Recovery Share: Self-Awareness and Step 4

Didn’t get a chance to share in a meeting this morning, but here’s what I would have said, the topic being Step 4 and those “misdirected instincts.”

“Creation gave us instincts for a purpose. … Yet these instincts, so necessary for our existence, often far exceeded their proper functions. Powerfully, blindly, many times subtly, they drove us, dominated us, and insist upon ruling our lives. … Nearly every serious emotional problem can be seen as a case of misdirected instinct. When that happens, our great natural assets, the instincts, have turned into physical and mental liabilities.”

12 Steps and 12 Traditions, page 42

This morning I tried to go in and drive a cab for the day, although my heart wasn’t really into it. Turns out the options weren’t good and I took the day off, but as I turned back towards home, I caught myself worrying about money. Then, seemingly, another voice spoke up and said, “Well, if I was driving a cab all day I’d be making money, but I’d probably worry about all the other stuff I could be doing.”

Kind of a default setting?
Kind of a default setting?

For one thing, that voice is right; it’s a simple, honest fact that I worry. I worry about money, about all the stuff I “should” be doing, about what other people think, my health, all sorts of stuff. And there isn’t much activity I can engage in that relieves that worry. Drinking seemed to work for a while, and so did smoking pot, but ultimately they created their own worries.

So there’s some interesting stuff here. First, that “voice,” of course, was me – specifically my self-awareness talking. And that self-awareness was developed primarily by working the 12 Steps, listening in meetings, and talking through stuff with other people. In other words, in recovery. And it’s a helpful voice, because it talks sense. This morning it reminded me that I like to worry, but implied that worrying is a choice, and what I could do is go home, be thankful for the time, and get some stuff done. The money will work out.

What’s also interesting is that bit of insight: that I worry. It’s true, which means it’s helpful to know. It’s a choice that I make, not something imposed on me. But it becomes one of those “emotional problems,” and indeed it’s caused by misdirected or over-amplified instincts.

Who are we dealing with here?
Who are we dealing with here?

Desiring financial and material security makes sense; checking the bank account and spreadsheets several times a day, maybe not. Desiring health makes sense; torturing myself about not going to the gym not so much. Work is important, and so is my career, but if I am working on one thing while worrying about another, then am I doing anything positive in either direction?

Another thing about inventories is that they are judgment-free, if not truly “fearless.” For example, I can honestly say that when I got home today, I had an entire unscheduled day at my disposal – and the first thing I did was check my bank account. Again, not a bad thing, but I didn’t meditate, pray, read some literature, go for a walk, write, etc. So what’s the priority of that person? Seems overly worried about money, no?

When that self-awareness kicked in, though, I thought about all the options before me at 4:30 in the morning. And that’s when I remembered that there’s a 6 a.m. meeting I’ve been meaning to get to. So that’s what I did. I didn’t get to share, but I went, and now I’ve shared anyway. And I’ve written. So those are some choices I can feel better about.

The only road sign that matters.
The only road sign that matters.

I am sure that I will worry about money again soon, and check my bank account before the day is done, and I know that the List Of Things To Do will never be cleared. But for right now, I am grateful for a little self-awareness, for releasing some judgment of myself, for learning about myself, and for the ability to not only make decisions but to understand that I am making decisions. And, of course, I am very grateful to be sober; imagine dealing with this stuff while using!

To know myself, and know how I work, is the beginning of being able to change myself.

Thanks for reading.

You can find more shares like this here.