Let’s Celebrate! I Celebrated 29 Years of Recovery In Al-Anon Last Night!

LET'S CELEBRATE

Thanks so much for everyone helping me to celebrate my beginnings in Al-Anon. I celebrate my “New Beginnings” on this night. I have come a long way baby!

I thank God everyday that He led me to Al-Anon ( a free twelve step program) on a Friday, March 28, 1986. He knew what it would take for me to wake up and learn how to “Let go and let God” of my ex-husband who was in his active alcoholic lifestyle. He choose to continue in his disease and I chose not to continue in his disease with him. Thank God, I have a choice and I do not have to be miserable anymore. I choose recovery. 

I have no doubt whatsoever that without this program for living, I would not be married to the man that I am, be living where I am, nor be as happy as I am without it.

This program saved my sanity and taught me to have serenity even in the face of chaos and depression.  I am so grateful for all the special ladies that have helped me to stay sane and gave me hope for happiness and serenity.

I had family that had problems with alcoholism and they had found help and hope through the Twelve Step programs. So, I went to try and find a way to “fix” my husband. I did not have any idea what it was about. I believed that if I could “fix” my husband, then I could be happy. I did not think that I could be happy unless I “fixed” him.  

I found the hope and the help that I needed there. Even though things are not perfect in my life, and never will be, I have learned to be happy no matter what is going on in my life.

After three years of attending meetings and working the steps, I was finally able to accept the fact that I was trying to “play god” and I was trying to make him do as I wanted him to. So, I accepted the fact that I could not change him,  but also that I had a right to be happy too. I did not have to put up with his unacceptable behaviors unless I wanted to. I did divorce him, and I went on to work on myself.

I am happily married today, but without the program to teach me how to “live and let live”, I would not how to live “life on life’s terms” and to be happy. My happiness is not dependent on another person. 

I will never outgrow my need for the program and the fellowship, and my way of showing my gratitude for what I was freely given is to continue to give it back to the newcomers. 

“After having suffered alone with the effects of this brutal disease, the Al-Anon fellowship is an unexpectedly and nourishing source of compassion and support.” source: How Al-Anon works for Families and Friends of Alcoholics p. 11

Loving and Honoring Yourself Is NOT Selfish!

LOVE YOURSELF

As a child I was taught to not be selfish and think about all the other starving children or orphans. It was drilled into me that I should not think about myself, and to only think about others. I was so miserable, and I lived in constant chaos. I hated school! I lost my identity about the age of twelve when my addictions began.

No one told me to be good to me, or that it was ok for me to think about my needs too. I became an “enabler” and a “Co-Dependent” person. I hated me because I was never perfect, and could never live up to the expectations set on me by my parents. I grew to hate me and magnified all my flaws and did not look at the good things about me. I was terrified of being “abandoned” and not being loved, or being different from others. I allowed others to define me because I had no definition of myself, except so and so’s daughter, so and so’s wife. It was not alright for me to be me, or for me to choose who I wanted to be. I lived in Fantasy instead of Reality, because I hated myself and my life so much that I escaped the pain through my addictions. I had an “addictive personality”. 

Praise God, in my recovery, I have learned that I have a choice, and I can choose who I want to be, where I want to live, what I want to do, and that I AM Special, Loved, Wanted, and Needed, “Just as I am”. I am not Selfish, but I think of me less.

My program taught me how to have relationships with the priorities in order of number one God, then myself, and then others. I don’t have to give up me to be loved by you. I can be happy serving God, but taking care of me and my family too. We are supposed to take care of ourselves first then others. Like the example of the oxygen mask, if I don’t take care of me then I am not strong enough to help others. I cannot save the world.

C.S. Lewis

One Day At A Time

One Day at a Time - RosesOne Day at a Time, is one of our slogans in the twelve step program that I belong to. It is one of my favorite, but it was the hardest for me to learn to live by.

I spent thirty years living in yesterday, and tomorrow, but never today. Either I was living in the past whining and complaining about what all others had done to me, therefore living in my resentments and miserable; or I was living in the future, terrified of what could or would happen. I had no faith, so I lived in fear.  I existed from crisis to crisis. 

It took years of practice in recovery to really….know the meaning of it. The Serenity Prayer helped me to know what to focus on that I could change, and what things that I could not change. 

It does not mean that we do not plan for the future or prepare for tomorrow. We just do our best to know God’s will, so that we can do God’s will. We take it a step at a time, one day at a time.  We must do the “footwork”.  We grow, one day at a time in our recovery too. We do not get well overnight.

If you want a job, then you must prepare and educate yourself, then follow through by creating a resume and applying for the jobs that you qualify for.  Pray for God to direct you to the job that He wants you to have.  

I make a list of what I need to do for the day, and I arrange them in order of priority, the most important first.  I pay what bills that I can, like our water bill, so that we have water to drink, clean, and bathe with.  I consider that a priority for me.

Everyone is different, so some may choose to spend their money on junk food, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, gambling, or crap that they do not need. But…if you are one of those people…be prepared to do without other things…and don’t expect others to pay you bills…or allow you to live rent free.

I used to manage apartments, and you would not believe how many people would spend their money on getting drunk or high, and not pay their rent or utilities. For me, that is a priority, I pay my living expenses first, then if there is any left I buy groceries or gas.

I knew a woman that did not pay her water bill for six months, while she used another woman’s water.  Then, when they decided to cut off her water, she was pissed. What? It is not someone else’s job to pay your bills!

I told her that she should be grateful that the woman was nice enough to allow her to use her water at all, and that it was not her job to pay your water bill.  She did not see anything wrong with using the other woman . I did.

Of course, she made excuses! Oh, she had to pay other bills. No, she did not have to pay other bills, if there was not enough income for the internet, cable, junk food, and cigarettes, then she should do without others do.

I offered to help her with a budget, to no avail. Ten years later, she is whining about not being able to pay her cable bill and internet. It is sad, but some people never grow up.

I thank God everyday, that I had responsible parents who paid their living expenses first, fed and clothed their six children before the non essential things. My Daddy made very little money, and Mother was a stay at home Mother. We were taught that if we could not afford it, then we did not need it, and could live without it. We ate beans and cornbread and cheap meals a lot.

My childhood has prepared me to “Live life on life’s terms” not mine. My Big Book stated the same thing. We may be broke as hell, but we will have water and a roof over our heads.  I love the quote by Saint Paul, “I have learned in whatsoever state that I am in, therewith to be content.”

 

My Husband, The Light of my Life

My husband, “the light of my life.”

He is 58 and I am 60. God really does know what He is doing. We are able to be at home together with my “forced retirement”.

At first, I felt guilty, because I had always worked since I was 12. I was brought up to believe, that if I wanted something that I had to work for it.

Now, God wants me to care for my husband, obviously because that is where I am, for now, and I love it. Not the part about him being sick but the part about having him to share my life. In my program for living, and the twelve steps, I have learned to “accept life on life’s terms”, and so I am content with whatever God has given me. 

I am so grateful for what God has given me, and for what He has taken away too–the chaos, insanity, and the loneliness. In its place God has given me serenity, peace, strength, and solace.  

I thank God everyday for my 27 years in recovery, because without it I would not be doing as well on this “acceptance” thing. I accept the fact that I am NOT God, and that my husband is in God’s hands.  I am grateful for every minute that He gives me with him until God calls him home.

The old me would be living in “self pity” and crying and whining around about how God made me wait so long for my hubby, and the fact that he is sick. I only saw the “bad” in my life.

Someone coined it, a “New Pair of Glasses”, they wrote a book about it. I have not thought about that book in a long while. I will have to get it out and look at it again.

I am looking through a new pair of glasses, and I am seeing what is “right” with my life instead of always looking for what is “wrong” in my life. It makes for a lot more peace and serenity.

Excellent book for anyone, even if you are not in Recovery. 

Take The Steps…One At A Time…One Day At A Time

TAKE THE STEPS

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

RALPH WALDO EMERSON

In our program (the twelve steps), if you do not take the steps and do the footwork, then you may stay sober but you will be cutting yourself short.

Why not go for it all? I did not just want to just stay sober but I wanted serenity too. I spent a lot of years living in the chaos.

When I found out the solution, and that I had a choice, I thought who in the hell would choose to stay miserable when the steps were free and could help stop the insanity and chaos?

 

One Day At A Time

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

ODAT

Key to Serenity~~Keys To The Kingdom

The Key that Unlocks the Door to Happiness

Loved, Wanted, and Needed

Keys of the Kingdom

By 

It seems almost too simple to be true, but acceptance — accepting things exactly as they are — can be the key that unlocks the door to happiness.After John 3:16, it may be one of the most quoted passages in literature.
It’s from Page 449 (first 3 editions, pg. 417 in the 4th edition) of Alcoholics Anonymous or The Big Book as it is widely known: 
“And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation — some fact of my life — unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.”

For me, serenity began when I learned to distinguish between those things that I could change and those I could not. When I admitted that there were people, places, things, and situations over which I was totally powerless, those things began to lose their power over me. I learned that everyone has the right to make their own mistakes, and learn from them, without my interference, judgement, or assistance! 

The key to my serenity is acceptance.

But “acceptance” does not mean that I have to like it, condone it, or even ignore it. What it does mean is I am powerless to do anything about it… and I have to accept that fact.

Nor does it mean that I have to accept “unacceptable behavoir.” Today I have choices. I no longer have to accept abuse in any form. I can choose to walk away, even if it means stepping out into the unknown. I no longer have to fear “change” or the unknown. I can merely accept it as part of the journey.

I spent years trying to change things in my life over which I was powerless, but did not know it. I threatened, scolded, manipulated, coerced, pleaded, begged, pouted, bribed and generally tried everything I could to make the situation better — only watch as things always got progressively worse.

I spent so much time trying to change the things I could not change, it never once occurred to me to simply accept them as they were.

Now when things in my life are not going the way I planned them, or downright bad things happen, I can remind myself that whatever is going on is not happening by accident. There’s a reason for it and it is not always meant for me to know what that reason is.

That change in attitude has been the key to happiness for me. I know I am not the only who has found that serenity.

 12 Step Groups

Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff! And…Remember It Is All Small Stuff!

In our Big Book there is a page that reads:

“How Important Is It? How important is it compared to my serenity, my emotional sobriety. And when I place more value on my serenity and sobriety than on anything else, I can maintain them at a higher level–at least for the time being.”~~source: Big Book p. 452

I have learned in recovery not to get too Hungry, too Angry, too Lonely, or too Tired. I was taught the principle of HALT = Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. If I find myself feeling any of those things I am supposed to practice HALT. No, I am not perfect, but I am damn good at it after years of practice. I don’t like pain or chaos, so I make much better choices today. 

In order to keep my Serenity, I have learned to apply the Steps to any problem that I could have. Step 1 reads of our powerlessness, Step 2 of a “higher power” (mine happens to be God, but you have the freedom to choose one for yourself), and Step 3 we must make a decision, about alternative courses of action that we can take. We seek solutions to our problem. The twelve steps can be used on any problem that I will ever have. And…searching for solutions keeps me out of me…therefore provides me with more serenity.

There are some things that I am NOT powerless over, and with my recovery I have learned that I have the freedom to choose what course of action that I want to take. Inaction is also a choice. It is choosing to choose “status quo”. With my abusive, unfaithful ex-husband I chose to accept that “he was he”, and I was me”, but I did not have to put up with him. I could not make him change or seek recovery, but I had to do what was best for me and my son.

I know that it was NOT God’s will for me to accept the “unacceptable.” 

“And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation—some fact of my life —unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.”

-pg. 449, Alcoholics Anonymous

STEP TWELVE: Having Had a Spiritual Awakening, as the Result of these Steps, We Tried to Carry This Message to Alcoholics, and to Practice These Principles in all our Affairs

We continue to “carry the message” of recovery to the still suffering alcoholics. This is our way of showing our gratitude and giving back for what we were so freely given.

We cannot transmit something that we do not have.

We must obtain a sponsor and work the twelve steps to stay sober and gain serenity.

We will see how our experiences can help others to recover from a seemingly hopeless state of mind. Us working with others helps keep us sober and reminds us of where we came from, so that we never forget and don’t have to repeat our same mistakes.

The twelve steps gives us a plan for living. We learn to live “life on life’s terms”. We share how we were, where we are now, and how we got there. We call it our “experience, our strength, and our hope”. 

Service Material from the General Service Office 

THE TWELVE STEPS OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become
unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to
sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we
understood Him.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature
of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make
amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do
so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly
admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with
God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us
and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to
carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our
affairs.

Copyright A.A. World Services, Inc.

ONE DAY AT A TIME~My Will or God’s Will?

God gave me the reminder to take my life “One Day at a Time”. With all the craziness of our world and all the problems of life, it is hard to “stay in the now”.

 So, I decided to write about it, and share my experience, strength, and hope.  It has been one of the hardest things for me to learn since my recovery began twenty six years ago. I always lived in “regret” about the past, or “fear” of the future. I never lived in today.  I either allowed others to make my decisions for me, and then blamed them when things went wrong or tried to control others decisions for them. Yes, I started out doing it out of love, but then it became an “obsession”. It was as though if I focused on you, then I did not have to look at me. I have found that I have the choice to be “God-centered”, “Self-centered”, or “Other-centered”. I have lived them all! The only choice that I want today is “God-centered”. This subject kind of ties into the Step 11 post that I wrote.

Oh, by the way everyone has problems. I did not know that. I thought that a lot of other people had life a lot easier than me. Today, I break up my problems into steps. I use the twelve steps to help me find a “solution” to my “problem”. There are some things that I have no control over! We live in a sinful world, that is a Reality! We are in a “Spiritual Warfare” for our lives and our souls. I do believe that there is good and evil in this world, and sometimes bad things happen to good people. Yes, sometimes Reality sucks!

As a little girl, I was a free spirit and yearned for a world where everyone was good, nice, kind, and the world was at peace. There were no wars, or abuse, or the devil in my “dream world”. Everyone loved everyone else. As an adult, I have accepted the fact that I cannot have my way, and that life is not like that.

Today, I live in Reality! I apply the steps to any problem that I have. Step 1: What is the problem? Step 2: What are some solutions? Step 3: What are the consequences of those solutions? Step 4: Which do I choose? Step 5: What if the solution does not solve the problem? Step 6: I can choose to be angry or accept reality, and get on with my life. 

Today, I take life “One Day at a Time”, one problem at  a time, one solution at a time. I choose not to be a “martyr” and allow others to “abuse” me or “use” me, because then I get “resentments” and it messes with my serenity, besides the fact that I do not believe that is God’s will for me. Some things we are “powerless” over, but some things God wants us to do. God works through people, as well as the devil does. 

Step 10~Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it

AA Big Book
AA Big Book (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Cover of
Cover of Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

Step 10 Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it

“As we work the first nine Steps, we prepare ourselves for the adventure of a new life. But when we approach Step Ten we commence to put our A.A. way of living to practical use, day by day, in fair weather or foul. Then comes the acid test: can we stay sober, keep in emotional balance, and live to good purpose under all conditions?

A continuous look at our assets and liabilities, and a real desire to learn and grow by this means, are necessities for us. We alcoholics have learned this the hard way. More experienced people, of course, in all times and places have practiced unsparing self-survey and criticism. For the wise have always known that no one can make much of his life until self-searching becomes a regular habit, until he is able to admit and accept what he finds, and until he patiently and persistently tries to correct what is wrong. “

-Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p.88

How It Works = HOW = Honesty, Open-mindedness, and Willing.

This thought brings us to Step Ten, which suggests we continue to take personal inventory and continue to set right any new mistakes as we go along. We vigorously commenced this way of living as we cleaned up the past.

We have entered the world of the Spirit. Our next function is to grow in understanding and effectiveness.

This is not an overnight matter. It should continue for our lifetime. Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear.

When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them. We discuss them with someone immediately and make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone. Then we resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help. Love and tolerance of others is our code. 

-A.A. Big Book p.84 

More about Step 10 in the Big Book

A 10th Step prayer for Growth and Effectiveness:

“God, please help me Watch for Selfishness, Dishonesty, Resentment and Fear. When these crop up in me, help me to immediately ask you to remove them from me and help me discuss these feelings with someone. Father, help me to quickly make amends if I have harmed anyone and help me to resolutely turn my thoughts to someone I can Help. Help me to be Loving and Tolerant of everyone today. Amen” (84:2)

Tenth Step Prayer

My Higher Power, My daily prayer is to best serve you,
I pray I may continue to grow in understanding & effectiveness;
Help me to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment and fear;
Help me to be willing to have You remove them at once;
I must be willing to discuss them with someone immediately;
I will make amends quickly if I have harmed anyone;
And then I will turn my thoughts toward helping someone else;
Please help me to remember to practice love and tolerance of others. (84:2)

Tenth Step Amends Prayer

“God, please forgive me for my failings today. I know that because of my failings, I was not able to be as effective as I could have been for you. Please forgive me and help me live thy will better today.  I ask you now to show me how to correct the errors I have just outlined. Guide me and direct me. Please remove my arrogance and my fear. Show me how to make my relationships right and grant me the humility and strength to do thy will.”(86:1)

The emphasis on inventory is heavy only because a great many of us have never really acquired the habit of accurate self-appraisal. Once this healthy practice has been groomed, it will be so interesting and profitable that the time it takes won’t be missed. For these minutes and sometimes hours spent in self-examination are bound to make all the other hours of our day better and happier. And at length our inventories become a regular part of everyday living, rather than unusual or set apart.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 89-90 

The Tenth Step can be a pressure relief valve. We work this step while the day’s ups and downs are still fresh in our minds. We list what we have done and try not to rationalize our actions. This may be done in writing at the end of the day. The first thing we do is stop! Then we take the time to allow ourselves the privilege of thinking. We examine our actions, our reactions, and our motives. We often find that we’ve been “doing” better than we’ve been “feeling”. This allows us to find out where we have gone wrong and admit fault before things get any worse. We need to avoid rationalizing. We promptly admit our faults, not explain them.

We work this step continuously. This is a prevention, and the more we do it, the less we will need the corrective part of this step. This is really a great tool. It gives us a way of avoiding grief before we bring it on ourselves. We monitor our feelings, our emotions, our fantasies, and our actions. By constantly looking at these things we may be able to avoid repeating the actions that make us feel bad. 
Narcotics Anonymous, Basic Text, Step 10 

Step 9~Made Direct Amends To Such People Wherever Possible, Except When To Do So Would Injure Them Or Others

Step 9

Made direct amends to such people wherever possible,
except when to do so would injure them or others.

Now it is time to act on what we learned about ourselves in step 8. We need to go and apologize. You can hold on to pride and stay stuck, or let go and move on.

If apologizing were easy, it wouldn’t have to be listed as a step, would it? It’s hard either because of pride, or because we don’t want to be sincere or we want to avoid conflict or reality. All of those things got us here in the first place.

If people like you and me liked apologizing, we wouldn’t be here, would we? I used to like the idea of getting away with my mistakes, and that was self-deception.

We are here, and we need to do this for ourselves. Just for today.

One reason we don’t want to make amends, is fear of them slugging us.

Another is pride, our egos don’t really want to admit our errors and bad ways. Ignorance seems to be bliss at times like this. I’d rather forget some things I did, and hope that everyone came out okay, and I don’t want to check up on them! There’s the shame and guilt of what has been done. There’s also the development of character that says its time to take care of things.

Fear, Pride, Shame and Guilt. All four are focused on us, and all four drove us to our “drug of choice” in the first place. Anything that breaks the hold these four have on us is a good idea, so let’s get on with the apologies.

Another reason to go apologize and seek forgiveness, is that we may end up forgiving someone whom we do want to forgive! You may be so angry at someone, and in denial of it, that you don’t want to even think about forgiveness.

Ah, well. Do it anyway.

Apologize, then listen. If they are verbally abusive, remember you ‘earned’ the abuse, they have a right to be angry, and just let it pass. Don’t give in to the old way of doing business, don’t defend yourself,  you know where that leads! Besides, you may be surprised, they may be more humane than you and I deserve. Most folks will be somewhere in between. Remember that their reaction or response is not what matters here, it’s you letting go of the consequences and doing the right thing.

It’s your courage, your determination to escape your drug of choice!

There is a good reason to not put somebody on this list. If going to them would be bad FOR THEM, don’t go. We don’t want to injure people, we want to provide opportunities for healing.

An example could be the husband/wife of someone you had a one-night stand with a long time ago! It may damage their current marriage too much, so just eat crow about it and take it to your Higher Power instead. Take them all to your Higher Power, otherwise leave some alone!

You are not out to do harm, but to enable healing.

* The Twelve Steps are reprinted with permission of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. Permission to reprint and adapt the Twelve Steps does not mean that A.A. has reviewed or approved the contents of this publication, nor that A.A. agrees with the views expressed herein. A.A. is a program of recovery from alcoholism. Use of the Twelve Steps in connection with programs which are patterned after A.A. but which address other problems does not imply otherwise.

The Complete Serenity Prayer!

God,
Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the Courage to change the things I can
and the Wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.

Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.

Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will;

That I may be reasonably happy in this life,
and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.

Amen. 

The Ninth Step Promises

(page 83-84 from the Book, Alcoholics Anonymous)

                    

          “If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.

         Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.”

Step 8~Made A List Of All Persons That We Had Harmed, And Became Willing to Make Amends To Them All

There is a lot of work that we must do before we are ready to work step 8, we must work steps 1-7 first which will give us a foundation on which to build our recovery. Amends means to change. We admit our wrong and change our behavior.

“In this book you read again and again that faith did for us what we could not do for ourselves. We hope you are convinced now that God can remove whatever self-will has blocked you off from Him. If you have already made a decision, and an inventory of your grosser handicaps,
you have made a good beginning. That being so you have swallowed and digested some big chunks of truth about yourself.”

~Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th Edition, How It Works, pg. 70~

How It Works

We have a list of all persons we have harmed and to whom we are willing to make amends. We made it when we took inventory. We subjected ourselves to a drastic self- appraisal. Now we go out to our fellows and repair the damage done in the past. We attempt to sweep away the debris which has accumulated out of our effort to live on self-will and run the show ourselves. If we haven’t the will to do this, we ask until it comes. Remember it was agreed at the beginning we would go to any lengths for victory over alcohol
-A.A. Big Book p.76 

More about Step 8 in the Big Book

“We might ask ourselves what we mean when we say that we have harmed others. What kind of harm do people do to one another anyway? To define the word in a practical way, we might call it the results of instincts in collision, which can cause physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual damage to people.

If our tempers are consistently bad, we arouse anger in others.  

If we lie or cheat, we deprive others not only of their worldly goods, but of their emotional security and peace of mind. We really issue then an invitation to become contemptuous and vengeful. 

If our sex conduct is selfish, we may excite jealousy, misery, and a strong desire to retaliate in kind. 

What happens when we try to dominate the whole family, either by rule of iron or by constant outpouring of minute directions for just how their lives should be lived from hour to hour? 

What happens when we wallow in depression, self pity oozing from every pore, and inflict that upon those about us?

Such a roster of harms done others ~~the kind that make daily living with us practicing alcoholics difficult and often unbearable~~could be extended almost indefinitely. 

When we take such personality traits as these into shop, office, and the society of our fellows, they can do damage almost as extensive as as that we have caused at home. ” ~source: 12 Steps and 12 Traditions book of AA, p. 80-81

“The alcoholic is like a tornado roaring his way through the lives of others. Hearts are broken. Sweet relationships are dead. Affections have been uprooted. Selfish and inconsiderate habits have kept the home in turmoil. We feel a man is unthinking when he says that sobriety is enough.”~source: Alcoholics Anonymous book, p.82

Step 7-Humbly Asked Him To Remove Our Shortcomings

The Seventh Step Prayer


from page 76 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous

My Creator, 

I am now willing that You should have all of me,
good and bad.
I pray that You now remove from me
every single defect of character which stands in the way
of my usefulness to You and my fellows.
Grant me strength, as I go out from here,
to do Your bidding.

Amen


“Faith without works is dead.”

Copyright © Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.

In practicing our Traditions, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. has neither endorsed nor are they affiliated with Silkworth.net. Alcoholics Anonymous®, AA®, and the Big Book® are registered trademarks of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.

AA’s 12 Step & 12 Traditions book online: http://www.aa.org/twelveandtwelve/en_tableofcnt.cfm

AA’s Big Book online: http://www.aa.org/lang/en/subpage.cfm?page=359

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Are You Helping or Hurting = Enabling??

I am re-posting a earlier post that I hope everyone who needs to see it does. I pray to “help” not “hurt”.

I woke up today thinking about the topic of “hurting” or “helping” again today. I have been praying for God to “direct my thinking” and to help me to share what I need to share to try to help others find peace and serenity like I did. I am again dealing with trying to “help” not “hurt” a close family member that I love dearly and only want to help.

My natural instinct is to try and “fix”, “control”, or “cure” them. I admit that I hate being powerless! And…that reminded me that~~I have no right to try and do my will instead of God’s will. I wanted to fix the world, but I learned that was God’s job not mine. Thank God for AA, AL-ANON and all the twelve step programs.

“Acceptance is the answer to my problem. When I stopped living in the problem, and started living in the answer, the problem went away.” (AA Big Book, page 448) ~~the quote out of the book saved my sanity and serenity many times in the last Twenty Six (26) years. 

Sally's Serenity Spots

This close to Mother’s Day, and working in the field that I do, I have really been remembering how I was taught to be a Caretaker. My Mother raised me to be a loving, kind, unselfish, independent, strong, and moral person. I grew up living in my dream world, where everyone loved everybody, and there were no mean, hateful, and abusive people.

I have tried to help others all my life. I married an abusive and unfaithful man, and tried to fix him. Of course, it did not work, because we cannot Control, Change, or Cure anyone. I had to learn the difference between helping or hurting. I had to learn the meaning of “Enabling“. Enabling is doing for someone else, what they could do for themselves. If we continue to “enable” someone, then it serves to make them irresponsible, and not be responsible for their own…

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Step 5~~Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs~~How It Works

Cover of "Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story...
Cover via Amazon
AA Big Book
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Big Book Covertwelveandtwelvebook

Step 5 Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs

How It Works

This is perhaps difficult, especially discussing our defects with another person. We think we have done well enough in admitting these things to ourselves. There is doubt about that. In actual practice, we usually find a solitary self-appraisal insufficient. Many of us thought it necessary to go much further. We will be more reconciled to discussing ourselves with another person when we see good reasons why we should do so. The best reason first: If we skip this vital step, we may not overcome drinking. Time after time newcomers have tried to keep to themselves certain facts about their lives. Trying to avoid this humbling experience, they have turned to easier methods. Almost invariably they got drunk. Having persevered with the rest of the program, they wondered why they fell. We think the reason is that they never completed their housecleaning. They took inventory all right, but hung on to some of the worst items in stock. They only thought they had lost their egoism and fear; they only thought they had humbled themselves. But they had not learned enough of humility, fearlessness and honesty, in the sense we find it necessary, until they told someone else all their life story. 
-A.A. Big Book p.72-73 

More about Step 5 in the Big Book

Chapter 5

 
 

HOW IT WORKS

Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average. There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.

Our stories disclose in a general way what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now. If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it–then you are ready to take certain steps.

At some of these we balked. thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not. With all the earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start. Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely.

Remember that we deal with alcohol–cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power–that One is God. May you find Him now!

Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point. we asked His protection and care with complete abandon.

Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol– that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God AS WE UNDERSTOOD HIM.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God AS WE UNDERSTOOD HIM, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

 

Many of us exclaimed, “What an order! I can’t go through with it.” Do not be discouraged. No one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles. We are not saints. The point is, that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.

Our description of the alcoholic, the chapter to the agnostic, and our personal adventure before and after make clear three pertinent ideas: 
(a) That we were alcoholic and could not manage our own lives. 
(b) That probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism. 
(c) That God could and would if He were sought.

Being convinced, WE WERE AT STEP THREE, which is that we decided to turn our will and our life over to God as we understood Him. Just what do we mean by that, and just what do we do?

The first requirement is that we be convinced that any life run on self-will can hardly be a success. On that basis we are almost always in collision with something or somebody, even though our motives are good. Most people try to live by self-propulsion. Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way. If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great. Everybody, including himself, would be pleased. Life would be wonderful. In trying to make these arrangements our actor may sometimes be quite virtuous. He may be kind, considerate, patient, generous; even modest and self-sacrificing. On the other hand, he may be mean, egotistical, selfish and dishonest. But, as with most humans, he is more likely to have varied traits.

What usually happens? The show doesn’t come off very well. He begins to think life doesn’t treat him right. He decides to exert himself more. He becomes, on the next occasion, still more demanding or gracious, as the case may be. Still the play does not suit him. Admitting he may be somewhat at fault, he is sure that other people are more to blame. He becomes angry, indignant, self-pitying. What is his basic trouble? Is he not really a self-seeker even when trying to be kind? Is he not a victim of the delusion that he can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if he only manages well? Is it not evident to all the rest of the ‘players that these are the things he wants? And do not his actions make each of them wish to retaliate, snatching all they can get out of the show? Is he not, even in his best moments, a producer of confusion rather than harmony?

Our actor is self-centered–ego-centric, as people like to call it nowadays. He is like the retired business man who lolls in the Florida sunshine in the winter complaining of the sad state of the nation; the minister who sighs over the sins of the twentieth century; politicians and reformers who are sure all would be Utopia if the rest of the world would only behave; the outlaw safe cracker who thinks society has wronged him; and the alcoholic who has lost all and is locked up. Whatever our protestations, are not most of us concerned with ourselves, our resentments, or our self-pity?

Selfishness–self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt.

So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn’t think so. Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kill us! God makes that possible. And there often seems no way of entirely getting rid of self without His aid. Many of us had moral and philosophical convictions galore, but we could not live up to them even though we would have liked to. Neither could we reduce our self-centeredness much by wishing or trying on our own power. We had to have God’s help.

This is the how and the why of it. First of all, we had to quit playing God. It didn’t work. Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director. He is the Principal; we are His agents. He is the Father, and we are His children. Most Good ideas are simple, and this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which we passed to freedom.

When we sincerely took such a position, all sorts of remarkable things followed. We had a new Employer. Being all powerful, He provided what we needed, if we kept close to Him and performed His work well. Established on such a footing we became less and less interested in ourselves, our little plans and designs. More and more we became interested in seeing what we could contribute to life. As we felt new power flow in, as we enjoyed peace of mind, as we discovered we could face life successfully, as we became conscious of His presence, we began to lose our fear of today, tomorrow or the hereafter. We were reborn.

We were now at Step Three. Many of us said to our Maker, AS WE UNDERSTOOD HIM: “God, I offer myself to Thee–to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always!” We thought well before taking this step making sure we were ready; that we could at last abandon ourselves utterly to Him.

We found it very desirable to take this spiritual step with an understanding person, such as our wife, best friend, or spiritual adviser. But it is better to meet God alone than with one who might misunderstand. The wording was, of course, quite optional so long as we expressed the idea, voicing it without reservation. This was only a beginning, though if honestly and humbly made, an effect, sometimes a very great one, was felt at once.

Next we launched out on a course of vigorous action, the first step of which is a personal housecleaning, which many of us had never attempted. Though our decision was vital and crucial step, it could have little permanent effect unless at once followed by a strenuous effort to face, and to be rid of, the things in ourselves which had been blocking us. Our liquor was but a symptom. So we had to get down to causes and conditions.

Therefore, we started upon a personal inventory. THIS WAS STEP FOUR. A business which takes no regular inventory usually goes broke. Taking commercial inventory is a fact-finding and a fact-facing process. It is an effort to discover the truth about the stock-in-trade. One object is to disclose damaged or unsalable goods, to get rid of them promptly and without regret. If the owner of the business is to be successful, he cannot fool himself about values.

We did exactly the same thing with our lives. We took stock honestly. First, we searched out the flaws in our make-up which caused our failure. Being convinced that self, manifested in various ways, was what had defeated us, we considered its common manifestations.

Resentment is the “number one” offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick. When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically. In dealing with resentments, we set them on paper. We listed people, institutions or principle with who we were angry. We asked ourselves why we were angry. In most cases it was found that our self-esteem, our pocketbooks, our ambitions, our personal relationships, (including sex) were hurt or threatened. So we were sore. We were “burned up.”

On our grudge list we set opposite each name our injuries. Was it our self-esteem, our security, our ambitions, our personal, or sex relations, which had been interfered with?

We were usually as definite as this example:

 

I’M RESENTFUL AT THE CAUSE AFFECTS MY
Mr. Brown His attention to my wife Sex relations 
Self-esteem (fear)
Told my wife of my mistress Sex relations 
Self-esteem (fear).
Brown may get my job at the office Security 
Self-esteem (Fear)
Mrs. Jones She’s a nut–she snubbed me. She committed her husband for drinking. He’s my friend. She’s a gossip. Personal relationship. 
Self-esteem (fear)
My employer Unreasonable–Unjust–Overbearing–Threatens to fire me for drinking and padding my expense account. Self-esteem (fear) 
Security.
My wife Misunderstands and nags. Likes Brown. Wants house put in her name. Pride–Personal 
sex relations–
Security (fear)

 

We went back through our lives. Nothing counted but thoroughness and honesty. When we were finished we considered it carefully. The first thing apparent was that this world and its people were often quite wrong. To conclude that others were wrong was as far as most of us ever got. The usual outcome was that people continued to wrong us and we stayed sore. Sometimes it was remorse and then we were sore at ourselves. But the more we fought and tried to have our own way, the worse matters got. As in war, the victor only SEEMED to win. Our moments of triumph were short-lived.

It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness. To the precise extent that we permit these, do we squander the hours that might have been worth while. But with the alcoholic, whose hope is the maintenance and growth of a spiritual experience, this business of resentment is infinitely grave. We found that it is fatal. For when harboring such feeling we shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit. The insanity of alcohol returns and we drink again. And with us, to drink is to die.

If we were to live, we had to be free of anger. The grouch and the brainstorm were not for us. They may be the dubious luxury of normal men, but for alcoholics these things are poison.

We turned back to the list, for it held the key to the future. We were prepared to look for it from an entirely different angle. We began to see that the world and its people really dominated us. In that state, the wrong-doing of others, fancied or real, had power to actually kill. How could we escape? We saw that these resentments must be mastered, but how? We could not wish them away any more than alcohol.

This was our course: We realized that the people who wronged us were perhaps spiritually sick. Though we did not like their symptoms and the way these disturbed us, they, like ourselves, were sick too. We asked God to help us show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend. When a person offended we said to ourselves, “This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done.”

We avoid retaliation or argument. We wouldn’t treat sick people that way. If we do, we destroy our chance of being helpful. We cannot be helpful to all people, but at least God will show us how to take a kindly and tolerant view of each and every one.

Referring to our list again. Putting out of our minds the wrongs others had done, we resolutely looked for our own mistakes. Where had we been selfish, dishonest, self-seeking and frightened? Though a situation had not been entirely our fault, we tried to disregard the other person involved entirely. Where were we to blame? The inventory was ours, not the other man’s. When we saw our faults we listed them. We placed them before us in black and white. We admitted our wrongs honestly and were willing to set these matters straight.

Notice that the word “fear” is bracketed alongside the difficulties with Mr. Brown, Mrs. Jones, the employer, and the wife. This short word somehow touches about every aspect of our lives. It was an evil and corroding thread; the fabric of our existence was shot through with it. It set in motion trains of circumstances which brought us misfortune we felt we didn’t deserve. But did not we, ourselves, set the ball rolling? Sometimes we think fear ought to be classed with stealing. It seems to cause more trouble.

We reviewed our fears thoroughly. We put them on paper, even though we had no resentment in connection with them. We asked ourselves why we had them. Wasn’t it because self-reliance failed us? Self-reliance was good as far as it went, but it didn’t go far enough. Some of us once had great self-confidence, but it didn’t fully solve the fear problem, or any other. When it made us cocky, it was worse.

Perhaps there is a better way–we think so. For we are now on a different basis; the basis of trusting and relying upon God. We trust infinite God rather than our finite selves. We are in the world to play the role He assigns. Just to the extent that we do as we think He would have us, and humbly rely on Him, does He enable us to match calamity with serenity.

We never apologize to anyone for depending upon our Creator. We can laugh at those who think spirituality the way of weakness. Paradoxically, it is the way of strength. The verdict of the ages is that faith means courage. All men of faith have courage. They trust their God. We never apologize for God. Instead we let Him demonstrate, through us, what He can do. We ask Him to remove our fear and direct our attention to what He would have us be. At once, we commence to outgrow fear.

Now about sex. Many of needed an overhauling there. But above all, we tried to be sensible on this question. It’s so easy to get way off the track. Here we find human opinions running to extremes–absurd extremes, perhaps. One set of voices cry that sex is a lust of our lower nature, a base necessity of procreation. Then we have the voices who cry for sex and more sex; who bewail the institution of marriage; who think that most of the troubles of the race are traceable to sex causes. They think we do not have enough of it, or that it isn’t the right kind. They see its significance everywhere. One school would allow man no flavor for his fare and the other would have us all on a straight pepper diet. We want to stay out of this controversy. We do not want to be the arbiter of anyone’s sex conduct. We all have sex problems. We’d hardly be human if we didn’t. What can we do about them?

We reviewed our own conduct over the years past. Where had we been selfish, dishonest, or inconsiderate? Whom had we hurt? Did we unjustifiably arouse jealousy, suspicion or bitterness? Where were we at fault, what should we have done instead? We got this all down on paper and looked at it.

In this way we tried to shape a sane and sound ideal for our future sex life. We subjected each relation to this test–was it selfish or not? We asked God to mold our ideals and help us to live up to them. We remembered always that our sex powers were God-given and therefore good, neither to be used lightly or selfishly nor to be despised and loathed.

Whatever our ideal turns out to be, we must be willing to grow toward it. We must be willing to make amends where we have done harm, provided that we do not bring about still more harm in so doing. In other words, we treat sex as we would any other problem. in meditation, we ask God what we should do about each specific matter. The right answer will come, if we want it.

God alone can judge our sex situation. Counsel with persons is often desirable, but we let God be the final judge. We realize that some people are as fanatical about sex as others are loose. We avoid hysterical thinking or advice.

Suppose we fall short of the chosen ideal and stumble? Does this mean we are going to get drunk? Some people tell us so. But this is only a half-truth. It depends on us and on our motives. If we are sorry for what we have done, and have the honest desire to let God take us to better things, we believe we will be forgiven and will have learned our lesson. If we are not sorry, and our conduct continues to harm others, we are quite sure to drink. We are not theorizing. These are facts out of our experience.

To sum up about sex: We earnestly pray for the right ideal, for guidance in each questionable situation, for sanity, and for the strength to do the right thing. If sex is very troublesome, we throw ourselves the harder into helping others. We think of their needs and work for them. This takes us out of ourselves. It quiets the imperious urge, when to yield would mean heartache.

If we have been thorough about our personal inventory, we have written down a lot. We have listed and analyzed our resentments. We have begun to comprehend their futility and their fatality. We have commenced to see their terrible destructiveness. We have begun to learn tolerance, patience and good will toward all men, even our enemies, for we look on them as sick people. We have listed the people we have hurt by our conduct, and are willing to straighten out the past if we can.

In this book you read again and again that faith did for us what we could not do for ourselves. We hope you are convinced now that God can remove whatever self-will has blocked you off from Him. If you have already made a decision, and an inventory of your grosser handicaps, you have made a good beginning. That being so you have swallowed and digested some big chunks of truth about yourself.

 

Step 4~~Alcoholics Anonymous -The Big Book Comes Alive ! Steps 4, 5, 6 With Joe and Charlie

Step Four~~Made a Searching and Fearless Inventory of Ourselves

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves

 

How It Works

A business which takes no regular inventory usually goes broke. Taking commercial inventory is a fact-finding and a fact-facing process. It is an effort to discover the truth about the stock-in-trade. One object is to disclose damaged or unsalable goods, to get rid of them promptly and without regret. If the owner of the business is to be successful, he cannot fool himself about values.

We did exactly the same thing with our lives. We took stock honestly. First, we searched out the flaws in our make-up which caused our failure. Being convinced that self, manifested in various ways, was what had defeated us, we considered its common manifestations. 
-A.A. Big Book p.64 

More about Step 4 in the Big Book

 

Comments from Web Sites and Publications

During the first three steps I have turned my attention from my addiction and the wreckage that it has done to my life to the God that I have come to realize can deliver me from my addiction. I have faced the truth of my situation and turned this situation over to the God who can help me. Now it is time to start seeing things as they truly are rather than through the glass of my addicted mind and heart. The first step in this process of “getting real” is to take an honest inventory of my life. Exactly where have I been, what have I done and how far did I go in my addictive behaviors? When and where did they start and where have they led me? This is a vital step away from my addicted life filled with chaos and insane behaviors towards a conscious life filled with more personal power and serenity. 
– From 12Step.org


We want to find out exactly how, when and where our natural desires have warped us. We wish to look squarely at the unhappiness this has caused others and ourselves. By discovering what our emotional deformities are, we can move towards their correction. Without a willing and persistent effort to do this, there can be little sobriety or contentment for us. Without a searching and fearless moral inventory, most of us have found that the faith which really works in daily living is out of reach. 
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 43 


In Step Four we call it a “moral” inventory because we compile a list of traits and behaviors that have transgressed our highest, or moral, values. We also inventory our “good” traits and the behaviors that represent them. In our life’s moral inventory the defects or dysfunctional behaviors might include some that once worked; some dysfunctional behaviors may have saved our lives as children, but they are now out-of-date, self-defeating, and cause us a great deal of trouble when we use them as adults. 
A Hunger for Healing, p. 61 


The purpose of a searching and fearless moral inventory is to sort through the confusion and the contradiction of our lives so that we can find out who we really are. We are starting a new way of life and need to be rid of the burdens and traps which have controlled us and prevented our growth.

As we approach this step, most of us are afraid that there is a monster inside us that, if released, will destroy us. This fear can cause us to put off our inventory or may even prevent us from taking this crucial step at all. We have found that fear is lack of faith, and we have found a loving, personal God to whom we can turn. We no longer need to be afraid.

… Step Four will help us toward our recovery more than we imagine. Most of us find that we were neither as terrible, nor as wonderful, as we supposed. We are surprised to find that we have good points in our inventory. Anyone who has some time in the Program and has worked this step will tell you that the Fourth Step was a turning point in their life. Some of us make the mistake of approaching the Fourth Step as if it were a confession of how horrible we are-what a bad person we have been. In this new way of life, a binge of emotional sorrow can be dangerous. This is not the purpose of the Fourth Step. We are trying to free ourselves of living in old, useless patterns. We take the Fourth Step to gain the necessary strength and insight which enables us to grow. We may approach the Fourth Step in a number of ways.

It is advisable that before we start, we go over the first three steps with a sponsor. 
Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text, Chapter 4/Step 4


A personal inventory is crucial to understanding the new direction of our spiritual growth. What aspects of our character do we need to retain and emphasize, and what should be modified or discarded? Six components that might go into such an inventory are described in the following paragraphs.

First, we may need to “tell our stories.” This can be accomplished by journaling, that is, by writing out our stories, and by sharing them with others in recovery meetings or private dialogue…

A second component in our inventory is discovering the roots of our addictions and codependencies. In most cases, this means we have to examine our childhoods. What needs were not met there? What negative experiences or messages about ourselves did we absorb in the dysfunctional family of origin? …

Third, we must confront and assess the full extent of our dependencies. Doing so, we will learn more about the severity of our primary addictions, and we may uncover other peripheral addictions we had not previously recognized. We should inventory and identify all of these codependent symptoms and addictions, which have manifested themselves in our adolescent and adult lives….

Fourth, we need to look back at our relationship history with the people who have been significant in our lives – parents, teachers, mentors, friends, romantic interests. We need to inventory all the ways we have hurt them and hurt ourselves by practicing our adult addictions and codependencies…

Fifth, we must address our guilt feelings. We realize that most addictions are shame-based and shame-propelled. To move beyond this shame-base, we need to distinguish between two major forms of guilt: 1) False shame, or carried shame… 2) Authentic guilt

Sixth, we must “look for the good”. An important counterbalancing dimension is that a Step 4 inventory should include the positive, as well as the negative, things about us… 
– Serenity, A Companion for Twelve Step Recovery, p. 38-42

Step 3~Made a Decision to Turn Our Will and Our Lives Over to the Care of God, As We Understood Him

AA Big Book
AA Big Book (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Third Step and Your Prayer

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.

This statement follows the Third Step Prayer on page 63 of the Big Book
“The wording [used for the prayer to affirm our “3rd Step Decision”] was, of course, quite optional so long as we expressed the idea, voicing it without reservation.”

Some of our founders and early members of the fellowship used a prayer other than the one on page 63 of the Big Book to take newcomers through their “decision” — namely because the Big Book wasn’t printed until 1939 and they got our Program from Oxford Group principles. Bill W., Dr. Bob, and Bill D. started making 12 Step calls and taking others through the original 6 “steps” in the summer of 1935.

Here are a couple examples of “3rd Step Prayers” used by our early members:

 


THIRD STEP PRAYER used by Dr. Bob

Dear God, 
I’m sorry about the mess I’ve made of my life.
I want to turn away from all the wrong things I’ve ever done and all the wrong things I’ve ever been. Please forgive me for it all.
I know You have the power to change my life and can turn me into a winner. Thank You, God for getting my attention long enough to interest me in trying it Your way.
God, please take over the management of my life and everything about me. I am making this conscious decision to turn my will and my life over to Your care and am asking You to please take over all parts of my life.
Please, God, move into my heart. However You do it is Your business, but make Yourself real inside me and fill my awful emptiness. Fill me with your love and Holy Spirit and make me know Your will for me. And now, God, help Yourself to me and keep on doing it. I’m not sure I want You to, but do it anyhow.
I rejoice that I am now a part of Your people, that my uncertainty is gone forever, and that You now have control of my will and my life. Thank You and I praise Your name. Amen.

The Third Step Prayer

from page 63 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous

God, I offer myself to Thee- 
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!

Copyright © Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.

 

Step 1~Powerlessness

Step 1 

We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable

 How It Works

The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so-called willpower becomes practically non-existent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink. 
– A.A. Big Book, p. 24 (Substitute your own addiction for drink if your addiction is different than alcohol) 

More about Step 1 in the Big Book

Comments from Web Sites and Publications

Step 1 is the first step to freedom. I admit to myself that something is seriously wrong in my life. I have created messes in my life. Perhaps my whole life is a mess, or maybe just important parts are a mess. I admit this and quit trying to play games with myself anymore. I realize that my life has become unmanageable in many ways. It is not under my control anymore. I do things that I later regret doing and tell myself that I will not do them again. But I do. I keep on doing them, in spite of my regrets, my denials, my vows, my cover-ups and my facades. The addiction has become bigger than I am. The first step is to admit the truth of where I am, that I am really powerless over this addiction and that I need help. 
– From 12Step.org


The principle that we will find no enduring strength until we first admit complete defeat is the main taproot from which our whole Society has sprung and flowered. 
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 22


Why all this insistence that every A.A. must hit bottom first? The answer is that few people will sincerely try to practice the A.A. program unless they have hit bottom. For practicing A.A.’s remaining eleven steps means the adoption of attitudes and actions that almost no alcoholic who is still drinking can dream of taking. Who wishes to be rigorously honest and tolerant? Who wants to confess his faults to another and make restitution for harm done? Who cares anything about a Higher Power, let alone meditation and prayer? Who wants to sacrifice time and energy in trying to carry the A.A.’s message to the next sufferer? No, the average alcoholic, self-centered in the extreme, doesn’t care for this prospect – unless he has to do these things in order to stay alive himself.

Under the lash of alcoholism, we are driven to A.A. and there we discover the fatal nature of our situation. Then, and only then, do we become open-minded to conviction and as willing to listen as the dying can be. We stand ready to do anything that will lift the merciless obsession from us. 
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 24


I believe the delusion of control and power finally breaks down at the point where we are not able to alleviate the stress and our pain thorugh any effort in our repertoire. Evidently what we all want is happiness, yet with all we have accomplished or acquired with our attemps to be in control, many of us reach a place at which we not only cannot control our happiness – even with an addictive substance or behavior – but we cannot control our pain and stress, which has reached an agonizing level. By this time the family may have left; the job may be gone; or one’s health may have been destroyed.

But we don’t have to go this far down. We can see the patterns of powerlessness and go for help. When we begin to realize how we act and feel when no one is around, or in our car alone in traffic, or in line in a store, or when we listen to a political commentator, or in our most intimate relationships in our homes or in our beds, we can look around in our lives and see other signs of powerlessness and unmanageability. In the end it is usually the pain of our compulsions, addictions, and denial and the resulting strained or broken relationships that drive us to the stark awareness of our powerlessness. Unfortunately it may take a tragedy or crisis to break through our delusion of power – a divorce, a family member’s addiction, a runaway child, a terminal illness, a bankruptcy, a death. 
– A Hunger for Healing, p. 25


When we admit our powerlessness and the inability to manage our own lives, we open the door to recovery. No one could convince us that we were addicts. It is an admission that we had to make for ourselves. When some of us have doubts, we ask ourselves this question: “Can I control my use of any form of mind or mood-altering chemicals?”

Most will see that control is impossible the moment it is suggested. Whatever the outcome, we find that we cannot control our using for any length of time.

This would clearly suggest that an addict has no control over drugs. Powerlessness means using against our will. If we can’t stop, how can we tell ourselves we are in control? The inability to stop using, even with the greatest willpower and the most sincere desire, is what we mean when we say, “We have absolutely no choice”. 
Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text, Chapter 4/Step 1


Admitting powerlessness is absolutely essential to breaking the addiction cycle, which is made up of five points:

  1. Pain  
  2. Reaching out to an addictive agent, such as work, food, sex, alcohol, or dependent relationships to salve our pain 
  3. Temporary anesthesia  
  4. Negative consequences  
  5. Shame and guilt, which result in more pain or low self-esteem  

For example, the workaholic who has low self-esteem (pain) begins to overwork (addictive agent), which results in praise, success, and achievement (relief). However, as a rule, family relationships and his personal relationship with God suffer terribly because of preoccupation with work (negative consequences). The result is an even greater sense of shame and guilt because of inadequacies, both real and imagined, which brings him back to point 1 in the addiction cycle. Now the workaholic feels compelled to work even harder to overcome his guilt.

Understanding the addiction cycle is important because it helps explain why for both the Oxford Group and for Bill Wilson, the admission of powerlessness is the first step to recovery. Otherwise, we remain caught. If we rely on willpower alone, then the only thing we know to do is to escalate our addiction to get out of the pain. Step 1 calls us to do less – to yield, to surrender, to let go. 
– Serenity, A Companion for Twelve Step Recovery, p. 22-23


The central task of Step 1 is to recognize that our lives are beyond our control, and we cannot continue our superhuman efforts at patching up the many mistakes we make. We recognize that it is time to move from a crisis mode to a prevention mode.

Here are some familiar patterns:

  • Alcoholics or drug abusers find that no one will believe their promises anymore.
  • Overeaters recognize that all diets have ultimately failed and that they are now facing life-threatening illness.
  • Co-dependents find they are too ill or exhausted to go on doing everyone’s work and that others have become more and more resistant to the co-dependent’s efforts to control them.
  • Workaholics find deadlines passing by unmet, forget to write down appointments, or fall ill with no “contingency plan”.
  • ACOAs become so overwhelmed by their standards and commitments that they cannot get out of bed to act on anything.

– The Twelve Step Journal, p. 39

Cover of "Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditi...
Cover of Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

Wants vs Needs

There are actual needs, and there are arbitrary wants. The most basic needs you as a human require for survival are oxygen, water, food, clothing and shelter. Anything beyond those are “wants”.

Many things can satisfy your basic needs. A cave for shelter, a blanket for clothing, rainwater for water, but you must have them for basic survival. Wants have nothing to do with actual survival.

When you cannot distinguish between wants versus needs, or if you can’t identify a want as a want, you set yourself up to live in a constant state of craving and disappointment.

If you don’t get an item or situation you have been hoping for, ask yourself if it was just an arbitrary want. Was it something you decided to want based on an advertisement or suggestion, or did it just pop into your head?

Don’t get me wrong–I want things I don’t need just as much as anyone. But when it looks like I may not get them, I ask myself what it is, and realize in almost every case, it was just an arbitrary want, brought on by a “that would be cool” whim that popped into my head out of nowhere.

When you recognize a want as just a want, you begin to realize the silliness of wanting things and situations based on nothing in particular, and the futility of being disappointed when they don’t materialize.

But isn’t it selfish to want money or a job or a relationship or cool stuff? It depends. If your desires are born of the ego, of a desire to avoid bad feelings or lack or loneliness or to boost your identity, yes–that is selfish, and even if you get what you want, it will not help you to feel good. But if your goals are born of spirit–of a desire to share, to create beauty and good, to help others lose their ever-present fear that drives them to seek happiness in things that cannot give it to them, no, that is not selfish. That is spiritual. That is God-like. Yes, you can want and have abundance.” 

I spent most of my life searching for something or someone to make me happy, or to change the way I felt. For some reason I believed that if I had the “right” body, the “right” husband, the “right” house, the “right” job, and then I would be happy.

Then in my addiction no matter what I had there was nothing that filled that empty hole in my soul. I was never happy or serene. I did not even know what that was. I lived in Chaos and from “crisis to crisis”.

I wasted a lot of years “wanting” something else besides what I had.  By the grace of God and the twelve steps I learned to be content with what I have, and to “live life on life’s terms”.

My grandfather used to say, “Always wanting what is not. When it’s cold you want it hot. When it is hot you want it cold.” No matter what I had I always thought that I should have something else. By following the principles that I have learned in my program of recovery, I have learned “in whatsoever state I am in to be content.” God supplies all of our needs and some of our wants. I had to learn to be happy with whatever God gave me, and stop being an ungrateful brat.  Our minister put it in a sermon, “More, More, More“.

For the first time in my life, I am happy with exactly what I have. I have a wonderful husband and family, a comfortable home and a paid off truck to drive. We have all of our needs met by God’s grace.  I have few wants nowadays, so I am happy with little. I have had much and I have had little.

Things cannot make you happy. I have had the “things”, that I thought would make me happy, but they did not. And…really it is all just “stuff”…and can be taken away at anytime.

God has to be number one then me choosing to do God’s will for me has given me peace and serenity.

12 Step work takes me out of me (It is the 12th. Step in action) it remind us to be grateful, and that But for the grace of God; I could be in jail or dead. No, life is not perfect, but I love being free and saying, doing, and feeling whatever I want to. I just have to be willing to reap my Consequences. I got “sick and tired” of being “sick and tired”.

I found my “higher power” in AA. At three years, I went back to church and studied the Bible, but my recovery came from the twelve steps. I was a very unhappy and depressed child. I lived in my own “fantasy” world. I hated “reality”.

My “higher power” at first was my group and my sponsor, because I hated God so much and I felt he never answered my prayers when I had prayed for protection from my abusers. You probably have already heard it before but just in case you haven’t: God never gave up on us, we gave up on Him.