Made a fearless and searching moral inventory of myself.
When I signed up to do a step today, I didn’t realize that I was scheduling it three years from the date of my last bottom line relapse. My wife always reminds me – “to look for the clues.” Maybe I was destined to do this today to remind me of how far I have come in my recovery -- and maybe, this is another pivotal moment of revelation that takes me deeper into recovery, understanding and awareness.
I had reported to my therapist a month ago that I felt extremely selfish in my life and I was experiencing a profound sense of loss from not achieving my full potential in life. She suggested that selfishness is grief that has not been dealt with. Life has those magic moments when a realization connects to something deep inside of you. This was one of those moments -- a moment of truth – a moment of growth – a moment so real that it required further exploration. She further suggested that Step 4 was a grievance step … and she recommended me taking it today.
Step 4 - Made a fearless and searching moral inventory of myself.
In the book Breathing Under Water, A Spiritual Guide through the 12 Steps, the author Richard Rohr says: “Yes the truth will set you free…, but first it tends to make you miserable. The medieval spiritual writers called it compunction, the necessary sadness and humiliation that comes from seeing one’s own failure and weaknesses.”
And yes that is the fourth step isn’t it? That fearless and searching moral inventory. Compunction. Grief not dealt with … a sense of loss in my life of what could have been …
In my fourth step today I will take the approach of looking back over the last three years of my sobriety – and present an inventory of my grief, my fears and finally my resentments.
So what am I grieving …
I am grieving the lost little boy who sucked his thumb until he was 10, wet his bed until he was 16, that never felt nurtured or esteemed, that was told he was the Black Sheep, ridiculed for his apparent stupidity and felt disconnected, emotionally detached and an outsider in his own family.
I am grieving because I took a short cut through life’s every opportunity, didn’t apply myself academically and never felt intelligent, smart or worthy of praise.
I am grieving because I did not know who or what I wanted to be and am only now really exploring an identity and purpose for my life.
I am grieving because I ruined my marriage
I am grieving because I am afraid of the world, afraid of taking risks – of being my true self. I am grieving because I did not know or act courageously.
I am grieving because I do not know how to express my feelings, be intimate or vulnerable.
I am grieving because I am selfish, self-centered, and loath myself.
I am grieving because I feel I let life slip by.
Yes – I have grief that has not been dealt with --
Rohr says: “The goal in life is actually not the perfect avoidance of all sin, which is not possible anyway, but the struggle itself, and the encounter and wisdom that comes from it. Our real moral victory comes from the luminosity of awareness and compassion for the world.”
Rohr continues: “Maybe by God creating us in his own image and likeness – as the Bible says –wants nothing more from us than simple honesty and humility. Is the story of the Prodigal Son not a perfect example? In this story, the son who did wrong ends up being right – simply because he is honest about it.”
My life seems like one big lost opportunity. I just shake my head and want to cry. But awareness and compassion for self comes from introspection and going deep, admitting your wrongs and being willing to forgive myself. But before I jump ahead of Step 4, may I be honest today in all my revelations.
It is said that the opposite of faith is fear and the only way to move from fear to faith is trust. May I trust that by disclosing my fears publicly I am moving into the faith I need to sustain my recovery.
So what do I fear …
- I fear not being accepted or liked
- I fear being found out
- I fear being a failure, of being less than
- I fear true love …
- I fear being intimate, vulnerable and connected
- I fear a violent, powerless untimely death
- I fear not being in control
- I fear not being there for my son when his muscular dystrophy puts him in a wheelchair
- I fear having to make tough stands that contradict popular opinion
- I fear that no one would truly like me if they knew me at my core
- I fear living an insignificant life
- I fear not being remembered
- I fear not making a difference in people’s lives
- I fear derision, ridicule and especially public humiliation
- I fear surrender to the program and of letting go completely
- I fear asking for help
- I fear making a significant change in my life and would rather deal with the devil I know than the devil I don’t know
- I fear being poor
- I fear being unsuccessful or appearing unsuccessful
- I fear appearing stupid, ill informed, or not in the know
- I fear codependent situations and taking a stand
- I fear not being right
And now on too resentments … my favorite subject.
Letting go of resentment is not for the benefit of the other person. I have to remember, that letting go of resentment is for me. When I resent someone, I am saying very forcefully, that the other person is the problem, the cause and the fault -- not me. I forcefully blame the other person so I don't have to look at myself. If I looked at myself, I would have to experience all the hurt from what happened. I would have to feel all the hurt of being not good enough, not worth loving or some other form of not okay. To avoid this hurt, I resent.
This is the third time I have taken the fourth step. Each time I have looked earnestly at the who, what, and why of every resentment – and then come to grips with what my role in each of these resentments and how a resentment affects me in terms of my pride, fear, self esteem, ambition, financial security etc.,
For today’s exercise I kept it simple focusing on who and what I resent:
- I resent that I can’t drink anymore
- I resent that there is no easy way to recover from addiction
- I resent people who are smarter than me and have had more success-- especially financial or material success – and have done so at a younger age!
- I resent people that can remain detached and unemotional – yet be thoughtful and sincere.
- I resent my brother for his physical and emotional abuse
- I resent my company especially those with power over me for not affirming me, not reassuring me, not seeing all the I have to offer
- I resent my sponsor’s demand of me to be more accountable. Bastard.
- I resent God for giving my son Muscular Dystrophy.
- I resent not being a gifted artist, singer or being gifted a ‘talent’
- I resent people who seem to have it made and seem to never have chaos in their life
- I resent my parents who always ask me to visit them but never return the offer
- I resent my siblings for never contacting me or coming to visit me even though they are in town to see my mother and father
- I resent loud, rude, and inconsiderate people
- I resent my sister in law for always putting my family in situations that test our family loyalty
- I resent not being able to come up with more resentments … I know I have more!!
The guiding principle of the 4th Step is courage. Courage is the quality it takes to look at yourself with candor, your adversaries with kindness, and your setbacks with serenity. I thank God for the courage to do my 4th step today. Thank you for letting me share it with you especially on this my third anniversary of sobriety.