“I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be.” — Albert Einstein
The first time I went through Steps Six and Seven I really didn’t have the full grasp of what they meant. It was sort of: ‘I want to be a better person, so make me a better person.” And for the first time through, I was doing the best I could (and I can see now that I still hadn’t been restored to sanity). I sort of thought of these as easy steps after the tough work in Step Four and Five. However, the first time through I was only focused on my Higher Power removing my defects of character. I really didn’t have much thought about the results: I was focused on my character defects and not on who my Higher Power had in mind for me to become.
It wasn’t until a couple of years ago in working these two steps over again that I began to grasp the significance of these ‘filler’ steps. Filler, indeed! I still struggle with the what these two steps mean for me.
I was pretty happy with who I was. I was finally getting to know who the real Tim was. I had spent so much time looking for self esteem in what others might or might not think about me and now that I had finally got to the point where I knew who I was, I also found out that I had to be willing to give it all up. This for me is the crux of Step Six and Seven: humbly asking to have my defects of character removed so that I can move forward and really become a new creation. In order to do that I have to say good-bye to the old me. It take a whole lot of trust in the program and one’s Higher Power to do that. That’s why for me it’s so easy to slip back into the old standby defects, my old behaviours. They are well known patterns.
I don’t know who the new ‘Tim’ is going to be. However, I see so many positive changes in others. Why would I think that I would be any different? If I can see that my Higher Power has always been there for me in the past, why do I think he will leave me alone now?
Steps Six and Seven are about humility on my part. And they are also about developing trust: trust in my Higher Power and trust in the process of becoming a new me. So far I’d have to say I’m impressed with what’s happening. And so who knows what the future holds. I still regularly take back my old standby defects, but it’s a process that takes time. But, as long as I am willing to give up the old me, the promise of a new me in the future holds true. We will be amazed!
I was pretty good at looking at my life as a sad case when I was still living in my disease. There was always a good reason why I needed to continue to drink or use. No one knew how bad my life was. You couldn’t understand me. Everyone was against me. My problems were so deep and personal no one could help me. I had so many reasons to keep on using and very few to stop.
By the time I got to recovery I, like many others, thought that my life was over. I knew I couldn’t go on the way I was going. Somehow I was able to fast forward and see what my life would soon be like and I knew that I had to stop. I thought the fun was over in life. All was downhill from here on in: no more celebrations and parties, no more reasons to laugh. I figured that I would live a pretty sad life compared to the rest of my friends. But the writing was on the wall: either find a way to quit or follow that road to an early grave. Poor me. Poor me! Pour me another!
Self pity kept me in my disease for many years. Every once in a while I can slip back into it. The why mes. The if onlys. The you don’t knows. I suffer from the disease of ‘terminal uniqueness’, a shortcoming that never lacks a reason to chuck it all and go back to active addiction.
I am grateful for a sponsor who called me on my stupidity. “You’re on an Ego Trip!” I couldn’t believe him at first, but I’ve come to realize that he was right. My ego telling me I am the worst of the worst and things can’t get better is really the same as my ego telling me I am better than everyone else and things have to go my way. The result is the same: a false identity and an incomplete picture of who I really am. What I need to do is put my Ego aside and try to look at things as they really are.
I’m learning that humility isn’t lowering one’s self. It is being, owning, embracing myself as I am, not better than or worse than anyone else. I have my strengths and my weaknesses. And I need them all to make up the person that I am today. It doesn’t make me worse or better than the next guy. I’m just another guy.
I’d like to say that I’m over feeling sorry for myself but I’m still working on it. I am grateful that it doesn’t reveal itself as often as it used to. And I’m grateful that I have learned to apply some of the things I’ve learning in recovery: a gratitude list, a change in my focus, service work and meditation. These help to keep balance in my life and allow me to see that my life can be happy, joyous and free when I work for it.
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.