Fair warning, i’m working on Step 6 in Alcoholics Anonymous and so my next few posts will be about that.
Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
WTH? Defects of character, moi? What defects of character?
One of the things i like most about AA is that there is a clear, practical program to get better. It’s as easy as connecting the dots.
Here’s a short Step By Step refresher course of how i got here.
In Step 1 of AA’s 12 Steps, i admitted my life had become unmanageable because of my inability to handle my drinking.
In Step 2, i said that i obviously couldn’t control my drinking, so a power outside myself was going to have to. My Sponsor and i decided this “Higher Power” was AA Meetings.
In Step 3, i turned over control of my drinking and life to this power.
In Step 4, i made a list of all the deepest, darkest defects of my character and the actions these defects led me to.
In Step 5, i went over this list with another person (my AA Sponsor).
Now, in Step 6, i’m letting my Higher Power know that i’m ready to give these up to him/her/them/us.
One thing i’ve been learning in Recovery is that a lot of my drinking was fear based. i was afraid of being rejected, afraid of looking stupid (which is ironic when you consider how i looked after i’d drunk), afraid of talking, afraid of being judged, afraid of showing emotion… Booze made me brave. Liquid courage. It also made me an asshole. Liquid…asshole? No, that’s diarrhea.
In my 4th Step of the Alcoholics Anonymous program, i listed my wrongs and resentments and people i’d harmed and discovered the source for many of my defects of character were based in the fear i was trying to drown with alcohol. My sponsor told me to write down, every day, the fears i’ve experienced that day.
This is now my nightly routine. In bed, right before sleeping, i list the following things:
- My Fears: what caused them and what the core fear was (like being rejected or health fears or fear of anger…)
- My Esteemable Acts: what did i do that day, especially anonymously, to make my corner of the world a better place
- My Gratitude List: what was i grateful for that day
You know what? i’ve been doing this for about 2 weeks and today i realized i’m a lot less afraid of daily life than i have been in decades. Literally. And i haven’t done anything, except write down 3-4 things at night.
Tastes like Chicken? Not anymore.
Once upon a year, many times ago, i was riding in the back of a bus and reading a book. The seats at the back were arranged facing each other but my head was buried in my book when i felt someone’s foot encroaching on my foot space. He was pushing my shoe with his even though my foot had clearly been there first. i nudged his tennis shoe back to reclaim my territory—these inches of corrugated rubber bus floor were rightfully mine and i’d be damned if i gave them up just because some twat thought i wouldn’t hold my ground.
After ten minutes of this back and forth, i finally raised my head from the pages and saw i was engaged in a turf war with a 15-year-old mentally handicapped boy sitting next to his mother. In that instant, i learned more about fighting for my rights than i ever would at any other time in my life.
Unfortunately, at times i also forgotten more than i’ve ever known about fighting for my rights.
A few years back, a drinking buddy of mine committed an unforgivable affront. As it was totally unforgivable, i’ve never forgiven him (hence he ‘unforgivable’). However, as we work together, i’ve seen him pretty much every day since his heinous act. In the last 2½ years, i’ve spoken to him twice and i was drunk both times. Since entering recovery on January 11, 2011 i have not even acknowledged his presence when we are in the same room together.
Today, i read the following in the Alcoholic Anonymous Big Book.
When a person offended we said to ourselves, “This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. They will be done.”
We avoid retaliation or argument. We wouldn’t treat sick people that way.
–Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book, page 67 (Emphasis is mine)
Reading that, i was taken back to the petty fight with a disabled teen over 6 inches of dirty bus floor. i may not be better than any other person, but i can be better than our conflict.
When i did my 4th Step, which i touch on here, my sponsor told me something he’d heard in the rooms.
Alcoholics are egomaniacs with an inferiority complex.
i could very much relate to this, probably because i am an alcoholic.
One of the recurring issues that came up as i was sharing my defaults was self hatred. i hate myself and when that ball starts rolling, a vicious circle begins.
- i want to escape myself, but i can’t unless
- i get drunk and then at least i don’t hate myself so much until
- i wake up with a hangover and feel physically ill and then
- A few days later, i get spiritually ill and begin to hate myself so
- i want to escape myself but i can’t unless
- i get drunk and then…
Obviously, one of the keys to staying sober is breaking the cycle. But i have no idea how to be compassionate with myself. Here’s a thought i had during our discussion.
If you don’t know how to be compassionate with yourself, practice on others.
i’m often very impatient and frustrated with people and the world in general. “People suck” is kind of my motto. In the rooms, a guy once said, jokingly, “It’s like everyone in the city thinks they’re as important as I am!”
Today i got the answer. While i was in a waiting room, i caught myself getting nervous, tense, impatient and judgmental. i knew i had to practice compassion and tried to figure out how. Then it came to me.
i admire that person’s _________________.
Every time a person made me nervous, i made myself figure out a compliment with which to fill that blank.
For example, an elderly woman was in a foul mood and muttering insults under her breath to everyone in the office. For her, i thought, “i admire your inner strength.” Another man was very impatient and tense. He was constantly asking people what time their appointment was. i thought long and hard and came up with, “i admire your ability to talk to strangers.”
i know you guys are less messed up than i am, but think of the above exercise as a game the next time you’re standing in line at the supermarket. It’ll help pass the time.
Steps 4 & 5 of the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book read:
Step 4) Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Step 5) Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
i spent a week or so doing my “fearless moral inventory” and it was less painful than i thought. i did it in starts and fits and in the end i had 2½ pages with 3 columns, following the outline in the Big Book.
Step 5 was exhausting. i admitted to God, myself and the other human being was my sponsor. It took about 3 hours and i was reminded yet again how crucial it is to have a good sponsor.
Mine listened closely and did not judge. He told me some of his Step 4 stories and we took breaks. When i’d finished, he found patterns in my defects and gave me specific advice on how to work on each of them. i’ll be sharing some of these tips here, soon.
When i stood up at the end, i was light headed. A little woozy. i felt raw and drained.
But i felt different.