could tell? He beat the Spirit right out of me. And my Mother behind him holding my newborn sister crying and screaming at him to stop! Stop hurting him! From that day, I struggled for his approval. He knew what he had done. He bought me all the things guilt could buy but would never talk to me. I was invisible and it was all my fault. I was the elephant in the room. Do you love me now daddy, did I do good? Am I ok Daddy? It never happened. It ended with lies and deceit just as it began, only in the end? I was cut from the will. That is hard to describe really, I mean you got to experience that one to understand how it feels. How the abandonment is off the chart, his direction had me cut from my Grandmothers will also. He said I never visited her. It was a lie. Nothing, nothing no matter what, I get nothing and remain a nothing. More hurt, pain. Should I be surprised? I needed to ask how I should act. Someone to tell me how to feel.


But by my 20's I had believed I deserved anything bad I got. I was bad, I believed it and my conduct proved it. I ran from person to person seeking validation that never lasted. I needed it all. It was never enough. I could use up the most kind hearted, the most loving. Suck the life right out of them. Kind of sad really. To look back at it all and shake my head in shame. The girlfriends I hoped would save me, make me normal. Then they leave and take me with them emotionally. If you don't love me I'll kill myself again and again, over and over, different faces, nobody could save me, nobody wanted me. How I tried to make others pay for how I felt about myself. Always with daddy's fear on my shoulder.


Like the day Daddy told me everything was my fault for being born. Right out of nowhere, that one. He came by to talk to me in private, odd. He never came to see me or call, anything. Yet here he was. Said he was making some kind of amends. I assumed he had been getting some kind of counseling/ therapy. His girlfriend had cheated on him and he was out of the house on the run. He just started spewing at me. Crying over his broken heart. Blubbering. He didn't want to marry my Mother, he never loved my Mother, my Mother has no substance, but she was pregnant with me. He wanted to study Aerospace in the Air force but had to focus on a family instead. Had to become a carpenter. He said he knew he was rough on me but his father was rough on him. By the time he threw that at me? I told him to leave. Go to Florida. I had an option now. I heard people speak of detachment. I wanted it. I'd had enough. I needed to detach. I was just like him. Besides, I tell my son I love him every chance I get so I knew emotional abuse wasn't the gift that keeps on giving. It's not automatically passed from generation to generation..


  The miracle of healing. Living life in the Big Book 12 Steps, hope for the hopeless. I've been at this for a while today. Tomorrow maybe I'll wrap up the notebooks containing fear and sex. Thoroughness and honesty right? Nothing counted but thoroughness and honesty.

I'm at a Lodge in northern Vermont this weekend. My loving partner is at a weekend equine therapy thing, credits for her license. It's raining and I'm thinking about the Big Book 12 Steps and you my old friend..












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