Without Fear

The Fourth Step of recovery asks us to take a ‘fearless and thorough moral inventory’ of ourselves. I didn’t really want to do a Fourth Step for two main reasons. First, I had never done anything like that  before and second, I was kind of afraid of what I might find if I looked to deep into myself. After all, I had spent so many years and a lot of my resources doing my best to avoid finding out who I really was and where I was in life. Knowing who I was and how I functioned, that place deep down inside me was not a place I wanted to go. 

And I knew I had to.

I had seen the results of the program in other people. I had been to a good number of speaker meetings so I heard the stories of what it was like, what happened and how things were now. There were a couple of men in particular, one of whom was my first sponsor, and it seemed impossible to relate who he was before to who he is in recovery. And it was by working the program that he achieved this impressive change in who he was.

And I wanted that change in me too.

One of the things that happens in early recovery, when your main pursuit is no longer to escape, is that you have to face life as it comes. And you relate to it pretty much in the same way you used to but now without the cushion of a drink or a pill that helped to soften the sharp edges of challenges in life. And just like the acronym, S.O.B.E.R., Son Of a Bitch, Everything’s Real, I was discovering that my skills here were sorely lacking. Along with this I was discovering that my interpersonal skill in relating to others were also falling short: I could really be a jerk.

I needed to follow the program and that included the “Fearless moral inventory”.

I often say that it took me six months and two days to complete my Fourth Step. Six months for hemming and stewing and worrying, and two days of actually sitting down and writing it out. I thought of ‘fearless’ as being like a soldier of the Light Brigade. I had to put out my chest and valiantly face my past, come what may. However, when I read it in Spanish, it translates to simply, ‘without fear’.  There was no great nobility infused into what I was about to do. I was just to do it honestly and calmly without letting my fears stop me.

It wasn’t so much ‘fearless’ as it was ‘without fear’.

There was no great feat of prowess in my Fourth Step. The change in translation removed it and took it back to what it was. Just like the shop keeper doing an inventory of goods, I was finally taking a deep look at myself and seeing what was there. Who was I? What was I really like? What are my assets and my liabilities? In my attempts to understand the program I had forgotten the simple truth: trust this simple program for complicated minds. I just had to put my fear aside when doing the Fourth Step, and I would be fine.

 

Self Sabotage

Somehow addicts and alcoholics have a way of doing something very well, until a certain point. Then, just when they are about to have a great success, they go on a party spree that completely ruins their chances at success. In the movie “Flight” with Denzel Washington, just when his character was about to be free and clear of any charges, he has that fateful drink and drinks the complete mini bar in his hotel room. This is very typical of an addict before recovery and once in recovery as well.

Why is it that when I am about to make changes in my life that are going to be beneficial to it I suddenly stop doing those very things that will help to improve me or my life? Why do I give up just when it seems that most of the work has been done? Why do I sabotage my success?

It comes down to feelings of self esteem and self worth. I don’t feel that I deserve to reap the benefits of what I do. I don’t think I am good enough to be doing whatever I am wanting to do. I feel that I should accept my lot in life and not ‘tempt the gods’ or make notice of myself. These feelings of self esteem were planted in my in my early years by family, friends, community, religion, school and self. I do not blame anyone for how I feel today because I also know that I have the ability to make changes in how I think and feel.

Also wrapped up in this is a fear of success as well as fear of failure. If I fail I am sure I will feel depressed about it. And if it’s successful? Then that implies changes in my life and I’m not sure about what the changes will be and how that will affect me. I might have to step out of my comfort zone. I let myself focus on all of the negative aspects and fall into the vicious circle of lots of thought and no action.

I can change how I relate to the world and how I allow it to affect me. I have done that through my recovery and working the Twelve Steps. I know how to recognize when I am in my ‘moods’ and when I can change them. I can recognize when I am acting in a manner that is not in keeping with how I want to be acting. I can focus on the positive and stay away from the negative. Do I always do these things?

I wish the answer was yes, always.  But that’s not so. I fail to live up to my standards, too often. I know from listening at meetings that I am not alone in this spiral of negative thinking. So I focus on one thing a day. I don’t have to accomplish everything right now. Just one thing. Ask someone a question. Do the investigation. Write part of the report. Once I get down to the task I feel better about myself and realize that the fears I had really are unfounded. One small step today. Another small step tomorrow and in a week I can look back and measure how far I have come. I know there is still more to be done but I look at the gains I have made and those can help me to take today’s step forward.

It all starts with just a small action: mine.

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Perseverance

“How many books have you written, Leo?” I tell them. “That many! Wow.Writing obviously comes easy to you.” Actually it doesn’t come easy. I’ve really got to work at it. I’m writing this meditation at 4 AM-talk about perseverance! But most things that we achieve take perseverance: marriage, recovery, scholarship, sports, theatre, music . . . the list is endless. We should also consider that the people who say, “You definitely have a gift,” are possibly manipulating the compliment so that they can remain idle. Sloth can be tricky. “If I don’t have the gift, how can I be successful?” Not so fast! We all have gifts. Some of us choose to develop, nurture, and polish them. We can all learn to dance.              Say Yes to Your Spirit, Leo Booth

When I came into recovery I was told that it isn’t a difficult program but that it would take an effort on my part. Later I was told that faith in a Higher Power can move mountains, but I had to bring a shovel and a wheelbarrow. It goes along with the old adage that money doesn’t grow on trees, but it is made from trees. If I want anything, I will have to work for it. It takes perseverance.

In the past 18 months that I have been writing this blog I have posted almost 150 entries. It has not been easy. Sometimes the words come easier than others but they always come because I work for them. Sometimes the words are as much for me as they are for the readers. I use the blog to express ideas that I have about recovery and to explore the depth of the journey we are on as we go down Recovery River. And as I write, I am gaining valuable experience in writing and learning about myself. The blog is my way of working the shovel and wheelbarrow of my recovery.

There are still plenty of times outside of the blog writing where I procrastinate, (a fancy, five syllable word that means sloth). I say that I’m not in the mood, or not inspired, but the truth is, I am not writing other things that I want to be write because of fears and self doubt. If the recovery program has taught me anything it is that I have to do the work to get the result. And so, once again, I am telling on myself and sharing with my readers something that I know will urge me and pressure me to continue on with this journey of writing.

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I will be reaching a ‘biggie’ birthday this year. I wish to plan the next stage of my life to be a productive part of my life and part of that will be writing. I do not wish to exist. I want to “Live! Live! Live!” to quote Auntie Mame. I don’t wish to shuffle slowly to the grave. Rather I want to splash down into it enjoying and really living every part of what life has to offer. And whether that is a day, a year, or thirty years more, I challenge myself to persevere to keep moving forward, to live each day to the fullest, to take risks and to continually step out of my comfort zone. I can’t accomplish any of this sitting in my easy chair watching Netflix. I have to conquer my fears and my doubts if I want to move forward.

Do I have a great gift for writing? Not anymore than anyone else. But what I do have is passion for it and so I will continue to write. I am grateful to my recovery program and the people in my life for encouraging me and showing me by their own example that I can move forward and pursue my passions.

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