Get on with your homework
It had taken three years in AA and since my last drink to get to that point of starting my Step Four.
I was in a desperate state and my head felt like it would explode. I had not been brought to my knees and that perilous state of mind by a drink, but by an emotional rock bottom with the end of a relationship.
I am not dim or stupid, I knew what I, “should” be doing regarding Step Four and Five. I had been to enough AA meetings to know what the process was, but there seemed to be some unassailable roadblock in the way of me putting pen to paper.
I had not had a drink in three years, and I can clearly see with hindsight that I was absolutely 100% stark raving sober.
Alcohol had been the solution to my problem for so many years and that problem was me!! Without the alcohol I just was an untreated emotional mess that was getting progressively worse!
Finally, and very reluctantly, I dragged myself to my sponsor’s house. (That loving man who reached out to me with patience and tolerance to guide me through the Steps as he had been guided through them himself.)
When I had tried previously to start the Step work alone, sitting in my room at home staring at the paper, I just could not break down that impenetrable barrier to start.
I went to my sponsor’s house feeling like a little kid doing his homework under duress, I know it needed to be done, but I needed almost exam like conditions to make it happen.
“Just start with the names of the people in your head that you fear or are resentful at” said he.
“That’s not so tough,” thought I, “A piece of cake, I’m a good guy. Good morals fine strong character etc etc.”
Four hours later, with 16 pages of writing containing 90 names I began to understand I might have underestimated the task ahead.
After just writing that first list of names the other columns flowed easier and the character defects that I identified began to become so repetitive I just put “ditto” down the page.
The names, the places, what happened and my part in it tended to be different, but the character defects were all the same. Over and over and over again!
I didn’t realise it then but those repetitive traits I identified would be the key to solving the emotional conundrum I had tried to unravel on my own. Then, two weekends of “supervised study” later, I was ready for the big day …… my Step Five.
But there were still remnants of the obstinate roadblock. That thought, “Yes, there’s clearly a pattern, but how is sharing this very deeply hidden stuff with this guy going help me?”
We started, one line and one name at a time. Just Me. My Sponsor. God and that list.
My sponsor quietly listened and shared his own similar experiences.
At some stage that afternoon I felt an emotional wave growing within me until finally with a sob I began to cry as I’ve never cried as an adult man. It was pure unadulterated relief.
A dam somewhere inside seemed to have burst as all those petty and not so petty grievances and fears emerged from the rucksack I had carried for so many years. (That rucksack was always so heavy and on some days smelt really, really bad!)
Afterwards my sponsor pointed out I now had all the data I needed for the rest of the Steps. I had the list of my character defects for my Six and Seven (multiple dittoed entries!!!) I had all the names of people to make amends to in Steps Eight and Nine. (Sense! Checked by him for ulterior motives!.)
That was 14 years ago and my life has progressed admirably and I am content most of the time.
When I was drinking and before the Step Four and Five, I was unhappy 95% of the time and happy maybe 5%.
Today I can honestly say those percentages are reversed and I’m happy and OK 95% of the time and unhappy 5%.
I would like to say the soul searching and inventories became a natural way of me working my Programme and I am now a “poster boy” for doing the AA Steps.
Unfortunately I can still behave like the same errant schoolboy not wanting to do his homework and still run up against those same obstructive roadblocks thrown across my path.
The pattern that has emerged over the years is that I tend not to do an inventory or any work on myself when I’m feeling great ……….
It’s generally when I’m in emotional pain which comes from that 5% of emotional pain and then the same magic of relief and a new direction of travel emerge from the confusion.
I was driven to AA under the lash of alcoholism, I was driven to do my fourth and fifth Step by an emotional rock bottom and a feeling of complete bewilderment on how to deal with life.
I surfaced from that low point a free man with an understanding of who I was, and what was my problem with dealing with life, and how to deal with life without resorting to Alcohol.
The rucksack and its smell stayed where I had left it.
The suggestion from this rebellious schoolboy on Steps Four and Five is to get on and do your homework!