I used to think this step read,”continued to take personal inventory and promptly admit I was wrong.” And while drinking and in very early sobriety I was. Today I refer to step ten and step eleven as my navigational steps. They are my recovery GPS, they keep me from running off into the weeds somewhere or down rabbit holes chasing little white rabbits.
However I do not posses any noble motives or an altruistic nature. I work this program simply because I don’t know of anything else that produces the dignity, the freedom, and the peace of mind that these steps do in my life. Simply put I do these things because every better idea that I had tried failed. So I can never forget that it was the avoidance of pain that led me here, not a desire to grow spiritually or to be of service to you. (helps me to stay grounded in reality)
What others think of me – is none of my business. What others say about me – is none of my business. My business is to follow the will of my Higher Power, God. As long as I do that, it does not matter who thinks what – I will know that I am on the right path. Being true to myself is a big part of that. If I am constantly changing my behavior, so that it will look like the behavior I think others strive for, I am not being true to me.
Sometimes, it is a fine line between self-approval and self-glorification. Humility is the great leveler of my overstated ego. My need for approval has been tempered with the knowledge that I am but a human being, never perfect, always endeavoring to improve, to grow and change. I no longer freak out when I make a mistake, I no longer go into a long rant about what went wrong, and who’s fault it was. I can “own” my errors today. I don’t have to beat myself up over them, I can simply “own” them as mine, and move on. For every error in my behavior, there is a corrective behavior. These “life lessons” are what have enabled me to embrace myself for the imperfect person I am. I don’t look to others for approval, I look to myself and I look to my Higher Power, God.
I never thought I would drink in the morning. I never thought I would drink at work. I always thought I would be in control. That alcohol is my friend and companion. All these things were proven false. And there is much more. Things I did while drunk. Things I did so I could get and be drunk. Once I had an opportunity to spend a lot of time with a girl I had a crush on. I choose not to because it would infringe on my drinking time. I turned down giving this girl a ride somewhere so I could get home, drink and smoke pot. I regret that a bit these many years later. At one time alcohol seemed to be a friend. I could go to it and be sure of having a good time. It did seem to make anything better. We did have some great times together. Alcohol at some point turned to that annoying companion, that old friend who was always around but had nothing new to say. It had to always be in to everything I did. Then At some point it became a monster. A thing that haunted me day and night. I could not get away from it . A monster I wanted gone but was front and center always. No matter how much this monster beat me up I would always go back for more. It is strange to know you must NOT do something and yet you do it anyway. Day after day to know this must stop but to pick up the bottle again. It can take a very smart man and make him feel so stupid. So lost. So alone.
Making amends is, for me, a multi-purpose step towards recovery. It relieves me of the guilt I have been carrying around for years, sometimes – and it makes me feel good about being able to exert the behavior it takes to say “I’m sorry.” and mean it, wholeheartedly. It means that I am looking at my actions from the standpoint of my behavior, or my misbehavior, in other words my misdeeds. It gives me an opportunity to compare the new me to the old me. And it allows me to clean up “my side of the street.
Today, I use both Steps 9 and Step 10, when it comes to amends. I take whatever action I can take, and leave the rest in God’s good hands. Accepting responsibility for my behavior and my actions has enabled me to begin the process of change that is needed in my recovery. The “dangerous duo” of poor behavior and booze, is something that will require my best effort, for the rest of my life. A.A. has helped me to stop drinking, and now I work with the God of my understanding to improve my behavior towards others. I can grow beyond the misery, I can change my behavior towards others, and I can earnestly and sincerely not only say “I’m sorry” but I can prove that I am by correcting my behavior whenever possible, with the help of A.A. and God.
I have had to learn to stay on my side of the street, particularly when it comes to judging the behavior of others. Considering an amends to someone in my life can usually bring back memories of injustices done to me. It takes a second and sometimes a third look to find my part in a damaged relationship. It just seems easier to find fault with others – finding my faults take a bit more digging, and a stronger effort to “unearth” my shortcomings and character defects.
In recovery I have been able to make amends, and I work to change my behaviors on a daily basis. While I am responsible for me, and while I am responsible for my side of the street – I also believe that “I am responsible when anyone, anywhere reaches out for help, I want the hand of A.A. always to be there, and for that I am responsible.” That is our “Responsibility Statement” and I follow-up those words with action, as I work towards keeping the doors of A.A. open to all – it is our legacy of service. I can only give to others what has been given to me – and it is through the process of working the 12 Steps that I continue to learn, continue to grow, and continue to change.
Starting over meant that I had failed one more time. That brought on the feelings of guilt, shame, and self loathing that so often went along with letting down the people who I loved one more time. It wasn’t until I came into AA that I heard people talking about failure never being final unless I gave up. You also taught me that just because I had to start over in one area that didn’t translate to my being a failure as a person.
Today after many experiences with starting over in sobriety I have come to view it as an opportunity for growth. I have started over on new jobs, started over in relationships, and then started over as a middle-aged single person. Each time that I start over I am given the opportunity to practice the principles of this program in new areas or in ways that I hadn’t considered before.
Starting over has been as minor as taking a break at work to say a prayer and ask God’s direction to the task at hand all the way to moving across the country and starting over with a new AA family, a new community and new co-workers (even though I’m still working for the same corporation) But the one thing that is constant is that I never have to start over on my own, the people in the rooms of AA and the God that I found with your direction are always with me. So starting over is simply another part of living life on life’s terms.
“Success isn’t final and failure isn’t fatal” (Winston Churchill)
Pray, clean house, and help others – those are the three essentials for not only my recovery, but for the recovery of everyone.
Pray – that keeps me in touch with my Higher Power, and I need to continue to ask for knowledge of His will for me, and what form that may take for this day. His will is simple: stay sober and help others. Clean house means that I continue to work on my character defects, daily, by practicing the 10th Step, among the other Steps. Helping others comes in many forms, and can involve various service positions, as well as the tried and true – one on one conversations with other alcoholics. These are the actions I can take when complacency sets in. Whatever challenges I face in recovery, I know that I will find the answer to the problem in rooms of A.A. Other alcoholics can and will offer suggestions on how they handled the same issue. Talking it over with the God of my understanding helps me to clarify the problem, and to identify what part of the problem is mine, and what part I need to turn over to God. And then there is the “tool kit” found in the Program of A.A.: the 12 Steps, the Big Book, the meetings, the fellowship of others, service to others in whatever form that takes – these are all sources for answers to life problems, one of which may be complacency.
Complacency – as defined in the dictionary: “self-satisfaction accompanied by an awareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.” I am well aware of the dangers of the disease of alcoholism. Complacency can lead to a return to drinking, a relapse. It is a danger sign that tells me to get off my butt and put one foot in front of the other – be it a meeting, a phone call, a prayer, or whatever action fits the bill. The key word being “action” as that is the antithesis of complacency. God, help me to get into action today that I might be of some use to others. I am grateful for all my blessings, and for being led to the Program of A.A., it is truly a place where the “promises” come true.