Step 4 : Change is the One Essential

by John W.

Cerebral Mr. Spock tells Captain James Kirk, in a story clothed in the fantasy of the future, “Change is the one essential principle of the universe.” Of course, this Vulcan character did not consume alcohol. To one blessed with neither that insight nor that physical constraint, change came hard. This was so even when the circumstances of change were in a doctor’s medical warning and a divorce court’s “Kick Out Order.”

A tsunami of changes broke

Undaunted, I would lie in my tub of blissful denial, tell myself the test was a false positive and the doc has simply misread it, imagining legalities that would prevent me from being thrown out of the residence I alone owned (just check the deed).

When the tsunami of changes broke upon me, I finally stopped drinking and started trudging the road of Happy Destiny. I began to accept all the changes and the new reality that had come with them … almost. Of course there had been the admission followed swiftly with a coming to believe. I had become convinced of my insanity and knew I had no defense against it, mental or otherwise.

The decision had made sense. Only then did my sponsor begin to discuss the real change I had to confront. My old way wasn’t working and hadn’t been for a long, long time.

My old way wasn’t working

Photos from Unsplash

It seemed like my sponsor had the easy task of convincing me of the obvious, pretty simple proposition: Be prepared to change or it is likely you will drink again. If you drink, you will die. Simple, straightforward — his laughter, as I seemed to actually be pondering this proposition, was the douse of reality I needed to accept as well. With decision made and inventory done, these admissions opened the door to a new way of thinking. I hoped for a new way of living, too, and was admonished that only time would tell. As the days went by, I found out time passed for A.A.s in a very wonderful way. It passed one day at a time.

As more days passed, most of the things I had been so worried about never even happened. Those that did sometimes struck with harsh consequences and cruel efficiency, but the Steps I had taken prepared me. I dealt with each obstacle as best I could, with all the honesty and integrity I could muster, for I was no longer alone.

I was no longer alone

I found to my surprise and comfort that with each disaster, someone at my meetings had been there before and weathered that storm. They told me they had done it sober and I could, too, if I didn’t drink and went to meetings.

But those who are not busy living are often busy dying. I discovered that life being lived, sober, was still living on life’s terms, not mine. I found that even in sobriety, the floor upon which you are so comfortably standing one minute can suddenly vanish and leave only an abyss. Where then does one turn? What rope does one grasp for safety? As my newest abyss loomed, my sponsor’s words began to ring in my ears: “With any problem I must confront, I first ask myself: Which step applies?” How do I work the steps to address this new disaster?

Step 4 was the answer. I was so prepared to exhaustively take the inventory of other people when my relationships were souring. Yet I had to ask myself where my part was in all of this. The difficulty of asking these questions quickly became dwarfed by the answers honesty compelled me to give to them. Then the kicker: I had to forgive these ill-doers also. An echo of this step once taken so many years before now began to reverberate: Forgiveness, better to give it than to seek it. But I had not done so then and was not ready to do so now over a decade later, so the anger had lingered.

Where was this change I had been so confident about and so proud? Taking my inventory today about new problems revealed the omissions of my prior efforts. Before I had been not completely thorough, despite my best intentions. “Do not be discouraged,” a good friend extolled. So I was not. I asked to be shown the next right thing and be given the courage to do it. More will surely be revealed if I just don’t drink, go to the meetings (and do the work).

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