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.


As I Am

I am always amazed at how much we try to impress others. We think we have to dress a particular way, drive a special car, live in an upscale neighbourhood, speak in a certain way or dress in the newest fashions. We have a need to make ourselves appear more than what we are. I think it goes beyond ego to something instinctual; a need to show off and impress, sort of like the mating rituals of birds or the rutting contests of rams.

Life doesn’t have to be such as contest, It can be absolutely wonderful when I keep it simple. Some of the best meals I’ve eaten have been well prepared good food eaten in great company. The beauty of a sunset or the gait of a majestic horse are simple, plain and yet very memorable. A walk with a friend by a river or a stroll through a park can give me peace of mind. And these are all simple, unadorned things. I don’t need to impress. I am perfect just the way I am.

It’s taken a long time to get to this point in my life. And I admit that I can easily slip back into old habits of ‘dress to impress’, or ‘be there or be square!’ But I’ve learned that most people aren’t thinking about me; they’re wondering about what others are thinking about them! Like the young boy whistling in the dark, trying to convince himself that he’s not afraid, we strut and pose hoping that people won’t notice that we might not ‘fit in’ with the ‘in’ crowd. In recovery, I’m discovering that perhaps I don’t want to fit in, and that the in crowd is way out of where I want to be.

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind” Dr. Seuss

I’m learning in the program to become right sized. I need to keep my ego in check; I am neither more nor less than who I am. I need not impress others. I am fine just the way I am: a human being trying to be whole and authentic. If others don’t like the direction I’m heading, that’s fine. I’m not responsible for what others think and say about me. I’m learning to let that go.

Today I prefer simple. I like honest. I seek knowledge. What I drive, where I live or who I hang out with are no longer my priorities. Yes, I prefer certain things in life, but they don’t make my life. I could lose them all tomorrow and I will still be just fine. I am learning to carry with me the memories and the lessons of life that never fall out of fashion. I am grateful.