When I was newly sober, having a list of amends to make was like having a big pile of bills to pay. And I hate that feeling: a stack of checks to write and a list of people and places I owe. It’s just always on my mind, lingering in the back row like somebody murmuring behind you at the movies. When I stopped drinking my conscious woke up and I start hearing the voices of remorse.
And then there was that one time when I was in high school that I stole a whole bunch of books from the public library. It was way back when shoplifting was easy. Go in with a nearly empty backpack, load it up with Hobbit adventures, and walk out. Just be careful and it was really that easy. I didn’t feel any guilt at the time because for whatever reason in my head, the world owed me.
Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. — Step 8 of Alcoholics Anonymous
When I got to the Eighth Step I was kind of disappointed that they use the word “harmed.” I didn’t like it because I didn’t like the thought of me actually hurting people. We get a taste of peace after working the previous steps and then Step Eight comes crashing in like a bowling ball. Announcing we’d done harm.
Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. — Step 2 of Alcoholics Anonymous
The drug and alcohol treatment center I went to in the early 90s was 12-step based. Their treatment plan was to have patients complete the first five steps in order to graduate. When working Step Two, we spent a good chunk of time making lists of how and why we were insane. Those lists were easy to make but in the here-and-now I kinda think they missed the point.
Well into my way of twelve step recovery I confused the word “practice” with “perfected” somehow.
Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and had perfected practiced these principles in all our affairs. — Step 12 of Alcoholics Anonymous
I thought that because I’d worked all the other steps and had arrived at number 12 that I should be over some hump. Passed the bump. Made the jump. Maybe even overflowing with love while walking with spiritual principles or whatever.
I’m overly fond of how they worded all of AA’s Twelve Steps.Case in point: the 11th Step.
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. — Step 11 of Alcoholics Anonymous
It doesn’t say that we pray in the morning and meditate in the afternoon or whatever. It says that we continued to seek, it doesn’t say when or where or how. The reason they didn’t put it on a schedule is because some people might work the third shift.
If you’re not familiar with AA’s Twelve Steps, don’t worry none. Just follow along and you’ll get the gist.
When I worked Step One I was in horrible, emotional pain. Nightmarish pain that’d wake me up at night. Day in and day out pain unlike anything I’d felt in my life.
And that pain was with me up until after I’d worked my Fifth Step. Then after Step Seven I started to really feel that peace, that everything was gonna be okay. That overwhelming and underlying good feeling that comes from walking a spiritual path.
People always say that the 12 steps are in order for a reason. I guess I never really paid that much attention to that statement until after I was in recovery for a year or so. Looking back on my experience with Step 4 I know there’s no way in hell that I would’ve been able to write a searching and fearless moral inventory if I didn’t have a concept of God that I believed in. I just wouldn’t have.
Writing them was hard (I’ve done two) and I felt all kinds of feelings with the second one. Anger, shame, guilt, regret. Horror. Felt all the things that drinking kept me from feeling. I had burning resentments and sexual traumas. Had broken friendships and ruined relationships. And more.
When I was drinking I would hurt people, because that’s what I did when I was drinking, and then I would feel bad and avoid them. Sometimes go out of my way not to see them. And then when the day came around that I did, I would hang my head in shame and hope that they had forgotten.
After I’d been sober for a number of years I relapsed. It wasn’t something that I thought was gonna happen. And also, it didn’t “just happen” either.
So with that being said I feel qualified, I feel confident, I feel like I’m able to talk about relapse overall. I have experience with it.
I didn’t have any deep, dark, dank secrets. I didn’t hold anything back when writing my Fourth Step and I didn’t hold anything back when sharing my Fifth Step. I made all of the amends on my Eighth Step list. I was more spiritual than I’d ever been my whole life.