I apologize to anyone who follows my blogs. I sit down and write and then hit post. Maybe edit later if at all. I will do better.
I'm speaking on Steps 6 and 7 tonight at a Men's Big Book 12 Step meeting. I should say lucky me! It is an honor! Odd that I can take it all for granted sometimes.. Still hang onto that subtle egoism. All this selfishness because I will see someone there I don't like. I'm not even sure he'll be there and still the fear comes, the low self esteem as I give everything I am away to him. I become self centered, I jockey for position. Comparing myself to others defects so I appear all fixed. Oh yeah, I no longer need the Higher Power as I can make recovery up as I go now with all my experience, all my years....Full of myself much? lol.. My own defects glaring as I alone deal with life's terms! I can have no idea what's going on around me and still need to be the center of it. That makes me the center of, I don't know? Wow, I'm the king of I don't know! I am ready to have my God remove these defects of character. This craziness, this Alcoholism with all it's selfishness and fear.
Well, that's why I need the suggested hour ( pg 75 we find a place where we can be quiet for an hour) of review between wrapping up my 5th Step and Step 6. Why I turn to the page that contains the first five proposals or Steps, (pg59) and ask myself honestly, is my work solid so far? Have I been thorough to this point? If I can answer to my satisfaction or to be blunt, can I honestly say that I have been honest with my Step work to this point? Step 1 through 5? If I can, then I look at Step 6.
So I take the Book down from the shelf (pg 75) and turn to the page that contains the first 5 Steps (59). I have just finished my 5th Step and for me it was maybe 20 hours, a few nights in a row..This is now my suggested hour alone in review / reflection. Am I trying to make mortar without sand? Is my work solid so far? Lets see. Yeah, I believe I have been thorough. I can speak on this Step. I have actual experience with doing not just reading. Big difference here.
It's the middle of the winter 1982. Snow. The shades are up? In my hour looking around the room I see change. More recently I have a nice warm comfortable fire in the fireplace. Plenty of cut wood. The house is clean? Fresh food? clothes are put away? This is odd. I'm doing this for me? I care enough about myself to take care of myself? Sure I'd get a fire going for others but just for me? Clean up the house if someone was coming over but for just me? I am changing and I can actually see it. My conduct is more responsible.
Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all of these defects of character. How did I get here? How did I become aware of my defects of character? I am not in any talk therapy so how could I know what the trouble with me is? And what's with the God thing now and no longer simply a Higher Power greater than myself? When did Higher Power become God? I mean, I followed the suggestion for the man who didn't believe in anything but himself or other people really. Wasn't comfortable with Religion because of my history with it. It said, My own conception of a Spiritual power greater than myself was sufficient to make the approach. I was ok with that but, approach to what? Approach to the 12 Steps?, the Spiritual answer? The approach they speak of is the Spiritual approach. In general AA or the AA medical model blend of today the Spiritual aspect of AA recovery can be neglected or even entirely ignored. All I really see is the Spiritual angle. I no longer have anything in common with the general AA crowd except a desire to stop drinking. This Big Book format or recovery process, is taking me to a whole different place. Willingness is key. Willingness to surrender, willingness to believe. I feel I have the ability to face many of the problems that would easily overwhelm me. I am no longer powerless when I pray for courage and strength.
I have to say, Anonymity is the Spiritual foundation of AA right? Please not the radio, press, film thing, please. Anonymity, when a man finds the Spiritual path in AA recovery he see's himself for who he is. He understand his purpose. Sure he wants to save the world but learns of the chaos that follows when he takes on too much. It is not his place to save the world. More can mean stretched thin.. When a man is Anonymous he is nolonger the selfish self centered attention seeker with the best of intentions. He is who he is supposed to be. He becomes a power of example, not an example of power. He learns to live with his new found gift, giving without condition.. Understanding this Alcoholic conduct is key to understanding Anonymity as the Spiritual foundation of the 12 Steps. This is not meant to contradict everyone who just does whatever they want with the AA name. Make a movie, write a book, open a treatment center, get your name in lights, all for the good of mankind. It's just my experience.
In my hour I realize I am not now or ever going to be perfect.
This work doesn't always come easy for me. I have had my share of nights alone with the self centered fear running my mind. Head in hands. Regret, Guilt or Shame that shows back up uninvited after supposedly being put out for good.. My alcoholic mind bouncing from person to person, horrific imagery, history's experience that can honestly take my breath away. Yeah, a little of that sure... then, what's going on now? God take this! I humble myself to you! The inevitable doom and gloom of tomorrow lurking as the sun rises. Yes, tomorrow's a mystery and yesterday's history, it's all about today right here. right now. Yup, easy to talk about when I'm not in the thick of it.. I'll try to remember that but I know I won't. The real deal is how I have had my share of surviving one more day sober by sitting in one spot repeating over and over, thy will not mine be done, thy will not mine be done.. So it's only fair to describe a bit of what it was like without going into morbid reflection or trying to impress with some shocking story about a penitent man making it through mid evil adversity to become a World class Big Book thumper. No, usually just covering the first 5 Steps is more than enough of a wake up call to the new suffering man. It's enough reality, solution. This is Big Book 12 Steps not an episode of Scared Straight.
I speak for myself now. I have seen myself clearly. I'm Alcoholic. Not sort of Alcoholic or pretty much Alcoholic. I wasn't going through an Alcoholic phase. I'm not a half a dozen other malady's plus Alcoholic. The Big Book describes me as a person who has lost the power of choice. I have seen myself in my Big Book 4th Step thorough moral inventory and the Book is correct, I cannot differentiate between right and wrong. I constantly make decisions based on myself that place me in a position to be hurt. My troubles are of my own making. I am an extreme example of self will run riot and am in full denial. I am quick to blame others for my problems. Drink history? I am always more or less insanely drunk. So this is for ME, this hope, this Big Book 12 Step work is for ME, the hopeless drunkard the Book refers to as the "real Alcoholic". It says if I am thorough in my 12 Step work I will solve the drink problem for one day.(I have, today I am sober) I will undergo a psychic change sufficient to overcome my Alcoholism for one full day.( I can be held accountable so far with my 12 Step work). Willingness is key, also there will be decisions to make, reality to face, and musts.. Sure meetings are fun but I must have more. There are things I must do to ensure my daily reprieve..
Still in my quiet hour of review alone with myself and the first five proposals. Is my work solid so far?
Step 2 willingness: No human power can relieve my Alcoholism. I get it! Some find security in their Religion. Some are willing to look at their Religion in a more loving compassionate way simply by sobering up and listening to others experience.. Some remove the human element like Priest, Pastor, Minister, Rabbi and the like and go directly to their God finding comfort there. As if God is a hub of a great spoked wheel and each spoke is a way to God. People see themselves as a spoke and can worship their God or their one true God directly. Eliminating the middle man. I have met many who believe in something underlying all of life and are willing to believe in their part in it all. Generally? People here who have made an admission of hopelessness and are real Alcoholics? I am willing to believe in something non human at this point. I am out of options and have a long history of relying on myself, I am beginning to get wind that I may be the problem and not everyone else. I am the common denominator. No matter what the dilemma? I am there..It's me. I am willing to change.
Step 3 made a decision: For a long time I thought this Step was just about me and God. The topic at the discussion meeting was God and I had plenty to say. Throwing my hat in the God ring always made me feel a part of AA. Talking about God from the podium. People coming up and saying how great it was to hear my honesty. I'm in the middle now, I still worship people for the empowerment hug but talk like everything is God. AA is a God send. We're all children of God..But for the grace of God go I? Hey, all that stuff is great and certainly a part of growing in understanding but one day I actually read past the 3rd Step prayer. I was on the wrong track. I surrender myself to the God of my understanding. I receive courage and strength to face life on life's terms. A great effect was felt at once? My great affect, which I assumed would be in the shape of fireworks or family returning didn't come. Not in any form I understood anyway. I was launching out into my 4th Step on a course of vigorous honesty with my pens and notebooks. This was something I had never in my wildest dreams attempted. This was my great effect. But others weren't involved so how could I see it? I couldn't, yet. And what did I see towards the end of the 3 reading? I was doing all this work and making this decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God to serve the alcoholic who suffers with this newfound power. I am no longer powerless. I will now have purpose..
So, new outlook! I'm being prepped to serve the suffering Alcoholic way back in Step 3? I never knew. I thought this whole AA 12 Step thing was to fix me, get MY act together and hopefully prove everyone I screwed over wrong. Make me suitable for society. A better son, brother, husband, whatever, fix ME. I didn't know there was an actual reason behind this whole Big Book 12 Step stuff except to live my life sober and go to AA meetings.. Get a family maybe, decent job, friends. Nope, it becomes less and less about me the farther I go. Self centeredness slips away. By Step 7 it's hardly about me at all. It's about giving of everything I get that others like myself who suffer will benefit. So that Step 7 prayer? I'm not sure. I want to be there, I do but this is all a pretty tall order for someone like me. And where It says grant me strength as I go out from here to serve God and my fellows? That's the end of Step 7? Good thing this isn't a college course in recovery. It's a Spiritual journey. I have followed the specific directions and up to Step 3? I am secure. And I'm really no smarter than I was when I got here, smarts has nothing to do with it apparently? Sure I have questions or curious thought, yeah I'm a thinker. But I do not try to think myself out of what I have learned to this point. Step 3 is a decision, not a passing thought. It is no longer a debate. I made a decision.
In my hour review I remember thinking, I have stopped drinking. I am finally doing something about my life as a failure. It is no longer everyone is everything and I'm not. I am a participant in my own life.
Step 4 fearless and thorough moral inventory of ourselves. Well? This certainly wasn't going to happen without the power of Step 3. Maybe others could write without God but not me. I needed to ask God to pick up the pen and put it to the paper. God direct me to what you would have me be. The fear prayer, 3rd Step prayer, any prayer. This is where my reliance on self or people failed. So I began with making a list of all the people I had been resentful toward? That was easy. I hated everybody. Seeing how these resentments affected me, the power I gave them, that was not too bad really. But turning each resentment around and looking at my part? Where I was selfish, dishonest, self seeking, and afraid? Writing this all down on paper for each resentment? Wow! Left on my own? I was not going to do this (look at myself) or anything remotely similar. I needed prayer and more prayer. Courage and strength offered on the Spiritual Path, the things I alone lacked. Without prayer I just sat there until I quit. I had no power, no willingness to look at myself. It just wasn't going to happen. I'd sooner put down the pen and pick up a gun. The best I could've hoped for was a short story centered around me, the victim of circumstance. That was not nearly enough to qualify under fearless and thorough. Besides, fearlessness came from my God. I knew that much by now. I could no longer run the show and expect to survive.
I am in my suggested hour reviewing my Stepwork, to this point I am on the mark, I have been thorough, willing to see my true self.
Fortunately for me I did have a Big Book 12 Step sponsor or Spiritual advisor, whatever you want to call it, guide, stepsherpa. I was encouraged to not quit on myself. To pray for direction, for courage and strength to see my selfishness and fear. All defects of character seemed to funnel down to these two defects, selfishness and fear. To understand why I was like I was, so extreme. A producer of confusion even though my motives were good. I didn't want to be screwed up, I just was. I tried my best to be a right guy and put the bottle down but I couldn't. The best I could do is search out someone to save me, use another girlfriend or wife to fix me, change faces, environment, change my life by letting me in to live someone else's for a time. Until I use it up. I always use their lives up and am then on to the next person place or thing to fix me, take my pain away.
I had a ruff idea what my trouble was. My ism. I was ready for Step 5. As I sat there in my suggested Step 6 hour of review. I thought about Steps 1 thru 4 and now Step 5.
I had been thorough. More so than I could have ever dreamed actually. Man I had really cleaned my slate. Every nook and cranny of the past, no stone unturned, I got it all out there withholding nothing as the Book suggested..I did feel reborn actually, free from my bondage, free from my fear. Nothing specific really, an emptiness in a good way, no usual racing mind, no trying to arrange others to suite myself, it's like I no longer cared what others thought. I mean I cared sure but not as if life and people was this great obsessive conspiracy and I was out to survive at any cost. No, they were just people, no longer a threat. Even all those who had supposedly hurt me or rejected me, dominated me? I could see my part and really would straighten out these lifelong resentments if I could have the opportunity. I had changed. The 9th Step promises says I will be amazed before I am halfway through and this was Step 6 and yeah, I was halfway through to 12. I am on track. I am following the AA Big Book 12 Step program. Bottom line? I realize my God is doing for me what I could not do for myself. I had been making my life unlivable..
Times up, one hour has passed. Say the 7th Step prayer now? On my knees? Alone?
God, My creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad.. I pray that you now take away every single defect of character that stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength as I go out from here to do your bidding. amen. We have then completed Step 7. I believe my God is all things, all of life, everything, including me.
To those who deny AA as a Spiritual recovery program and wish to live the principles without referring to them as Spiritual principles? those who believe they have a intellectual replacement for a Spiritual dilemma. All I can say to you is I myself would not have fit in the Oxford groups, I am not a Religious fanatic or a Big Book fanatic yet I am also not Stepsherpa's Anonymous.. I am a part of a Spiritual whole. I am grateful for my part. I say the Our Father at the end of meetings because others who believe do and I can respect their beliefs without feeling threatened. They respect mine. Just like the 50ish Anonymous recovery programs that are identified as 12 Step. I know few actually have anything to do with the actual 12 Steps, most are a blend of AA principles and the ever changing medical model. Rarely is the Big Book 12 Step Spiritual program addressed. That doesn't change my experience or the wording in the Big Book 12 Steps.
Step 6 and 7. My hour of review suggested in the Big Book 12 Steps. Good stuff for me.