Thursday, November 12, 2009

The 12 Steps of AA - Step 5

Step 5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

I completed my Step 4. I think I had 30 or 40 pages of writing. I'd been told to carry a notebook with the columns about with me and add to it till I had completed what I thought was the most important part of the process. This was something I was to do over a few weeks.
Alot of people I meet in AA haven't completed Step 4. The disease of alcoholism is incompletion. Alcoholics are great starters but never was there a better group for shooting themselves in the foot just before completion.
And procrastination. Never was there a better group of procrastinators.
And promise makers. An alcoholic will make promises. They're great promise makers but the worst promise keepers. Anything to put off actually doing something. That's why recovery is not about thinking or talking. It's about action. When I hear someone say "AA didn't work for me" I translate that into "I didn't work AA" and am usually closer to the truth. The birth control pill wouldn't work if a woman didn't take it by mouth orally and swallow it. That's the same with AA. It's a program of daily medicine. It doesn't work if you miss the steps and rest on one's laurel's. It's a daily program of recovery. One day at a time. It's helped alot of people stay sober those days they practiced the program of AA. People relapse when they start the "stinking thinking", return to their old ways, "slippery people, places and things", and stop going to meetings and stop working the program on a daily basis, stop praying in the morning and saying thanks at night. It's not rocket science. It's a simple program that's just not that simple.
Step 4 is pen and paper work. Step 5 is a meeting. I completed the Step 4 pen and paper assignment. I had the education system as one of my resentments and naturally I've resented "homework" but I wanted the gifts of recovery and that required work. I had to do the work if I expected to get the gifts of the program. I like gifts. I don't like work. Alcohol gave me false gifts and claimed to be for free. At least the cost was supposed to only be the bar tab. It almost cost me my life in reality.
We often joke in AA saying it's the most elite expensive and exclusive club tallying up how much it has cost the best of us to fill a chair in this group. Loss of friends. Loss of jobs. Loss of marriages. Alcohol is the great eraser. It's a country western song. It costs way too much. Alcoholism is said to be a country and western song of loss whereas recovery is a country and western song played backwards. I got my pick up truck and dog back eventually. Different pick up truck. I didn't want to go back out so I did the work. I'd paid my dues and didn't want to pay any more.
I met with my sponsor. I brought my papers. We had coffee and I talked with him using the notes to say what I'd learned and what was most important. Bernie listened. He was a great listener. He didn't judge me either. It took about an hour maybe 2. I think he was bored. My failings are a big deal to me but to another alcoholic they're rather common place. We're not nearly as unique as we think. "We're as sick as our secrets" but what I learned in a treatment centre is that our secrets aren't that bad and there's more like us and those with a whole lot worse. We just don't know that because we don't share and others don't share. As a psychiatrist I'd learned this in the office. In one small town I worked I seemed to have seen all the leading citizens and all the lowest citizens and they all had the same problems but no one talked about them. Even the gossip was pale compared to the racy reality I heard. Truth is worse than fiction yet the pretentiousness was really the worse. Everyone was holier than now. In fact the worst were those who presented as the best. They had more to cover up so they did their laundry twice and never in public. In private it was another matter. Some stains really stain. Some run. Best to get them out.
I'd even been through my own psychoanalytic therapy for years but that's not at all what Step 4 is about. It's more spiritual. Analysis is insightful and valid in a very different way.
Step 5 is more like a confession. Bernie was a great father confessor. He's a rogue really. A loving rogue and when it was over he said I was okay. He laughed to. And hugged me. And I felt whole in a way I'd not felt whole before.
I'd told him I'd planned to meet with my priest at St. John's Church Sardis, and that I was doing a dry run with him. He liked that, "a dry run."
The father I chose to hear my Step 5 "confession" had previously been the army base chaplain. My Christian friend who avoids 'confession' at all costs, laughed when I told him who I was going to for my Step 5. "That's cheating, isn't it? He will have heard the confessions of the soldiers and your's will be small potatoes in comparison." I didn't think so and wondered what my friend must have thought of soldiers and confession. Then again, he'd never dared to confess himself. He likes to keep his own sins close. I personally wanted to let mine go.
The good father saw me and listened just like Bernie. It was a different kind of talk. More sex than I'd talked about with Bernie. Bernie seemed to hear about the resentments whereas the Father seemed to get more sex. I cried too. Maybe I cried with Bernie. But I know I cried when I talked about fear. It's really hard being really tough and I'm a whole lot tough than a lot of tough guys think they are. I'm that tough. Mean too. But I cried when I talked about the fears. In the end I think I bored him too. No lightning bolts struck either.
We prayed together when it was over. Again maybe an hour, at most two. Time kind of flew.
And when I left I was a whole lot lighter. I'd noticed that with Bernie. I kind of felt okay inside. No I felt a whole lot better inside. Something shifted. It was like a weight dropped. There's a whole lot of cliche expressions for this. I had the experience. It's not really describable. I just felt a whole lot better walking home. I was surprised by that too. One of my favourite C.S.Lewis' books is called "Surprised by Joy" and frankly I was surprised at the joy I felt. Spirituality is called "growing love inside'. I think that's part of the feeling. I know it brought me closer to my fellow man and made God less an intellectual construct and more a part of me and my life. I felt less disconnected and less disjointed. Whole. Kind of at home too. Maybe not "at home in my own skin" but maybe like home on this planet. Less alien.

Each of the steps has a prayer attached to them. This is the 5th Step prayer. I confess I'd not known this prayer until now. Despite reading the Big Book over and over. There's much we miss until spiritually our eyes are opened. That's the way of spiritual texts. The Bible is constantly unfolding too. We need to be ready to receive the information. Alot of the 'esoteric' knowledge thought to be somehow very 'secret' is right out there in the open, plainly written and spoken, just not available to those who "have not the 'eyes to see'.
We say in AA, "right action leads to right thinking'.
It's also true then with faith. With faith, we can see that which was not apparent to us. A light comes on. Sometimes it's "God's booklight', and sometimes in my life it's been "God's Strobelight".

5th STEP
God I thank you from the bottom of my heart that I know you better. Help me become aware of anything I have omitted discussing with another person. Help me to do what is necessary to walk a free man at last. AMEN(p. 75 BB)

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