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DAUNTING BUT HOPEFUL
There have been some big changes in my life recently. I moved to the other side of the world, became a father and started a new job. Half-measures avail us nothing, right! All the external changes that were happening had set in motion a whole bunch of internal changes too! Having wanted to face fears and live a life full of adventure, I found myself facing other parts of my personality that I hadn’t seen or been willing to look at before. I was suddenly faced with sides of myself that I didn’t like, were causing me resentments, fear and making me say and feel things I didn’t want to. Perfectionism, drive and ambition, and the need for admiration and approval were defects of character or short-comings that had been making me feel safe and in control for a long time. I have often returned again and again to the pamphlet on emotional sobriety, reminding myself that urges for complete approval, utter security and perfect romance are attitudes that still rule me but surface during periods of change or stress or difficulty to remind me that I have more work to do!
I had got to another stage in my sobriety, in which more ‘letting go’ and ‘letting God’ was required. It’s said in the Big Book that we have ‘tapped a limitless lode’ and that ‘more will be revealed’ but I have to admit that seeing parts of myself that were uncomfortable, painful and scary made me want to ‘put the genie back in the bottle’ and pretend I didn’t need to grow anymore through the Programme of Alcoholics Anonymous.
However, the Programme has taught me that I have to remain open, honest and willing, if I am to live the Promises. I love the new freedom and happiness AA and my faith in a Higher Power has brought me over the years but I have to continue to honestly admit my faults. This simple spiritual solution and practical Programme of action has directed me again and again to doing the work, usually (read always) starting by ‘doing the next right thing’. So it was with an open, honest heart that I talked to my sponsor of many years about character defects that sounded so childish, pathetic and insurmountable. Honesty was at the heart of the matter.
I always thought that I was an honest person, with high standards and values which I purported to live by. It turned out that I expected the world to live up to these extravagantly high, unachievable and ever changing set of moral codes, but I didn’t. The denial at the heart of alcoholism protected me for some time against my own lies, deceit, stealing and cheating. My life before Alcoholics Anonymous was the usual fare of selfishness, fear and dishonesty.
It wasn’t until I came into the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous that I could even begin to look honestly at my life. Walking through the door was perhaps the first honest step I had ever taken, tentatively admitting that I may have a problem. Once I had taken the first Step and honestly admitted, alongside my fellow AA members, that “I’m Rob and I’m an Alcoholic”, I had opened myself up to the possibility of change. A change in my need to drink. And a change in my outlook, emotions and attitudes.
When I had committed to turn my will and life over to the care of God in Step Three, I took another step towards what I now know is a life-long journey of spiritual growth. The real reasons why I drank, the fear (that evil corroding thread), the resentments, denial, shame, guilt and remorse that ran through every and all of my life became alarmingly apparent in my Step Four. This honest appraisal about the real causes and conditions of my thinking and behaviour had to be shared in order to be effective. AA literature talks of humility and honesty, of a clear recognition of who and what we really are.
Step Five was daunting but hopeful. I hated the thought of admitting my deepest, darkest, dirtiest secrets to another human being, but I knew deep down that there was a real possibility that I could be relieved of the shame, guilt, fear and remorse that had been my constant companion and rock around my neck for as long as I could remember. Step Five reminds us that it’s only by holding back nothing that we can ‘set foot on the road to straight thinking, solid honesty, and genuine humility.’
I read and my sponsor listened.
Not only did he bear witness, helping me to lift a weight from my shoulders, but reiterated the unique bond that one alcoholic has with another. He remains the only person in the world who knows absolutely everything about me; much more than my wife, my friends or my family.
This honest relationship continues to this day, with my sponsor showing me time and time again that once I begin to look honestly at myself, I can accept myself and the world around me, and that from there I can begin to change. It has been difficult to even begin facing parts of myself that I don’t want to. It has been hard to talk about them and make sense of them but it is through practising the honesty in Step Five again and again that I have found spiritual growth, the necessary personality change and committed to the limitless expansion the Big Book talks about. I made a commitment to myself in early recovery that I would not let my fear, defects of character and procrastination limit my new life.
I picked up a drink when I was 13 and was just shy of 30 when I arrived at the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous. And all that time I was limited by fear, dishonesty and selfishness that led me again and again to the bottle and oblivion. Now in recovery, I have another man who continues to help me take my personal inventory, grow both spiritually and as a man, and shows me time and time again (through action and service in his own life), that I do not ever have to be alone, and that I can “quit the deadly business” of living alone with my conflicts.
Since I’ve come in to recovery, I’ve found a new freedom and a new happiness. All this time I have been able to face life on life’s terms (good, bad and indifferent) and found that there is nothing in life that – with the help of the power found in the Fellowship, the Steps and the God of my understanding – I cannot handle. And so, even though the changes seem sometimes overwhelming and insurmountable, all I have to do is pick up the phone, practise honesty and humility with my sponsor, and I can ‘tap into’ the spiritual solution, the inner resource that is at the heart of Step Five.