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Sobriety | Finding a Life Balance
12 Step Programs | A Real Understanding
Hi! I'm Idono and I am an alcoholic!
NO! This is not an AA lead. I'm not going to tell you my story of how horrible my life was and how wonderful it is now. I'm not going to tell you that I was on a path that leads directly to hell, now I'm saved and hold a ticket to heaven. No. That's not what the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous or whatever 12 step program that you are exploring is all about. They are there to give you a blueprint on a way to make it through life with some peace, serenity and hope. Anything beyond death, if that's what you believe, is up to the churches and religion. That's why we talk about a higher power rather than God. I will use the name "God" as we go, but only for the sake of not lengthening this hub.
You don't have to believe in God to get the full benefit of working these steps in your life. Your higher power can basically be anything you choose or understand, outside of yourself. In other words, you have to realize that you don't control everything, the forces of life do. Whatever you perceive that force to be is the higher power of YOUR understanding. Anyway, we'll get to that. But keep in mind, at some point alcohol became your higher power. You did things for or because of alcohol that a normal person would not do. That's why you are reading this.
To begin with, we'll talk about the first 3 steps. We some times refer to these 3 steps as, "I can't, He can, and I think I'll let Him." Let's see what this means.
Peace and Serenity
1,2,3: As Simple As That
Step 1: We were powerless over alcohol and our lives became unmanageable.
The best way to describe this 2 part step is surrender. Admitting that you have been beaten by something stronger than you. I know. Who wants to admit that? Well, before you can rebuild what was destroyed by the war, you have to stop the war. There is no faster way to stop the enemy than to concede to it. We call this reaching your bottom; which is where you decide to quit digging. Some dig deeper than others and some never stop. Those that don't stop usually die or end up in prison. A fact is a fact. This is realizing that you are fighting a battle that you cannot win on your own. That you are defeated and ready to reach out to accept help. Our pride makes this difficult, but that pride is what kept us in this mess for so long in the first place.
Many people have difficulty with the life being unmanageable part. This is mainly because they don't understand what that means. It doesn't mean that you don't go to work and make your house payment. It doesn't mean that you need a probation officer looking over your shoulder at all times. It doesn't mean you lost your wife and home and now you live in the woods. What it means is how your everyday life has totally revolved around alcohol without you even knowing it. Or facing it. I used to put off paying my electric bill because it cut into my beer money. I used to avoid events that didn't include alcohol. I would drink, knowing darn well that I had a very busy day the next day and knew I was going to feel terrible. In other words, I would do or not do things that interfered with my drinking. I'd make excuses to cover my drinking rather than just not drink. I could not, not drink. If you want to quickly evaluate your own alcohol issue, read pages 30 and 31 of The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. See if anything they say reminds you of you. Chances are, they will. Maybe all of them. But you have to be really honest with yourself or you are wasting your time.
Admitting is easy. Accepting is not. Accepting means knowing you have a disease, an allergy, whatever you want to call it, and it will never go away without the willingness to follow the suggestions of others that have been right where you are now, and trying to believe that finding this higher power that will always be there for you. Which brings us to Step 2 and 3.
Would you say you've ever been beaten by something in life?
Came to Believe: Made a Decision
Step 2: Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives to the care of God as we understood him.
Okay. These two work together. This is where we learn humility. Coming to believe is easy for many and difficult for some. Many of us grew up believing in God and think this step is done. Those that don't believe in God have to find this greater power which is something outside of themselves. It doesn't really matter which. What many find hard to believe is with all the things we've done and people we've hurt, why would a higher power waste his time on me? Or we feel that we aren't worthy of someone or something to be willing to help us. But we are. And millions will back me up on this one. In the context of our disease, we usually define insanity as doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. This is very true. But insanity also means the inability to make sound and responsible decisions. To go further, we do not have the ability to be honest with ourselves let alone others. I remember all the excuses I used for drinking, missing work, getting arrested and being behind in my bills. The insane part is that I thought that people actually believed all this stuff. They knew the truth. I didn't. That's the insanity we need restored. If we can gain that ability, we will see ourselves as we truly are instead of some grandiose story we have told ourselves only to temporarily feel better about ourselves. Honesty is the key to this whole thing and to the success of your recovery. Remember, to restore something, we are putting something (ourselves) back to where it was or was intended to be. Maybe even better.
Step 3 is turning your will over to God's care. This doesn't mean you are giving it back. He don't want it back. He merely is going to hold it for you while you fix yourself. See, my will is what kept me drunk for many years. The will of getting drunk was stronger than my will to stay sober. By turning it over to a higher power, it can't get in the way of the willingness to learn, follow instructions of others and most of all, the desire to not drink. My will says,"DRINK". By doing this, we are creating a conscience. We want to do the right things even if they don't feel good. We want to do what God would do in any given situation.
So now we have accepted our disease, believe we are worthy and asked our higher power to take over our will to drink and replace it with an open mind. Now it's time to clean house. That's what Step 4 through 9 are about. So, grab your broom and dustpan and let's get going.
A New Road To Roam
4 & 5- Learning Who We Are and Dumping Past
This is where honesty becomes extremely important. This is where you get to know who and what you are all about. Not what you want to be or who you wish you were, but who you REALLY are. This is where you sit down, with pencil and paper and write down, honestly, who you hold resentments against, why, how it affected your life or thinking and the motive behind your action. This tells you what emotions or character defect cause you to take the action you did. I think you will be very surprised at the result. We'll be amazed at how we thought actions out of anger were actually actions out of fear. Actions because we thought we were owed something but were actually because of being selfish. And it goes on. We've been pretty confused all along, but that's why we are here. To get a grip on reality of our own selves. That's step 4. By the way; save this list. You'll need it later.
Now Step 5: Simply put: Dump this stuff. Sit down with someone you trust. It can be a sponsor in your program, a clergy person or even a close friend that can be open minded and you have trust in their confidentiality. This is not confession. This is simply problems shared are problems cut in half. Odds are the person you share with has done worse, heard of worse or simply don't care. That's a friend. This gives you the chance to put those things in the past and pay more attention to your recovery which your future depends on. It works.
Steps 6 & 7 Character Defects.
Step 6- Were entirely ready to have God remove these defects of character.
Step 7- Humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings.
This is where we look at our step 4 inventory and accept the responsibility for those things that we know were the cause of our actions. Then we ask our higher power that our will not creep back in and repeat those same actions, Again, realizing that this transformation can't be done alone. But, not so quick, my friend. You will be doing this step, with the others, every day of your life. Why, if I asked to remove these? Easy! New ones! Just because we may be sober now, doesn't mean we are super-human or will never be flawed again. We will continue to have defects we weren't aware of or even create new ones. But with the use of inventory, (step 4) we can recognize these and take action to shed those as quickly as possible. Are you starting to catch on to how these steps work together and are in the order that they are? You should probably realize now that each step is preparing you for the next one. Pretty slick, eh?
I'll take it easy on you on this one because the next two are hum-dingers.
Steps 8 & 9- Amends
Step 8- Made a list of all those we have harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
Step 9- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Step 8- This is why I told you to save that written 4th step inventory. Odds are, most of those people are owed an amend, by you. This means to write another list, but this list is of the people you harmed, what you did and to be willing to make things as right as you can. Notice! I said to make things right. Not apologize. Apologies are cheap. Amends are much more than that. An amend can be as easy as paying a bad debt, returning or replacing something you stole. It can be admitting guilt of something you blamed on someone else and it caused them problems. There are others that will never be completely made such as lost time, ruined and lost memories or admitting lies that cost their trust. But the attempt that is heart felt is important. My example is my son. He was a victim of my disease for years. He got shoved off on sitters, grandma or whoever was available at the time, because I needed to drink. He was left alone numerous times. Same reason. He was just plain deprived of quality time with his father that was important to a growing boy. This went on for years. I always loved my boy, but this disease is even more powerful than that. It robs you of everything important. And those you love. I could never regain those times. Redo them, if you will. I can never do anything to replace those lost times. But what I can do is try to make the best of what we have today and do my best to be better everyday from this time forward. That means from now on. The real upside is that he, after all this, is still in my life for me to have the opportunity to do this. Many aren't that blessed. See, our higher power is looking out for us even when we aren't looking out for him. You will probably have something similar to this and can handle it too.
Step 9- Pull up your boot straps. This is the tough part,but very rewarding and clears the path for positive things. It takes down many of the things that blocked you from moving forward. This is where you take this amend list and start actually making these amends. But there is a lot to do first. At this point of our program, we feel like we want to clear the air RIGHT NOW and completely. This most likely will not only defeat the purpose of it but will only make matters worse. We need to sit down, with a sponsor or close other and share this list with them before approaching anyone. We will find that someone else, being objective, can better see how some amends are better left alone because of the consequences to others. Also, we have tendencies to take responsibility for things that we are not responsible for. We would rather do this than miss something. There are many other things that can go wrong and sharing this with someone else that has been through it can minimize those problems. Then it's time. Your sponsor will help you decide who, how and when would be best for each amend. This is difficult and at times be embarrassing, humiliating and down right painful. But it must be done.
What is every bit, if not more important, is to NOT expect certain results from these amends. Remember, most of the amends you make are not people involved in a program like yours. They may not believe you. Some may tell you that your amend to make things right would be for them to never see you or hear from you again. If so, do just that. You have to know that you are doing this to clean up YOUR side of the street. Not theirs. If they choose to carry a resentment, that is their responsibility, not yours. At that point, your job is done except to follow through with your commitment. You will find that throughout life, you will always do things that require a new amend. But that's another step, so we'll leave that alone for now.
Sobriety Is A Continuous Path
Okay. We are going to stop right there for now. There are 3 more, very important steps, but those pertain to maintaining sobriety and helping yourself by helping others. But for now, this is plenty to digest and should take some time to accomplish. There are no time limits for any of this. Just what's right for you. Going too fast creates opportunities to miss things or to not fully understand what you are doing. But procrastinating is even worse. It gives us too much time to start thinking that maybe we are okay when in reality we are not. Each person is different and this is not a race. Just take the time you need and get it right. It may be your only chance. We all have another relapse in us but may not have another recovery.
Read this hub and discuss it with your sponsor or potential sponsor. Which reminds me. GET A SPONSOR!!!!!! You need one. He may agree or not. Listen to him. No ones take on these steps is the same and what works for me may not work for you. Your sponsor would know best. Listen to him or her. They have no other interest other than seeing you sober and happy and this helps them to stay sober too. That's it.
So, say a prayer, read your book, get a sponsor, get honest and follow suggestions of others that have been where you are at right now and found a way to change and live a happy life. My take on the last three steps will be out as soon as time permits.
Thank You and God Bless!