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.

 

Taking Stock

We´re almost at the half way point of December. Where did the year go? We had the same amount of time that we did lasts year. Everyone gets the same 24 hours each day, weeks and months go by, and suddenly we’re close to marking the end of another year. Regardless of whether or not you make New Year’s Resolutions, I believe it is important to take a yearly stock of where we are and put forth some intentions of where we want to go in the next.

Now is as good a time as any to do a yearly inventory. I can look back at the past year and see how far I have come. In what ways have I found gains in my life and where did I fail in being the person I wish to be. In doing so, I will find the areas of my life where I need to put forth more of a concerted effort to make changes.

If I am truly living my program of recovery then I am constantly changing and evolving. I am not the same person I was a year ago, or at least I hope not. I can only really know by doing that personal moral inventory again. Few business owners like to do a physical inventory of their business, but it is the only way they can truly calculate the exact state of the company. It is a check to see that what is written on paper, or in the computer, is in agreement with what is actually present. A physical inventory lets the owner know not only how the past year went but also how to plan for the next, develop strategies for coping with changes in trends and look to the future.

I have to do the same in my inventory. It is not about self recrimination and focus on failure. Rather it is an honest look at my state of affairs. Neither do I focus on how much I have accomplished. It is an even handed, humble look at who I am now and measuring that against who I was a year ago. In doing so I know where my weaknesses are, how I’ve fallen short in my program and how I can move forward for the next year to improve where I am in life.

It is very apparent to me that I need to work on self esteem. Early on in life I developed a false sense of humility and it is still a struggle to recognize my talents and successes. I still tend to focus on my failures and run the tapes over and over in my head of how I am not good enough. Good enough for who?

I am working on a plan to shift my focus for the next year. I will strive to keep in mind the small gains that I make. I will work to recognize when I am slipping into feelings of unworthiness and turn them around before they affect my mood or take me down the road of depression. I can’t control my thoughts, but I can control what I do with them. I do that by daily committing to my recovery program, by being vigilant and by focusing on accomplishments.

I’ve learned that if I am not changing then I am not living my program. I want to be a better person today than I was last year. I want to see improvements. I want to live life fully and on life’s terms. I accept that I have made many positive changes in this life and that I can work on other aspects of my character. I do this by taking the time now to see where I have come from and decide where I wish to go.

Connecting the Dots

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”  Steve Jobs

Remember when we were kids we were given a colouring book with numbered dots. We had to connect those dots by following the numbers and create a picture. Sometimes we could sort of figure out what it was supposed to be and sometimes it wasn’t until the final connection was made that we could see the result. In life we are given just the dots and they aren’t numbered. How do I know which dot is next in the sequence? I don’t. I have to trust the process, trust in something other than me that is guiding me to what I need to connect to next.

Retrospectively I can see where I have gone. If I had had a choice, I would have preferred not to have gone through some of the things in my past, before and after recovery. A few things that happened I never want to repeat and wouldn’t wish upon anyone. However, all of them, yes ALL, have brought me to this point that I am at right now and I am very happy.

Step Four allowed me to look back on my life to see the picture created by the dots that had already been connected. I saw the good, the bad and the really ugly. My sponsor helped me to see how everything that happened was part of what had brought me to that moment. Today,  if something comes along that throws a wrench into my idea or plan for the future? I’ve learned to trust the process. I trust that while I might not recognize where I am or know the direction I’m headed, I know that I will eventually see how this moment fits into place.

Sometimes I’m certain that I am sure ‘have’ to go in a certain direction, but I can’t find the dot I think I’m suppose to connect to. Am I projecting ahead, trying to force things to be as ‘I’ think they should be? Perhaps I need to trust life and trust that the next dot will make itself known. If I can look back and see how everything fit together, then why would I doubt tomorrow; things in my life will continue to fall into place when and as they should.

Trust your recovery. Trust the proven tools you have been given in your program. Put your faith in something other than yourself. Know that the dots will connect to the final mosaic of life and it will be a beautiful work of art.

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