Sober, Not Perfect

ugh2

Have you ever done something that you knew would have negative consequences and then instantly regretted it? Recently, I did that. I used to do that a lot – when I was drinking. Admittedly, the regret usually came later then, not right away. This time though, I wasn’t drinking, I had my wits about me, and I still did it. What’s worse is, I did it out of anger.

Ugh.

We’re not supposed to behave that way once we get sober, right? I mean, I’ve been sober for over three years, I’ve worked the steps many times over, I have a sponsor who I talk to all the time, I do the maintenance steps (10-12) every day…I have really changed the way I live. And yet, I really screwed up and impacted other people’s lives, and I may have lost one of the closest friendships I have.

I’ve been doing a bit of wallowing about this whole thing for the last few days, self-loathing and self-pity joining me in the mire. It hasn’t really been a very good time, and I’ve been wondering what I should do. The thing is, I know what to do. It’s just hard doing it. I have to make amends, sooner rather than later. I will. It may not save the friendship that I cherish so much, but I have to clean up my side of the street.

This whole situation has taught me a few things – or maybe it’s just reminded me of a few things. One, reacting out of anger is not the way to go. Often times, my first inclination is to lash out when I’m hurt or scared. Over the years though, and through working the program, I’ve learned that I shouldn’t act on my first inclination. It’s that “first thought wrong,” thing that I’ve learned in AA. The second thing is that even though I am sober, with a good program and lots of support and wisdom from those around me, I am still going to screw up sometimes. I’m human, and that’s what humans do. Which brings me to the third thing: what I do now is what matters. Taking responsibility and trying to repair what I’ve broken is what I have to do. I could leave this whole thing alone, wait for it to fade away into the past, but the guilt I have over it wouldn’t go away, and a place of guilt is a dangerous place for me to hang out in.

So this weekend, I will put on my big girl panties and try to make things right. We’ll see what happens.

Making Amends with no Expectations

Step 9 of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous says:

step-9-meme

I am still working the steps, even though it may seem like I have stalled at step 9.  I haven’t.  But I am taking my time with it, because it is no easy task.  Step 8 has us make a list of the people who we have harmed and become willing to make amends to them all.  Step 9 asks us to use that list and to actually go to those people and make amends, unless it would be harmful.  That’s where I am…stuck somewhere between willingness and action.  This isn’t my first time through the steps, so I have done step 9 a few times.  And I continue to practice the maintenance steps (10, 11, 12) on a daily basis, so now when the necessity for an amends comes up, I do it right away…no procrastinating, and life is so much better when I do that.  So the amends list  I am working on now is short, but difficult.  They are the people who have been on my list since the beginning, but they are the ones whom I haven’t been ready to address.  I feel ready now, and my sponsor agrees that it is time, so I am doing it – cleaning up my side of the street, with no expectations of the outcome.  It’s still a scary prospect, but it will be a relief to have it done.

I think that the hardest part of making amends is not having expectations of what the other person’s response will be.  Over the last couple of years, when I have done step 9, I have had people react in different ways.  Some have hugged me, thanked me for talking to them and relationships have been made stronger, some have expressed their own amends to me for whatever their part in it was, some have completely ignored my attempts to take responsibility for my actions, some remained angry.   I have to be ok with whatever the outcome is.  I have to remember that I am not to focus on what the other person says, does, feels.  Step nine is about me taking responsibility for how I harmed someone, and trying to make it right.  Acceptance or rejection on the other person’s part should be none of my concern.  If only it were that easy.

The amends I am working on will all be done by letter, because those left on my list no longer want to speak to me.  My sponsor is going over everything I write and making suggestions and keeping me focused on exactly what it is I need to say.  My inclination is to take on the responsibility for every bad thing that has happened…I blame myself for just about everything.  So it’s extremely helpful to have someone look at what I am feeling and writing and say, “nope, this part isn’t your deal,” or “this sounds a little bit like begging, you don’t have to do that.”  It’s about recognizing my part, verbalizing to the other person that I realize how I harmed them, and doing what I can to make it right (if that is even a possibility).

9th step promisesWhile I have no idea what, if any, responses I will get to my amends letters, I do know that writing and sending them will bring me relief.  Knowing that I have done the best I can to make things better – staying sober being the biggest thing – is what will lead me to feeling the fulfillment that the 9th Step Promises guarantee.  I know that these promises do come true, I’ve seen it time and time again in the rooms of AA.  Doing a thorough 9th step changes people, it strengthens them in their life and their program.  I want what they have, so I am going to do what they did.  I will let you know how it goes.

 

 

 

 

A long period of reconstruction

step 8

Step 8 of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous says:

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

As I have completed steps six and seven, the time has come for me to begin work on step eight.  After working on step seven for the last little while, praying daily for God to remove my defects of character, one of which is procrastination, I don’t feel like I can put off step eight (maybe my prayers are working!).   I’ve done my reading about step eight in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and in the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.  I also read from a couple of other books about the 12 steps and I talked to my sponsor about what it means to be willing.  So it’s time to put pen to paper and make my list.

I have several (probably more) people who I feel I need to make amends to for my past behavior.  The list is safely tucked away in my mind where no one can see it, but I think about it everyday.  I’ve talked about a few of the people on my list with my sponsor, and most she agrees with, but she’s iffy about a couple of them.  You see, I think there are two different types of  attitudes that we alcoholics have when it comes to the amends steps.  It seems to me, from what I have seen in the rooms, there is one group of alcoholics who tend to blame everyone else for their problems and has a difficult time coming up with a list of people for their amends.  Another group of people blames themselves for everything and puts everyone and their brother on their list of amends.  Neither is better or worse than the other, both have issues that need addressing and both have the opportunity to make things better for themselves by working steps eight and nine.  For for whatever reason, I fall into the latter category and could easily make a list of a hundred people who I think I have hurt.  The truth though, according to my sponsor, is that I tend to over-accept accountability, even for things that are not my fault.  So my assignment is to work on my list, with explanations, and show it to her before I move on to actually making amends to anyone.  Thank God for sponsors!  They can often see our truths when we can’t.

Step eight is about willingness, and I have to admit there are some amends that I am much more willing to make than others.  This time around, I have some people on my list that have been there from day one but that I just haven’t had the willingness or strength to make amends too.  I also have some financial amends that have been there, but I haven’t had the resources to tackle yet.  Some of them are easier and I am willing and ready to reach out because I suspect the results will be positive, or at least nuetral.  There are some though who I know will not be accepting, or even nice, about my attempt to right things.  When it comes to those, my willingness, while still pretty solid, is accompanied by some fear.  I have to remember that in the Big Book it says (I’m paraphrasing) that we have to clean up our side of the street, that the outcome of doing so may or may not be positive, and that the outcome is out of our control.  It also says that, “Yes, there is a long period of reconstruction ahead.”  By becoming willing to make amends, I am moving toward that reconstruction.

No matter how willing I am to make my list, going through the past in my mind, looking at how my past behavior has affected others, it’s easy to slip into old ways of thinking.  Guilt, shame and self-loathing are hanging out right around the corner, just waiting for a moment of weakness when they can sneak back in and take away my peace and serenity.  To combat this, one of my “assignments” from my sponsor is to make a different list each evening – a list of all of the things I did well that day.  I’ve done it a few times, and it helps.  I recommend it to anyone who is working steps eight and nine, or even those who are just feeling low.  Tonight, when I make my list, I can include writing this post.  🙂

 

Willingness