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.


Expanding Horizons

As the disease of addiction takes over more and more of life, the addict’s world became smaller and smaller. I think that’s the experience of most of us who enter recovery. The one who was the life of the party and the centre of attention imperceptibly changes. He looks to party with people who party like he does, who don’t suggest that he might want to slow down a bit. He finds a bar or a house where he can enjoy his pleasure in peace. Each locale is smaller, in a sketchier neighbourhood and with more of his kind. Gradually even these folks begin to irritate him. He doesn’t want to hang out with a bunch of losers so he holds up in his now tiny apartment or rooming house.

Slowly he has turned into the loner who doesn’t go out anymore unless he absolutely has to leave to seek out more supplies. He’d rather stay hidden under the table or behind the chair because that’s where he feels safest. He can’t see that he’s lost his family, his house and his job. He is unable to perceive that he’s without a sense of living or purpose or dignity. He can’t see it because the change happened gradually and addiction has twisted his mind to such a degree that his search for solace in a bottle or a toke has become a solitary experience.  If he continues he will move into a cardboard box on the street and then onto a statistical list of persons found dead of an overdose, cirrhosis or suicide.

Recovery opened up my world. It has slowly broadened and widened my life to one of fullness. Recovery delivers on all of the promises that alcohol and drugs reneged upon. I am living a life that truly I couldn’t have ever imagined. And it takes time.

Early recovery is difficult because the lure of what was known is so much closer that the promises of being clean. My world had shrunk so much that I no longer knew how to cope in the outside world.  My mind was still in the prison of addiction and though the door was open, I was afraid to venture forth into the open spaces of recovery. Some days I wanted it and other days I wanted the ‘comfort’ of what I had known for so long. I often felt insecure and undeserving of recovery. The sins of my past weighed heavily upon me.

Though it was explained to me that I wouldn’t find happiness, joy and freedom overnight, I had the expectation that once I stopped, things would get better quickly. Looking back I can see that some things did begin to turn around fairly quickly such as my financial situation, and my physical health. I was told that I didn’t get to my bottom in a week or a month so I shouldn’t expect to ‘get over this’ in a week or a month. I went to a lot of meetings in those first months, more than 90 in 90. It was where I felt safe and protected by my recovery family. That long breath that I once took after I got that first sip or hit now happened as the chairperson called for quiet to begin the meeting. It was my social life because I couldn’t trust myself in other social situations yet. Slowly, my world began to get bigger again.

Staying in recovery takes a decision and commitment. I’ve come to realize that my perspective on life slowly changed so that I became more comfortable without using and drinking. I woke up in the morning and began to enjoy this new life I was living. I started to see things around me that I hadn’t seen in a long, long time: birds, squirrels, people walking dogs, a beautiful scene. I turned my focus from the smallness of my old world onto the greatness of the one around me.  As my recovery continued, my life expanded again to where I can now see a far horizon. There is a path before me and I happily tread it. Gone is that tiny little world of addiction. I never want to return.

♥  ♥  ♥

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Photo credit: Rodney Conrad