I was in a meeting the other night where Step 6 was the topic, and when the book came around, this is what I got to read:
In reality, many of our lives were full of strife. It felt like life was a war—us against them. There was a fierce competition for power, wealth, ideas, and love. We were afraid that we would not measure up; we would be losers. We lost our self-esteem, dignity, and self-respect. We became estranged from our society, our work, our families, and our friends.
At times, some of us would not accept limits to our needs, passions, and ambitions. We lost our sense of social harmony. We paid little attention to our means, our consciences, or our faculties. We welcomed the label “outlaw.” We dared society to discipline us by ignoring its laws, norms, and customs. Then, we were outraged and surprised when society acted against us!
Alternatively, some of us took the other tack, perhaps a much more dangerous and heartbreaking one. We were fatalistic. We accepted other people’s constraints on our needs, desires, and ambitions. We believed that our lot in life was inevitable, inescapable, and miserable. Finally, we reached the point where our disease enslaved us. Our needs were unfulfilled, our passions frustrated, and our ambitions thwarted because we could see no other way to live. The sad fact was that we cruelly and piteously oppressed ourselves and usually found other people who were more than willing to help us do so.
When I got done, I thought to myself, “My gosh, I was doing this today!”
I could go into plenty of detail about how I still engage in so much of what is described above, but the point of talking about recovery is to talk about solutions, and how we found them. I’ll take a shot at that instead.
First, the progress:
- Yeah, I still do a lot of that stuff … but I don’t use over it.
- I don’t do it as much or as deeply as I used to
- These days, when I am on my game, I know I’m doing it, which means …
- I can stop doing a whole lot quicker.
The biggest thing is, having realized what I’m up to (step 4) and copped to somebody about it (step 5), I can evaluate how it’s working and be willing to do something else (step 6), and then ask for help letting go of the behavior (step 7).
Of course, I fall short all the time — but at least now I have some options! And I learned them all in recovery. And here’s the thing: I would never have learned any of this stuff about my behavior, and I would never have gotten sober in the first place, had I not gone through the same process with my using. I had to realize it wasn’t working, get honest and vulnerable about it, and find the willingness (with support and understanding from people in the program) to let it go.
Another thing I find helpful here: I was told early on that if I’m struggling with a step, just back up to the last one. So, stuck in a character defect or bothersome behavior? Back up to Step 5 and get honest about it: Share in a meeting or call a trusted follow. Trouble with that? Go back to Step 4 and have a real talk with yourself about what you’re up to. Trouble with that? Go back to Step 3 and find the willingness to do the work. Or to Step 2 to find the faith. Or hell, all the way to Step 1 and just ask yourself, “How is this working, and how am I likely to be at fixing it myself?”
I certainly don’t enjoy getting into these character defects, but I sure do get into them. Afraid I won’t measure up? Won’t accept limitations on my desires? Ignore my means? Despair? Self-oppression? I’ve got PhDs in that shit!
But I also have a whole fellowship of people who’ve been there, too. And together, we’ve found solutions to this which we can use — sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly — to make progress. It’s all material to learn and grow from, if we’re only willing.