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STEP EIGHT DISCOVERING I HAD EMPATHY

Audio Version

 

Before coming into Alcoholics Anonymous, my life had become a living hell. I could find no escape from my diseased thinking anymore and my drinking and behaviour found me in constant conflict with others. It felt like everyone treated me like a joke and I would be seething inside. Drink gave me a release from these feelings at first, but by the last 2 years of my drinking I was not able to bottle my feelings up inside anymore. Instead I was exploding over anything and everything. I had totally lost control of my drinking and my mind was completely distorted with anger and resentment. For years, alcoholism made me a victim of my twisted thinking. I was never able to see the effects of my behaviour towards others because I was blinded by my constant thoughts of self. When I eventually turned up to my first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, I was utterly beaten.

I learned a lot about my alcoholism whilst at the meetings and could genuinely see that if I didn't change I would surely die of this diseased thinking. I eventually asked someone to show me how to change. This person became my sponsor and he started to show me what he had done to recover. First of all he gave me positive actions to take throughout the day and when he could see that I was willing to follow directions, he then started to take me through the Twelve Steps of recovery. As I went through the Steps , my views and attitude towards others started to change. Whereas before I was the constant victim in my day-to-day life, I was now starting to see more clearly in situations and having less distorted thoughts towards others and I actually started to feel comfortable around others. When I reached Step Eight, I was ready in myself to truthfully look at how I affected others and how they must have felt when I hurt them. I made a thorough list of the people that I had harmed. I had to put myself in their shoes, to really see the damage I caused, so I was willing to make amends.

On my list I made three columns. In the first column I put the person's name that I had harmed, then in the second column I wrote exactly what had happened and finally in the third column I wrote down how I would have felt if I was them. I found it difficult at first but my sponsor suggested that I get a thesaurus to find good strong descriptive words to use when I was describing the feelings. Once I got the hang of the words, like 'betrayed', 'devastated' and 'heartbroken' to name a few, this is when I could see the true damage of my actions towards others. I didn't expect this Step to be as powerful as it turned out to be; it opened a part of myself that I didn't even know existed (empathy). AA has now enabled me to think of others and by thinking of others I don't feel alone anymore and I feel a part of life at last. I'm so grateful to have found AA, and more importantly taken the Steps, because it has changed me and given me a real chance at being happy in this world.    

CHRIS,
Road to Recovery Group