I find myself thinking about the rooms of AA. Many years ago I spent some time there, enough to earn my five year sobriety medallion.
What always amazed me was the social contrast of those sitting there with me and the similarity of our pain. I was a naive young woman from a religious, upper-middle class family who had never been without life’s basic needs or a witness to life on the “wrong side of the tracks.” Twelve-step meetings opened my eyes to the darker realities of life outside the bubble of my comfortable life.
What brought me to the rooms of AA was a spiral to my bottom during my release into adult life with undiagnosed mental illness. My diagnosis journey is another story. Today I want to focus on the healing and emotional, spiritual education of working a twelve-step program because I feel a need to review and revisit each step. So I thought I’d blog about it. What will be missing is the powerful, tangible energy within the twelve-step rooms with the compelling life story each member brings to the table.
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
Today I feel as if I am powerless over my emotions of expectations of myself and others, fear, and anger. That my life, each day is affected and feels unmanageable because of these emotions.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
I’ve been thinking a lot about spirituality lately. This second step reminds me of the slogans posted around the rooms, such as: let go and let God, live and let live, one day at a time. I would read these and then, inevitably I’d have a light-bulb moment and the context of that slogan, my life and how I can change hit me like a hammer to the head! I really like this step because it reminds me to let go and let God. And of the Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. To think outside of myself.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Turning my will and life over to a Higher Power. Letting go. To let go of my need to control people, places and things. Transitioning from believing in Step Two to action here in Step Three. Sometimes my mind struggles to let go of the worry, the anger, the expectations. It wants to fester in my self-righteousness and hurt pride, or cling to the shield of worry that will somehow protect me from bad things happening. My mind wants to bend me to the perceived expectations that I have to be a certain way to please others and that part of my being happy is that others have to be a certain way to please me.
This is a difficult step but an easy one because all I have to do here is be willing. Be willing to turn my will, my life over to a Higher Power.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
This scared and overwhelmed so many members in the twelve-step rooms because shame and self-hate permeated every cell of their being. I know this because I was one of them. This step involves having a sponsor who is a good fit to help support and guide you through the painful process of being human. Making mistakes. Making bad choices. Hurting people.
My inventory for today is worry, anger and expectations.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
This Step is all about the healing power of sharing. Talking about the dark secrets growing in my mind and letting them into the light. I guess that is why I am blogging about this today. I had an urge to share. To sort out my thoughts that create such powerful emotions that make my life feel unmanageable.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Yes. Please. I am ready. Take them from me. Quiet and ease my mind. Ease my heart.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
And now I pray. I ask. I pray. I remember to let go and let God. I start to learn to have faith. Faith that everything will be ok. Faith that not everything is as bad as it seems like the storms in my mind. Faith to let go and let God.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
This is where the skill of learning to forgive, both ourselves and others begins; building on faith.
Yet, forgiveness is not easy because it is difficult to forget. Resentments grow. Sometimes we just don’t like people. But is it the person we don’t like or their actions?
What matters here is that I take responsibility for my part. See where I need to make amends and say I’m sorry. As I write this I think that if someone forgives me, I feel more able to forgive another. Compassion. Learning to have compassion for myself and others as others have compassion for me.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
This Step separates the fool from the sage. Sometimes someone is not ready to hear what I have to say when I’m ready to clear my conscience and take accountability for my actions. Some things are better left unsaid. Time can heal. My actions as a better person than I was when I hurt someone may open the door for that person to feel safe enough with me.
10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
This includes being wrong to myself. Huh?
What I mean is that I know when I am focusing on thoughts and emotions that spiral me into anger, resentments, fear and overall discontent. It is the promptly admitting it and changing the thoughts to letting go that isn’t always easy. This is another reason for me today to go through these steps – to help remind me the power of letting go, faith, forgiveness and compassion.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
Going to weekly meetings and a sponsor helped me with this – as a constant reminder to manage my thoughts. I gained strength through the sharing of others in the rooms to stay on a positive track forward. As well, my helping others during meetings through my sharing and my emotional honesty made sense of my suffering and motivated me to be the person I was striving to be.
What I lack now, and have been lacking for some time is the motivation because what worked for me in the twelve-step rooms is not a part of my life now. I’ve tried to meditate. Taken Shambhala Training – The Heart of Warriorship Levels I & II. I’ve set up shrines, meditations spots. But none of it was a fit for me. I like the idea of it, but I would need to be steeped in it, living somewhere in the mountains with likeminded people who meditate on a daily basis to get me to do it. I enjoy prayer. I enjoy the peace and familiarity of a church. There is a catholic church here, but it is far away. And I’m not one to go to church on a regular basis.
What is was, was when I went to twelve-step meetings, healing was my life. Not only was I attending these meetings to stay sober, I was in intensive therapy because of the unfolding of my mental health diagnosis. I wasn’t working and each day my focus was to heal and adapt to mental illness.
I’ve been integrated for some time back into the “real world” of the everyday stressors of life and I miss the protective healing bubble that buffered me from the pressures of a human existence. Thing is, is that one can’t stay in the healing bubble forever. I can’t hide from the world. I have to live. Yes, I have all the tools needed to manage my thoughts, what I lack is a source to draw from to get the constant strength to do so. I miss groups of people talking openly and honestly about their emotions, their struggles, their successes and their happiness. I miss their inspiration. I miss their support. I miss their strength.
And this brings me back to Step 11. How do I bring in more prayer and meditation to connect to my Higher Power to give me the strength to quiet my mind, let go and fill my heart with compassion, love and kindness to move through each day? What I need is a daily reminder to do this. A way that fits for me.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
As they would say in the rooms, this is where we don’t just talk the talk, we walk the walk. Actions speak louder than words. I am still in the process of a renewed spiritual awakening. I struggle with the how. I’m trying to practice these principles, to remember the emotional and spiritual education the twelve step rooms and the twelve step program taught me of becoming fully human. To use them each day.
Love, Stephanie xoxo