by John W.

When I first got sober and worked the steps, I completed a thorough Step Eight (to the best of my ability at the time, which my sponsor had approved). I saved the experience in my spiritual tool kit for the days to follow. Step Ten of course kept me on track as the days became years, so I thought of Step Eight more as a memory, something to hone for use with a sponsee down the road.

However, when the challenges of life on life’s terms hit like a tsunami, all of my memories and ideas of what’s good for me were washed away in the torrent. As instructed, I had sought to determine what step applied to the circumstances at hand. My sponsor—that thorough, “I want what he has” guy—of course reminded me that Step Four required a searching and fearless moral inventory. With earnestness he added that failure to fully perform Step Four had led many guys with more days than I back to the bottle.  This was not an attractive alternative.

Here I was, making a list, and the first name on it was mine

With my new Fourth Step inventory completed, I had moved through the admissions and taken the book down from the shelf, which yielded unexpected results. To this H.P. I was experiencing in a new and wondrous way, I was able to ask that my defects be removed. I was even willing to make this request straight from my heart and with complete abandon, as rigorous honesty demanded. But the Big Book seems to never let A.A.’s rest on their laurels. Its authors knew a drunk like me was in trouble if I did.  Instead I was called to more action. Now I had to make a list of all persons harmed. Since my recent episodes had been promptly admitted, the effect of requesting my defects be removed sank in. I had to ask—whom had I harmed by the expression of these defects this time?

The answer was unexpected, as it was me. Here I was, making a list, and the first name on it was mine.  My sponsor assured me this was not a hidden manifestation of ego, but rather an honest appraisal. I had developed resentments towards those on my inventory. Thanks to my H.P. and my fellow A.A.’s, I had not acted out upon those resentments, but I had sure let them eat me alive.

I forgot I was in his care, an actor on his stage

While I had not taken actions I’d regret, I had carried on profanely in the privacy of my own mind. I had riddled my H.P. with questions, demanded He conjure up favorable responses and, perhaps the saddest of all, denied He had all of these circumstances under control. I had forgotten I was in His care, an actor on His stage, a worker amongst workers in His field.

As this realization had been made exact during Step Five, the reflections suggested by Step Six had revealed that it was my inability to trust myself and my H.P. that required attention and change. To change I needed to be willing and then humbly ask for help. In that reflection I also saw whom I had hurt in the expression of this shortcoming—me.

Into the mirror my sponsor held up to assist in my perception, I looked at me. I began to understand how destructive my thinking patterns had been. I may not have lashed out at another (thank goodness) as I had fretted with my issues, but I had sure beaten myself to a pulp. My acceptance had developed around the circumstances, and my attitude with it, although the problems had not changed. Whether mine was to be a tragedy or comedy, only my Director knew. As the play of my life unfolded, my lines now came more freely, for I had begun my living amends to myself.

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