by Robert S.
It wasn’t always easy to be completely honest about all the persons and businesses I had harmed. For many years I blocked out most of these painful memories. How I disgraced my well-respected father, mother, sister and family in general with my frequent public intoxication notices in the local newspaper. There was the loan company I had not paid back; the motorcycle I wrecked while “trying it out” from the used car lot (and upon return vamoosed on my bicycle and never got caught). This was only the beginning of a long Fourth Step Inventory list.
Like taking my torn sport coat to a tailor
I almost had a drink two weeks before my new sponsor, Carl, helped me with the Steps. He told me that I couldn’t trust my mind to write an inventory because it lied to me—I was not honest. The Big Book reports, “We took stock honestly” but doesn’t offer a particular method for resurrecting submerged memories (page 64). Luckily, my new sponsor presented me with an almost escape-proof method of spontaneous writing. Following the Big Book directions to do Step Four “at once” after Step Three, he had me write four lists: Selfishness, Dishonesty, Resentment and Fear. Under each category I wrote: “God, help me, I am doing my inventory.” I was told not to think, but to allow only intuitive emotions to fly on this paperwork—only the ones that came from my higher power (like the Great Reality deep within Bill W. mentions on p. 55). Sponsor Carl said just one word would do, too—just to jog my memory. Afterwards, I could then try to consciously remember what my God-based intuitive method did not. Bingo! Included in these lists I now had an honest Eighth Step list of “persons we had harmed,” coupled with a new-found “willingness to make amends to them all” (p. 59).
The Big Book timetable left me no room to back out
I believe the Big Book timetable was very important for me with my dishonest mind. I was left with no time to back out or think things over. For instance, we are told to do Step Four at once; Step Five at first opportunity; Step Six then, not later; Step Seven when ready; then my Step Eight amends information would be ready to list on paper. No time to change my mind or delete what I had written. After all, both my sponsor and God have seen what I had written.
It was explained that making amends was like taking my torn sport coat to a tailor, expecting it to be mended back near to what it was—a simple apology often would not be enough. Also, I was to be careful that said “confessions” would never harm another person who was connected with my hijinks or inappropriate action. Some amends, of course, could be started at once, like paying small bills. Some amends happen when I am able to find the person I have harmed; some remain “maybes,” because of advice from my sponsor and others. Some I could never make because they would certainly harm others. The Big Book mentions our real purpose is to be of maximum service to God and the people around us. Carl commented that getting myself thrown in the clink probably would not be the best way to follow this idea.
The Big Book doesn’t mention living amends. What if I would go back the loan shark and report I would not be able to pay back because “I used to be a drunk, but now I am sober. Please forgive me, I’m sorry.” (Bang!)
I was told not to feel guilty about the amends I could not right, so long as I knew I would right them if I could. I have made graveyard prayers and asked for God’s forgiveness (p. 83). This has helped.