For years and years in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, the !0th Step was an unknown land for me. Step Nine--drama, struggle, amends, freedom, the Promises! Step Eleven--prayer and meditation, exploration of spirituality; loved it.
As for Ten, well, it was apologizing when you needed to, right? And making a list of good deeds and bad at night. Or something.
I was good at apologizing, bad at listing up my daily goods and bads. Mostly, I just ignored this Step. Then I discovered that it is 1) confusing (the Big Book and the 12 and 12 don't quite agree about it) and 2) substantial, powerful, and liberating, because it is a kind of mini-version of the whole program. By missing it, I was missing out on a lot.
I'll explore this somewhat-under-appreciated Step when we get together on April 14. See you there.
I’ll be speaking on the 9th Step: "Made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others." Do you want to transform fear into freedom? Making amends is the way, I’ll argue. Not making them keeps us stuck in our own personal hell and stops our spiritual growth.
Are you willing to go to any lengths to find a spiritual experience? You may be surprised at what you discover when you take action on this step. It's all good! Come find out more on March 10.
In centering prayer we acknowledge a core of basic goodness, a "Great Reality deep down within us." This is our Higher Power, and us, together. Our True Self. For many in recovery—myself included—we find it hard to reconcile our generally low opinion of ourselves with the cornerstone idea that God is there, deep down in every one of us. But reconcile it we must if we are to live free and purposeful lives.
A friend of mine who had struggled for years with credit card debt made this insightful observation: As long as he had debt, not only was he living in the past, but he had a hard time living fully in the present, and found it nearly impossible to imagine a happy future.
In the throes of being human, we accumulate spiritual debt, in the form (mostly) of resentments, fears, and the guilt we carry for harms done others. Making matters worse, shame often keeps us from facing up to this debt. As defiant alcoholics, and as approval-seeking co-dependents, we resist even going to a trusted confidant with simple acknowledgement of wrongs done.
We know the promises of the program are right around the corner, but we need to finish clearing up those things that block us from right relationship with our fellows and with God. During my talk on the 8th Step, "Made a list of all people we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all," we'll perform a mini-inventory of a recent harm done, analyze which aspect of self was involved, and investigate what’s required to become willing to make amends. We'll get to do it ourselves, and bear witness to each other, and in so doing, take a step on the path of lasting forgiveness and healing.
In sharing about my experience with the Sixth Step on February 10, I will be digging a little deeper into what it might mean to be “entirely ready.”
In the past, I’ve moved briskly through this Step without ever considering this pivotal question. I’ve more or less hidden its significance from myself. But I have since dis-covered (hyphen intended) that there is real work to be done in Step Six!
I hope to see you at the workshop.
Step 7 says: Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings. In past years, I have approached this step thinking that my defects of character were my shortcomings. However, as I continue the practice of Centering Prayer, a subtle shift has taken place, helping me to see that the shortcomings that show up in my behavior originate from my beliefs and my thinking about myself.
Centering Prayer is gradually revealing how I think about myself--with some surprising effects. At our workshop on February 10, I will talk about what I’m discovering, and how that impacts everything in my life, but especially my journey of recovery.
What propelled me into my second Fourth Step was unbearable resentment. I knew
I was an alcoholic of the hopeless variety; I understood that I needed to defend
myself against the first drink. I had been without a drink for seven years, was
grateful for the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, and so on. But I was angry at my
wife, my situation in life, my cats, and the rest of the world. Prayer wasn’t relieving
me, meetings weren’t relieving me; I needed to take a look at myself.
On Saturday, January 13, I’ll talk about what happened when I finally did a truly
searching and fearless moral inventory.
On Saturday, January 13, I will speak on Step 5 and the exact nature of my wrongs.
My selfishness and self-centeredness afflicted me with a form of blindness. This
blindness caused much of my world and the people in it to be invisible to me. The
Twelve and Twelve reminds us that: “Most of us must admit that we have loved but
a few; that we have been quite indifferent to the many…” I am guilty of this
indifference. Saturday I will share examples of this blindness/indifference and how
it still plays out in my life.
On Saturday, I'll talk about Step 3, Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.
You've got to be kidding me. I'm not going to turn my life and my will over to anybody. I run my own show.
It took a long time and a lot of pain to become humble and open myself to this step. Once I made the decision, it's been a great journey.
What about you? Who runs your show? Let's explore this together on Saturday.
Step 2 isn’t just about coming to terms with how our thinking and behavior have been insane. That's kind of obvious. And, I’ve discovered, it's slightly more than coming to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
My current understanding of Step 2 has been informed by a persistent history of making mistakes, resolving to "be better," and making those mistakes again. And again. And again.
So Step 2 is a chance to fully accept the implications of Step 1 — the "I can't fix myself" part — and along with that, it is complete surrender to the idea that spiritual transformation at depth is imperative if I want to become "happily and usefully whole."
Piece of cake!
I’ll explore more about this on November 18 — join us at Colonial Church.
On November 18, I’ll speak personally about the family disease of codependency. I’ll use my story to describe the illness of codependency and its progression from infancy to adulthood — and beyond, into parenting. Join me.