Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
There are many misconceptions of the Twelve Step program, one of which is how long each Step should take. One guy I spoke to years ago told me he’d been working on his 6th Step for a little over a year. Huh? How is that possible given the 6th Step is simply a one-hour meditation directly following our 5th Step reading of our 4th Step inventory? Others I spoke to at meetings would tell me they were working the Steps again for the third or fourth time in a month or year. Huh? This is why it is important to read the Big Book carefully and interpret this process as best we can. Done thoroughly and without relapse, the first 9 Steps don’t need to be repeated. They deal with the past and that’s that. Our 10th, 11th and 12th, however, go on forever, as you will see. These steps give us the tools we will need to maintain our spiritual health. Sure there will be new wisdom to acquire, new actions and lifestyle changes you can incorporate into your life, but these Steps are certainly a good start and will help you to build a solid foundation. Continue reading →
Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
The action of the 8th Step is simple and straightforward. We go back through our lives and write a list of all those we have harmed. Some will tell you that the list of people you resent becomes your amends list, but that is not the case. There are many people whom you may resent but haven’t outwardly wronged. So our 8th Step amends list is a new list of any people or institutions (stores, creditors, schools, police stations, etc.) that we owe an amends to. If you have wronged a person or an institution, are able to make amends, and if the amends will not cause more harm than good, go and make them. All of our amends must be valued equally, and all amends MUST be made if we are to cement our foundation and become truly free inside, even the most ambiguous of amends where the person has also wronged you terribly. What they did to us is completely irrelevant to our agenda. We clean up our side of the street and that is all. To repeat the urgency and importance the Big Book gives to the consummation of our 5th Step, these amends should also be considered a “life-and-death errand.”Continue reading →
Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
The 5th Step instructs us to read our entire written inventory to another person before God. Don’t sit on your inventory for weeks or months as you will just accumulate more resentments along the way and it can easily spiral into the never-ending inventory! Schedule a time to read with either your sponsor, another trusted guide in the Steps, or some mentor or confidant such as a family pastor.
We must be thorough and fearless. Remember that we read our inventory to initiate the process of letting go. We have been honest with ourselves, but now it is time to be honest with another person, which is humbling and requires courage. Here we are given the opportunity to shine a light on our past as we expose, uncover and hold our character defects under a magnifying glass. We dig it up once more, let it out, and confess our skeletons in the closet. Exhuming what we have buried and what shames us the most can be humbling and humiliating, but it is also crucial for the consummation of this process. There will be no “entire psychic change” unless we do this, and do it completely. If we confess 99% of what we’ve done but leave that one BIGGIE out, we may fail, and all of this work will be for naught.Continue reading →
The beginning of humility and health is to understand that you were created by God and that you are not Him. Should any individual desire to get well, heal, grow in character and evolve spiritually, showing some deference to our Creator is not only the proper attitude to assume, it is imperative. The notion that everything good you do, that everything good you accomplish and that all of your blessings can solely be attributed to yourself and your greatness, and conversely that all failures can be attributed to something or someone other than you is what defines the mind and heart of a narcissist. Is it not pure vanity, let alone delusion, to take credit for everything good in your life?
The addict has lived a life of pathological self-centeredness. Pure logic thus dictates he or she must view self and life in precisely the opposite way. The process of written 4th Step inventory allows the addict to heal and procures for him full access to God. It is not enough just to believe. What good is it to accept Jesus and His Father only to continue living selfishly, to continue to live in sin, to continue hurting others, to continue indulging in one’s flesh at every turn? Belief itself is a commitment to change the way we think, speak and act… and if not, it is hollow and meaningless.
The following chapter from my book, “Anybody Can Take Steps” delineates in detail this process of exorcizing and expelling a lifetime of emotional and spiritual poison, accepting responsibility and becoming accountable for our entire lives. We create who we are and what we become. We are not victims and nothing outside of ourselves and our perceptions and reactions is to blame for how we feel and for the circumstances in our lives. We addicts must do one simple thing: Get over ourselves.
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Why keep such a miraculous elixir in the dark, hidden from the rest of the world? Written moral inventory is a mind-opening and potentially life-changing tool that should not be exclusive to alcoholics and drugs addicts. The 4th Step has the power and wisdom to entirely shift our perception of self and others. As we reach new depths of honesty and clarity, the 4th Step combined with the 5th, 6th and 7th may even restore or dramatically alter our brain chemistry. How could it be? Because we are about to rid ourselves of a lifetime of resentment, fear, self-deception and the emotional turmoil that has fueled and maintained our patterns of thinking and behaving. Imagine exorcising years of baggage you’ve been lugging around and the effect that would have. Sure we can become ‘hard wired’ by our habits and our ways, but our brain chemistry is by no means static and can change at any time, especially when such an enormous amount of internal filth falls from you instantly. The potentially euphoric emptying out and shower of relief is something you do not want to miss.
In our 4th Step, we sit down and write resentment inventory, fear inventory and sex inventory to expel the emotional and psychological garbage that has piled up inside of us. We are human. Nobody is immune or exempt from anger, resentment, bitterness, frustration, judgment, projection, false assumptions, anxiety, fear, dishonesty, self-seeking and selfishness. Emotional or spiritual poison left unchecked can turn into a volcano just waiting to erupt… yet once dissolved, there is room to allow for something much greater and more powerful to come in and fill the void. The idea for addicts and alcoholics is to replace our addiction with something at least as powerful as the addiction itself, and the same goes for any other demon. Soft, fluffy, hollow remedies won’t work when we are powerless over something. We are going to need an engine with some real horsepower.
The problem with harboring resentment, fear and sexual misconduct is that they slowly rot us from within, eating away at our physical, mental and spiritual health. Resentment is like a psychic acid, slowly burning and corrupting the soul and eventually destroying us with jade, cynicism and self-delusion until we wind up depressed and full of self-pity. It will convince us that we are somehow victims and that something outside of us is to blame for our woes, but despite the problems we may have, whether real or imagined, to blame anything but ourselves is false. The French philosopher, Jean Paul Sartre, once asserted that our “existence precedes our essence”. While we are certainly born with certain proclivities, traits and personalities, the idea is that we ultimately make ourselves into who we become, regardless of external circumstances. If I become a hero, I have made myself a hero. Conversely, if I become a failure, I have made myself a failure. Inventory teaches us this truth, but only if we are willing to find it and then accept it once we do.Continue reading →
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God/Jesus as we understood Him.
Sounds great, but how exactly do I turn myself over to God? What does that even mean? For now, let us consider this Step to be a vow – a promise to ourselves, to others and to our Higher Power to grow along spiritual lines and to repel anything that prevents us from doing so. On a practical level, we are vowing to cultivate and expand our conscience, and then never to ignore it. As well, we are not going to consciously erect any walls between us and our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health.
For addicts and alcoholics, when we remove substances and begin taking right action, we should experience the return of our conscience – that feeling in our gut which tells us if something is right or wrong – and our new job is to listen. For some, this will become an entirely new purpose in life. If my gut tells me something is right, I can no longer ignore the message but must gather the courage to act, and if I have no courage, I pray for it. If courage does not immediately come and I continue to be filled with fear or reluctance, I have to push myself to walk through it and act, knowing that if I do not, bad things will happen. When we fail to act on our conscience, we gradually lose our spiritual connection and become ill again.
On the other hand, if my gut tells me that something is wrong, I refuse and repel such a thing at all costs, and again, I pray for the willingness and power. I refuse to act, speak or even think in a way that is harmful to self or others. If I see wrongdoing around me, I do not selfishly remain in my comfort zone, but instead speak up and do the right thing. By diligently obeying our conscience, we nourish it like a tree. Soon it becomes rooted and grows taller. The roots spread, its foundation becomes more secure and the wind cannot blow it over. Our tree grows fuller and more beautiful as the light inside of us shines brighter. Following our conscience is the way to recovery, as it heals the soul of a person. With each right action, we draw closer to God. Continue reading →