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

Came to believe…

images

Step Two of the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous says:

“Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

As I go through the steps again with my sponsor, I am currently working on step two.  This step asks us to consider two things:  1) trusting that there is something bigger and stronger out there than we are, and 2) that greater thing is able to do what we couldn’t – restore us to sanity.

I think that in reworking this step, I have really been able to see how far I have come.  When I first heard step two, my focus wasn’t on either of the points I listed above; it was on the fact that accepting this step meant that I was admitting that I was, in fact, insane.  Believe me, there was a time during my active drinking, when I preferred friends and family just think I was crazy as opposed to thinking that I was an alcoholic.  That explains why my first “stay” at any kind of treatment facility was at a psychiatric hospital.  It was easier to let everyone believe that I was having some sort of breakdown, than admit I was throwing back bottles and bottles of wine and vodka.  It was easier with the doctors too, as I didn’t tell them the truth about my drinking either.  Somehow, at the time, it seemed like insanity was the lesser of the two evils.

By the time I got to rehab, less than a month later, and had to consider step two, I really didn’t want to be considered crazy anymore.  I wanted, with everything in me, to get well.  I wanted to be sober and sane.  I knew that I was powerless over alcohol and that my life was unmanageable.  But now, the program was telling me that I was crazy and that I had to trust something greater than myself if I wanted that to change.  That was a really hard concept for me to swallow.  First of all, I wasn’t in the state of mind to be able to trust anyone. My family was bailing on me during my time of need (not that they were always there anyway, but if there was ever a time that I needed them, it was then); my boyfriend had dumped me while I was in the psych hospital; my friends weren’t really friends, they were either people I drank with or people who I never let see the real me.  I felt like I had no one, and they were telling me that I had to trust something, or someone, that I couldn’t even see.  Fat chance of that happening!  Or so I thought.

My first step two, although it was kind of a half-assed attempt at believing put me on the right path.  I knew, without a doubt, that I couldn’t get sober on my own.  If I had been able to do that, I would have stopped drinking a long time before ending up in treatment.  And I knew that people just like me had been able to get and stay sober; almost all of the employees at my rehab were in recovery themselves.  So what was the difference between them and me?  They had a Higher Power, and I was trying to do it all by myself.

What I found, when I was willing to walk the right path, was that heading in the right direction can lead to real faith.  I know that I didn’t “come to believe” all at once.  It was gradual and slow.  It took time.  I think my first real inclinations toward faith came when I thought about all of the past chaos and wreckage in my life.  Somehow, I had made it through all of that, no thanks to me.  Why, when I done all of the dangerous, self-harming things I had, was I even still alive?  How had I survived?  Clearly, it wasn’t my doing.  There had to be something out there that was doing it for me.

Over time, working the rest of the steps, listening to other alcoholics, and confronting my past and putting it to rest, I realized that I had “come to believe.”  I did have a Higher Power:  God, and He was taking care of me and giving me grace even when I didn’t want to see it.  The grace I had been given was evidence to me that God was working in my life, and all I had to do was trust in that.

So, this time as I worked my second step, I found it much different.  I no longer focus on the insanity part of the step.  As it says in the 12 and 12:

“Sanity is defined as “soundness of mind.” Yet no alcoholic, soberly analyzing his destructive behavior, whether the destruction fell on the dining-room furniture or his own moral fiber, can claim “soundness of mind” for himself.”

I did not have soundness of mind when I was actively drinking.  In sobriety, I think I do.  Well, most of the time anyway.

I also have faith this time around.  I know that it is God that deserves the glory for my 16+ months of sobriety.  I’ve done some hard, really hard, work, but without Him, I wouldn’t be where I am.  So as I take step two now, I am confident in saying that I have come to believe in a power greater than myself, and He has restored me to sanity.