Just celebrated a Sobriety Birthday. Took a chip at my fave Reno meeting; sponsor and friends cheering me on. Feel free to have a drink in my honor.
Will be there in spirit(s).
Join me in a double espresso if you’re stopping by the house.
Currently working on Step 4:
“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves”
If you’re familiar with 12 step programs you’ll know that this particular portion of the journey is considered to be the most frightening, emotional and difficult. The point of working The Steps is to bring a person to freedom and happiness.
The freedom of bondage from self. Or self-will run riot as the 12 Steps say.
Or, the freedom that allows you to happily live in your own skin, as I say.
Knowing an ease of living which allows the organic occurrence of self will to spill naturally: the pursuit of helping others, recognizing the joyful incidents in life, and by being an example to those who seek guidance and help them to recover from the disease of alcoholism.
The book Alcoholics Anonymous states that upon completion of all 12 steps the addict will find a ‘spiritual awakening’. I’m an atheist so that phrase doesn’t resonate with me.
Freedom from my own past mistakes, guilt, blame, the ability to keep from repeating the same idiotic decisions over and over, and the selflessness resulting will allow me to be of maximum service to others. To stop hating myself.
By helping other people we get out of our own problems. It works both ways. Good deal.
Instead of following the suggestions of this program verbatim I re-configure the phrase ‘spiritual awakening’ to reflect what we’re all looking for: Replacing the fear and anger which cause selfish acts and self-loathing with acceptance, gratitude, humility and helpfulness to others. We have to fill the void left by self-medication to dull life and pain. Believe I read somewhere that nature abhors a vacuum. Or cats abhor them. Eh, either way.
I don’t believe Alcoholics Anonymous should be considered a work inscribed in stone. The flatline in membership over the past few years can surely be traced to the rigidity of many local groups, and the General Services Council. Recently both Toronto and Kansas City threw out the agnostic/atheist meetings previously listed on their schedules.
There are as many specialized meetings available (in larger cities at any rate), as there are diverse groups in society as a whole. If you Google for a local meeting schedule you’ll find fellowship groups geared towards LGBT, Pagans, Doctors, Lawyers, Men Only, Women Only, Teens and many other special or minority interests.
The idea that being an agnostic or atheist precludes a person from finding sobriety, and doesn’t belong in 12 Step literature, meetings and groups is frightening. It’s not just showing prejudice, it is showing ignorance and most importantly it keeps people away who want help.
The ‘Big Book,’ as we alkies refer to the tome Alcoholics Anonymous, explicitly states that we are a fellowship and
The ONLY requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.
Big Book Thumpers (think religious fundamentalists and zealots) make me deranged. You’ll find them all over the world. “By the blood of Jesus Christ and the power of Alcoholics Anonymous I am sober today!”
Holy crap Batman.
Not my style. A huge turn off if you are Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Pagan and particularly non theist or deist. Importantly, being physically sober doesn’t make you happy. It doesn’t cure your woes. Without tools to aid us we’re just dry drunks. You know them. Sober but still all kinds of fuckered up, inherently unhappy and pissed off at the world.
Why bother then?! Unless you dig that whole cross and nails thing.
The salient point of Step 4, and finding peace and sanity, is making an inventory.
This is similar to what any business owner must do annually. If you’ve ordered items that don’t sell you’ve got to let them go. I’m having a fire sale this month.
Step 4 is a literal inventory of character defects as opposed to an inventory of the items in a store. Such as that pallet of board games which turned out to be one of the dumbest purchases you’ve made that season.
Don’t ask me how I can relate to this metaphor so well.
I hear virtually all of you saying “Surely not! Miss R? Character Defects? Blasphemy!” Yes it’s true.
In order to be happy joyous and free (but still cheap nyuk nyuk nyuk) life has to be lived with rigorous honesty. Except with the IRS. I’m not talking about ‘cash register’ honesty. Have always had that.
This rigorous honesty has to be with myself. Which sucks. No more two day pity parties complete withblack balloons, Ben and Jerry’s, fabulous playlists of my favorite depressing music, and of course the number one offender: Not seeing my part in most past bad situations.
As a veteran of the sobriety wars my original 4th Step was completed 17 years ago. Think there must have been at least 140 items on the list. Today that list consists of less than 30 items, probably closer to 25. Mercifully all of the years I was clean and sober did some good and a lot of information stuck.
Making the inventory list begins with writing down ALL persons, places and things which piss you off. You’ll start out thinking there are just a few. Suddenly your pen will begin flying as if possessed. Weird but true.
Next, you’ll make a second column describing the situation which brings up such commendable memories and thoughts -she said in her best snarky voice-. The last column lists WHY you feel uncomfortable, agitated or pissed off at the items on your inventory list.
Once again, seventeen years later, it’s apparent that Fear is the basis for my discomfort. Fear translates into anger, self-pity, and blaming others. Including ourselves. There are a lot of items on my 4th Step list which are the result of outside influences. Letting go of unnecessary guilt is part of the process as well.
Going to stop today’s 4th Step dance lesson here. Hope you may have an idea now of what your friend, family member or yourself, is dealing with when talking about the 4th Step. They’re surely losing their friggin minds at this point.
It’s scary to look at our deepest fears. To see on paper every minute, agitating, horrifying detail ranging from cruel verbal outbursts to sexual conduct that has left us feeling like worthless pieces of human crap.
I’ll tell you what I know to be true for me in a brief overview:
Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable. –yeah I got that!–
Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity –I’ll try anything at this point. Even AA as a higher power-
Step 3: Turned our will and our lives over to God, as we understand Him. –Wait. Back up. WTF?!–
Note the last portion of the above step. It’s in there to ‘help’ us poor misguided agnostics and atheists and pagans to give up their idea of controlling the universe. I got over this hurdle by realizing that if there is no God, then I couldn’t be Her. Replacing the word God with your idea of a Power Greater Than Yourself can be a slippery semantic bitch. So, I use another technique as well; break it down to it’s essence. This is acceptance. We are not in control of life. I don’t mean give up.People have free will. It is refers to material problems. You have no control if your car breaks down, you get cancer or your neighbor pisses on your rose bush during the night. You DO have control over how you handle the situation. Act instead of react. Accept that a rain cloud has decided to storm over your life that day. Don’t take the anger and frustration out on other people. Or yourself.
Step 3 is really about Acceptance, not God. By using critical thinking it is possible to divorce the wording, divine the purpose of the step and learn how to use a new tool. Works wonders in lowering your blood pressure as well.
It’s hellish as a non-Christian to sit in a room full of people who happily recite God this God (with a capital G) that and all you hear is framed in Christian context. The Alano club (a building or room dedicated to hold 12 step meetings) where I hang out has a lot of murals painted on the walls. One shows a bar with people portrayed as ducks. Hell if I get the duck thing but that’s not the point. There’s a newbie pictured -falling off their bar stool. There’s an old-timer pictured -holding his big book and grinning. There are several other characters depicted including a duck labeled atheist. He has horns sprouting from his head.
I shit you not.
First time I noticed this I burst into laughter. Then thought about it and mused over the non-Christian who may have seen this, left the meetings, and died of this disease. All because a fellowship (NOT a program despite what too many members say and believe) cannot or will not accept anything not of their understanding. Particularly if it is not written down in the book.
For a group that bases virtually all of it’s tenets on Acceptance, this is some tough food for thought.
The 12 Steps DO work, if you work them with rigorous honesty.
For more than twelve years I practiced their principles in all of my affairs and led a bountiful, fun, laughter filled and generous life.
Do I have problems with AA as a whole? Clearly. Are their answers? Yes. Can people find sobriety if they truly want it and work these steps in order? Yes. If you are willing to go to any lengths to stop the pain, and find serenity.
Never said it was easy. It’s also not the Only way to get sober and find peace. It is the only way that has proven that sobriety and happiness can be mine. Hundreds of thousands of other 12 Steppers will also attest to this. Hundreds of thousands have shown that they achieved sobriety and happiness using other means. Statistically, AA seems to be the choice with a lower recidivism rate.
On that note go out and enjoy a great day, bring merriment to the masses, and set a steel-spring trap under the roses.
Currently, your intrepid writer is convalescing at mom’s house in northern California. Came for a four day visit. On the final evening my gallbladder decided to attack, caused itself and the rest of my body to be rushed to the hospital ER, and was then removed.
Three hours of surgery, lots of IV Fentanyl and Morphine and two days later I’m back at mom’s house recovering. I’ll share my Norco with that espresso I got going on the stove.
Back to Reno on Friday after having stitches removed.
If you’re going to become ill, suffer pain so horrible and intense that you wished a large rock was in reach -to bash yourself into unconsciousness- while on vacation, then make sure to do so at mom’s house. Especially when she is an RN. Especially specially when she knows your favorite childhood dishes. If you’re an addict or alcoholic it also provides plenty of time to finish writing out that pesky 4th Step.
Pack your Xanax though. There’s a reason we leave our parents to begin with.