i’ve mentioned i’m now in Step 8 [“Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all”] of the 12 Steps, getting ready for Step 9. Reliving my past errors is harrowing at times—i’ve noticed that when i recall the disasters i’ve created in my life i feel the shame flare up and burn through me like a flash fire—but knowing i’m making amends for them soothes me like a balm and i feel purified when all is said and well-done.
Another beneficial aspect of Steps 8 & 9 is that these are the first steps of the 12 that involve other people. Steps 1-7 are all about working on myself from the inside, while now i need to take this work and focus it outward, on my relation with others.
Let me tell you, this step could not come soon enough.
Like many alcoholics, i imagine, i’m pathologically shy. Alcohol was a way for me to overcome this fear of talking to people and it even worked for a certain time (usually the first bottle of wine). Now, by razing my past, by Cleaning my Slate, i’m removing any need i have to feel inferior, to feel “less than”, in my social interactions. Hopefully, this will help me to me more secure and “right-sized” when i continue my interactions with others.
i’m sure i’ve told this story here on these pages somewhere but as this came up in my 8th Step work (Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all) and i also can’t be bothered to search through my posts to link to it, i’ll just retell it as briefly as i can.
One Friday night here in Yeaman, after the weekly cocktail party where i work, i followed some of my colleagues to a Scottish pub for the pre-after party. i was not drunk, i was totally shitfaced. i spoke very rudely on the underground, embarrassing my friends because i didn’t think anyone spoke English in the subway car, until a young woman standing nearby informed us in no uncertain terms that she did.
At the bar, i went to order a beer and noticed the barmaid was attractive (i was single at this time), so i decided to say something out of the ordinary, something edgy, to catch her attention and stand out from the crowd. i don’t remember what i said. The next thing i do remember is the barmaid was in tears, my coworkers were leading me outside, and the furious barman/owner was telling me i was barred for life.
Jumping ahead to tonight… At the meeting, a young lady in her mid-late 20’s was celebrating 5 years of sobriety and was talking about how she had lost everything (her job, her apartment, her family) to her disease before realizing she needed help.
When it came my turn to share i said:
When i was drinking, i felt like a broken toy. Like those toys under the bed in the evil kid’s house in Toy Story where the heads are on the wrong bodies. And like them, i knew i was beyond repair. That was my destiny. i had to accept the fact that i was alone and living in the dark and there was nothing i could do to get fixed.
The most amazing thing for me when i entered the program was realizing i was not broken by nature. That i could be repaired. All i had to do was to follow the steps. And as i took those steps and followed the advice, i slowly came out from under the bed and into the light.
As i spoke, i glanced up at her and saw she was crying. She was not crying because i had humiliated or hurt her, but because my words resonated with her.
If anybody tells you that using is better than recovery, they’re full of Schlitz.
i realize i’m one of the few Alcoholics Anonymous supporters in our community here. In my defense, i can state as fact that i would never have been able to reach two years of sobriety if it weren’t for the AA program.
i’m not saying AA is THE way to sobriety, i’m saying it’s my way. i’ve always said the best program is the one that works for you.
Anyway here’s something i noticed about how AAmazing the steps are.
i’ve just concluded steps 6 & 7.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
As i’ve mentioned before, some of what i learned taking these steps was to be “right-sized“.
Now, i embark on Steps 8 & 9.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
As i compile the lengthy list of people i have ‘harmed’ (and after 30 years of drinking, it’s a pretty extensive list), i’m tempted to get angry at myself, to berate myself for having been such an asshole to so many for so long. But as soon as those negative thoughts arise…i remember what i learned about being right-sized and i’m sorted once again.
The beauty with which each step flows into the next, the foundation that each lays for the next, the synergy that exists to create such overall harmony in the 12 Steps is truly divine. LiterAAlly.