Archive for the 4th Step Category
This is a wonderful anonymous guest post on hitting a Bottom while sober. A honest, raw piece, we are very grateful for this insightful submission!
Being sober is the most wonderful gift I’ve ever received. And for the first five years of my sobriety, I lived in a world of perpetual perkiness. I even walked through a marriage and divorce with what dignity and grace. And then that special someone walked into my life. And I was completely smitten! People commented on a regular basis about how good we were together….and we were. Or so I thought. What I realized was that I had entered my first relationship in recovery and was truly in love for the first time. But I was alone in that and the relationship ended abruptly and very unexpectedly. This was an emotional bottom, for me, of great magnitude.
I never hit a bottom like this as a still suffering alcoholic. And it was huge. The stages of grief were almost more than I could handle. I was desperate to turn off the emotions. I was desperate to not feel at all. And I wanted to drink!
My heart physically hurt and the pain was nearly unbearable. The question that may come to mind for some people reading this is, “How could a person cause this much pain to someone with five years of sobriety?” The answer to that question is: I still had a lot of work to do on me and God waited until I was able to handle it to do the work.
Prior to that relationship beginning, I had begun work on a very intense sex inventory. This one involved all of my past and it was quite scary. You see, my story includes a lot of alcohol combined with sex. And I did NOT want to do this inventory. So when a new distraction came along, I opted to stop doing the inventory.
When this breakup happened and I was in so much pain, I had two choices, jump deeper into recovery or drink. My instinct was to drink. It’s what I wanted more than anything. However, that was not much of an option for me. From day one of the breakup I began reaching out to people. I begged for help. I begged God to let me die. I cried every day for nearly four months. I prayed for the willingness to surrender that person. I prayed to let it all go. But through all of that, I never picked that drink and I finished that sex inventory.
The sex inventory was the most painful inventory I had walked through. Looking at my past behaviors with men and women alike, people I had mistreated and used and manipulated through some type of sexual behavior (even if only flirting) to get what I wanted was not my idea of a good time. But cleansing it was. I had also made the decision to not allow any intimate relationships into my life for at least six months. What? Six months? I had never been single longer than two months. This was absurd.
For the next six months, I focused on being as involved as I could. I went to tons of meetings. I picked up new sponsees and worked closely with my sponsor. I let myself feel what I needed to feel. I cried and cleansed and eventually began laughing again. I really began to understand what peace and serenity really is. That understanding came to me because for the first time in my life, I surrendered to a power greater than myself, all of me. I believed so completely in God’s will for me and abandoned my own will. And I knew freedom.
What I learned of myself was that I had lived in ego for five years. I’d always relied on someone else to bring me joy and had no idea what being happy on my own looked like. In that time, I learned to love myself and be my own friend. This is the biggest gift I’ve received in recovery.
Writing a fourth step is an act of courage. It takes immense bravery to write in detail a complete moral inventory of oneself paying close attention to our part. It is important to detail our resentments, because after doing so we can look at how we were affected and what our part in the resentment was. When we break down resentment we learn that we still carry it because it affects a constant fear that we have. Perhaps someone bruised our ego or we felt cheated, we change our perspective to see where we were selfish, dishonest, or afraid. When looking at our fear inventory, we break down each fear and find that most fears are related. Our fears all share the commonality that we are not actually scared of something concrete or material, but of how it will make us feel. When writing our sex inventory it is important to look at how our behavior affected our relationships. Without beating ourselves up, we accept responsibility for how we acted. It is the act of catharsis to write how we feel, and an act of courage to look at our part.
The courageous act of putting this all on paper must immediately be followed with an act of integrity. The catharsis is incomplete if we do not quickly read it out loud, so we can admit to our high-power, another human being, and ourselves, the exact nature of our wrongs. The power of the inventory lies in this confession. When we read it out loud, we take the power away from everything we have held on to. We are finally able to let go of guilt, shame, resentment, and fear.
Recently I went through my steps for the second time with my sponsor, and the difference between my first fourth step and second one was astonishing. After I read my fifth step the first time, I felt like a weight had been lifted. I felt as though everything that I had carried around for all those years finally dissipated. I was expecting a similarly visceral experience the second time. They were roughly equally in length, and both thorough. However, after the second one I wasn’t as emotional or changed. I attribute this to the constant inventory I take. Since my first fourth step I have tried to tell the truth and tell it faster. This means doing a tenth step any time I have a resentment, and reaching out when I am struggling. After some time of doing this I found that I am fundamentally changed. A weight wasn’t lifted the second time because I no longer let the weight of resentment and pain accumulate.
“Though our decision was a vital and crucial step, it could have little permanent effect unless at once followed by a strenuous effort to face, and to be rid of, the things in ourselves which had been blocking us.”
“Since most of us are born with an abundance of natural desires, it isn’t strange that we often let these far exceed their intended purpose. When they drive us blindly, or we willfully demand that they supply us with more satisfactions or pleasures than are possible or due us, that is the point at which we depart from the degree of perfection that God wishes for us here on earth. That is the measure of our character defects, or, if you wish, our sins”
I often hear people quote the line in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous where it says, “Resentments are our #1 Offender.” I have taken this line as gospel, and done everything possible to purge myself of resentments. Furthermore, I try to prevent from acquiring resentments in the first place. However, after having a discussion with one of the most special people in my life, I have come to a somewhat contradictory conclusion.
It was brought to my attention once again that Fear is one side of the coin while Faith is the other. I was encouraged by a mentor to look at a few things regarding my faith and fear. My direction came in several steps, and I have found them to be super helpful, so I thought I would share my experience in hopes that it would help someone out there!
Before I got sober, I was ruled by fear. I often hear in twelve-step meetings the importance of turning my will and life over to a power greater than myself. Looking back throughout my life, I always was and am turning my life over to something, essentially giving it control. When I was using, I turned my will and life over to Fear. My actions and thoughts were ruled by my fear of myself and my overwhelming emotions which I never learned to cope with.
Fear completely ruled my life. I lived in suffering, and found no peace in things as they were. There were problems with me, a spiritual malady that prevented me from seeing the blessing of life. Instead of living in gratitude, I let fear overpower me.
When I was newly sober, there were many times that I felt overwhelmed by my emotions. My sponsor used to say to me, “The good news is you’re feeling again. The bad news is you’re feeling again.” My fear of seeing my true emotions and who I was were what drove me to use. Life had gotten so unbearable, that when I made that decision to seek a better path, I had to suddenly start dealing with all these emotions. I didn’t feel like I wanted to get high, I just felt like I didn’t want to feel.
Today, I am able to deal with these emotions, although fear still does get the best of me on occasion. The second and third step were my first turning point with the fear situation. I trust that a power greater than myself holds the best path for me, and that everything happens for a reason. My higher power is forgiving, and no thought or feeling I have is inherently wrong. As I trust in God, I am able to walk through my fear, and see that it is only making me stronger and better able to cope with it.
Buddhism has also greatly aided me through living without the controlling reign of fear. My Samatha and Vipassana practices have helped me become more aware of myself and my emotions, as well as seeing the true nature of my fear. I see that fear comes completely from within, as I am sometimes in fear when completely alone and silent. It is often said in the program that fear is one side of the coin and faith is the other. I have found this especially true through my meditation practices. When I experience fear, it is directly because I have a lack of faith in that moment. Just as fear comes from within, my higher power must come from within.
When I am able to sear my fear and my suffering in this light, it opens a door to a realm of possibilities. I am able to see that one of my suffering is a lack of faith, and even being too hard on myself about it. I criticize the world, specifically myself, and am not able to live in acceptance. I see that the cessation of this specific suffering is possible, because I have experienced it before. I know that the way through this suffering is through right effort, right livelihood, right action, and of course right view. My view is becoming stronger and stronger as the days go by. I know that right effort is important because I must not give up and persevere through the fearful times. Right livelihood is important to me today because I earn a good honest living. My livelihood is important to maintain because it allows me to live in confidence, knowing that my faith and lack of fear brings me to higher ground. Finally, my actions are extremely important. as I sometimes must act my way into right thinking. With Buddhism as well as twelve-step recovery, right action sometimes needs to come first, as experience leads to true faith.
I heard a newcomer say in a meeting recently that “fear is some powerful shit.” I respect his opinion of course, but I pray that one day he can see that it is only as powerful as he allows it to be. Today, fear is not as powerful as it used to be. Waves of emotion occur. I do not have to let them become waves of fear or waves of craving, and for that I love my higher power.