Last night’s 12-Step meeting reminded me of just how hard real change is. I used to measure change by who won the next election. I’ve realized that the only real change that matters is within myself. Naturally, it’s the hardest, most brutal kind of change to achieve.
Last night’s AA Big Book reading focused on steps 8, 9 and 10:
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
The first few steps were much easier for me. Admitting I was powerless over my addiction was a piece of cake. I was so desperate by then that the admission was the reason I walked into an OA meeting. It takes desperation to walk into a room full of people you’re certain are crazy fanatical freaks. That’s exactly how they came across. Then I realized I was just like them and was in just the right place. Nearly three years in, I’ve determined that we’re not crazy and we’re not freaks. We’re just TRYING to be honest with ourselves and those around us. It makes us uncomfortable and edgy because it’s much more natural for an addict to lie. People like us are weird and often intolerable.
Acknowledging a higher power was easy enough, because I’ve always believed in God. But this step brought me closer to realizing my relationship with God was all wrong. It was transactional in nature: “Please God, give me this or help me avoid that and I’ll be good…” Because of OCD that was raging out of control, I tried to control everything. I couldn’t comprehend what it meant to “Let go and let God.” Once I got to that point it got easier, though I still struggle with a bloated ego and smoldering will.
Still, that stuff is easy compared to steps 8-10. To go to people you’ve wronged is as hard as it gets. You come face to face with your shame and it’s like you’re standing naked in front of people who have every reason to throw eggs and nails at you. At least that’s how it feels in the beginning.
I feel especially pained about my inability to heal the rift with my mother and various people on that side of the family. But it’s complicated. Very complicated. I’ve forgiven her for many things, but our relationship is like a jigsaw puzzle with a lot of missing pieces. Those pieces have a lot to do with boundaries and OCD triggers. It’s as much my fault as it is hers. But right now this is how it must be.
I wish I could make amends with the Marley family, but I can’t until they’re willing to accept that from me. I stabbed them in the gut pretty hard, so I’m not sure of what will happen there.
But there have been some unexpected gifts along the way.
Thanks to Facebook, I’ve been able to reconnect with people deep in my past and, while the need to make amends doesn’t always apply and the relationships can never be what they were, all have helped me heal. There’s Joy, Sean’s widow. She’s remarried with kids and has done a remarkable job of pushing on with her life. She dropped out of my world for nearly 14 years — right after Sean’s death — until recently. The contents of our exchange are private, but this much I can tell you: I was wrong all these years when I assumed she hated my guts and wanted nothing more to do with me. I thought my old friend Dan Waters hated my guts too. But here we are, back in touch.
Miracles happen when you get out of your own way. But it sure can hurt like a bitch.
I’ve also half-assed these steps up to this point. There’s a much more rigorous process involved. You’re supposed to make a list and only approach certain people you’ve wronged after talking to your step-study sponsor. It hasn’t exactly worked out that way. I just started the Big Book study in January, so I have a long way to go.
It’s funny how, when we’re still in the grip of our addictions, we dream of the day when we’ll be clean. There’s a false expectation that all will be right with the world. But that’s never the case.
I’ve heard from a lot of addicts in recovery who say some of their worst moments as a human being came AFTER they got sober.
That has definitely been the case for me. I’d like to think I’m a better man than I used to be, but I still screw up today. And when I do, the results are a spectacular mess.
But while I’m far from done with this stuff, I can already say I’m happier than I used to be.
Change is hard and painful, but when you can move closer to it despite that, the results are beyond comprehension.
I guess the old cliche — no pain, no gain — is true.