It’s that time of month once again!
Note: Every month, I dedicate a post to one of the steps of Narcotics Anonymous. These posts are by no means intended as extensive exploration of recovery. They are merely brief expression of my strengths, hopes, and experiences culled from my ongoing journey toward recovery.
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-=[ The Courage to Heal ]=-
-- Step Four
Enlightenment is not imagining figures of light but making the darkness conscious.
-- C.G. Jung
So far, we have explored what I call the “Recovery Cha Cha Cha” -- the first three steps that serve as the foundation to recovery and freedom from addiction. Step 1 (click here) confronted me with the major contradiction in my life: how I managed to feel powerful when, no matter how much I denied it, I was in actuality powerless and needed help. Step 2 (click here) challenged my grandiosity. I have heard it said that addicts are egomaniacs with low self-esteem and I couldn’t put it any better than that. My low self-esteem compelled me to inflate my ego, but all I ever felt inside was emptiness and feelings of worthlessness. Finally, Step 3 (click here) helped me see that my efforts at control were in reality ways in which to sabotage myself. Ultimately, I can only take responsibility for myself leaving the rest to my Higher Power, however I chose defined it.
Yesiree, the “Great I Am” is a hard bitch to ride!
Step Four took me a awhile mostly because I didn’t want to do it. I was afraid. I mean I did a lot of fucked up shit in my life -- especially towards the end of my active addiction. I took a lot. I was a taker. I became the kind of person that would steal something from you and then helped you look for it. My thinking was so fucked up that I could rationalize stealing toys from underneath a Christmas tree. I used (and was used) by women. I kid around that I was a former pimp and technically, I was. But I was no pimp, believe me. I used to like to say that I was a “broker for sexual services.” As much as the word is used today, it’s nothing to be proud of. What I was -- I was an addict. Period.
Who the fuck wants to look at that shit?
But by the time I made it back I was determined to see this through. I was tired of suffering needlessly and I wanted to do everything I could to bring some sanity into my life. This step mentions two important principles in recovery. One is “fearless.” But what is fearlessness? Is fearlessness a simple absence of fear? I started to look at the issue of fearlessness and I came upon the concept that courage (perhaps another way of saying “fearlessness”) is not so much the absence of fear, but committing to act in spite of the fear. And that became the first motivator for my doing a thorough Fourth Step: committing to act though I was shitting in my pants. I had had plenty of experience of plowing ahead even though I was scared. I did it all the time.
The next concept was the issue of morality. this one was a little more tricky for me. I was tired of the ‘crime and punishment” approach to morality. Yeah, I was (and still am) a fuckin sinner, but I didn’t need the black/ white sinner/ saint duality bullshit in my life. Beating up on myself wasn’t really working and in fact actually enabled my addiction (why get better if I was worthless?). So, I began to explore the meaning of moral and from a non-religious perspective “moral” could be viewed as a way of thinking, or what some psychologists call moral reasoning. There are developmental stages in moral reasoning, form the lower levels operating from purely selfish, narcissistic, infantile yearnings (the “me” stage) where actions are predicated solely on selfish needs, to higher forms of moral reasoning in which ones sense of self expands to include ones family, community, and eventually extends to all sentient beings.
What I found was that in my addiction I operated mostly from a purely infantile, selfish level of moral reasoning and it was killing me and infecting everyone who ever made contact with me.
I stole, but I stole more than property. I stole affection and trust and used that to feed my addiction. Perhaps my story is extreme, but let me ask: how many of us have stolen affection? How many of us have manipulated and controlled in order to feel better about ourselves?
Luckily, I had some great people around me in my early recovery. They helped me recover in spite of myself, because I was one dense mothefucker. To me the idea of a moral inventory was both scary but also contradictory. However, after having taken those first three steps and applying them to the best of my ability, I also knew I was still feeling a lot of shame and guilt about my past. My actions had clearly not been moral by any measure. It came to me that I needed to look into the shadows and to uncover those deep dark secrets or risk losing my recovery. By the time I had one year clean, I knew I wanted freedom from addiction more than anything in my life.
I took the advice of my sponsor and decided to write out my inventory. I used several different Fourth Step guides and my inventory was extensive (me being the perfectionist I am). What I saw when I did my Fourth Step were behavior patterns.
All around. Everywhere.
For the first time I saw I repeatedly fell into the same patterns and this revelation was largely liberating.
The Fourth Step gave me the gift of self-knowledge. By reviewing in detail my fears, desires, thoughts, motives, and actions, seeing how they created wreckage, I was better able to uncover the secrets. Some of you may have tried this with a therapist. I had also. However, what made this moral inventory different was the foundation of the first three steps paved the way for me to transcend my fear. I was on my way to living life based on love rather than an existence ruled by fear. What I saw underlying my habitual patterns was fear. Without the foundation of the first three steps, my moral inventory would’ve probably become another way to beat on myself, my shadow side eventually engulfing my efforts.
Because I was living the principle of the Third Step, I was able to turn over my fear and tendency to judge. I realized I was powerless to change my past, but that I was able to be accountable for now. Eventually, my Fourth Step gave me courage along with insight. And to a lesser degree, having faced myself with as much honesty as possible, I was able to lessen the fear and the shame. There were no more secrets, and more was being revealed.
The Fourth Step was a draining experience for me. Sometimes, when things seem their darkest, it’s difficult to see the positive in your life. It was difficult for me to acknowledge the positive in me. I lived as a phony, showing only the parts of myself that I thought were good. I lived between the secrets, the shame, exploitation, and abuse of my addiction and the good parts of my public persona. I felt like a phony about my public self because people did not know the real me. When I finally faced the addict in me, my addiction became my teacher and helped me uncover the goodness in me. I had to come to the realization that I was strong, enduring, clever, and willing to risk even in my addiction. All these were qualities the addict in me stole in order to pursue the illusion of being all-powerful
The addict in me was that same aspect of my personality that stole from me and then pretended it was helping me look for these qualities. I learned that all those good or skillful qualities were also a part of who I am and that they were available for me in my recovery.
My name is Eddie and I’m an addict in recovery...