Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The 12 Steps for Everyone [Step Four]

Hola mi Gente,
Last night, after many polls had him losing (one poll by 18 points just ten days ago), the Sanders campaign/ movement pulled out a victory. Just think for a moment that Sanders launched his campaign less than a year ago and was widely ridiculed by both neoliberals (who call themselves “liberals”) and neoconservatives.

On another, somewhat related note, there's been an almost a total media blackout on the financial crisis happening in Puerto Rico (click here for more info). My heart goes out in solidarity to the intrepid Puerto Rican students waging the good fight against the forces of austerity who are, with the exception of Bernie Sanders' campaign, the very same vulture capitalists financing the US elections.

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Step Four: Uncovering the Patterns

We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
-- The Fourth Step, Narcotics Anonymous

[Note: Every month, I dedicate this blog 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 spiritual journey.]

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 active addiction. Step One brought me face-to-face with the major contradiction in my life: my denial of my problem and how I managed to feel powerful when, in fact, I was powerless and needed help. Step Two 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 pushed me to inflate my ego, but all I ever felt inside was emptiness and feelings of unworthiness. Finally, Step Three helped me see that my efforts at control were in actuality ways in which to sabotage myself. Ultimately, I can only take responsibility for myself and I must leave the rest to a Higher Power of my understanding.

Yesiree, the “Great I Am” is a hard bitch to ride! LOL

Step 4 was daunting 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 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?

I stole, but I stole more than property. I stole affection and trust and used it 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. Quite a few of them are no longer with us, and my post today is dedicated to them. They helped me recover in spite of myself, because I was (still am? LOL!), one dense ma’fucca. To me the idea of a moral inventory was both scary but also riddled with conflicting emotions. 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, I knew I wanted to leave clean more than anything. 

I took the advice of my sponsor and decided to write out my inventory. I used several different 4th Step guides and my inventory was extensive (me being the perfectionist I am). What I saw when I did my 4th Step were behavior patterns. All around. For the first time I saw that I fell repeatedly into the same patterns and this was largely liberating.

The 4th Step gave me the gift of self-knowledge. By reviewing in detail my fears, desires, thoughts, motives, and actions and discovering how they created wreckage, I was better able to uncover the secrets that compelled my behavior. Some of you may have tried this with a therapist. I had also. However, what made this moral inventory different was the previous work of the first three steps because those steps became the foundation upon which I was able to vanquish fear. What I saw underlying all my character defects was fear. Without the foundation of the first three steps, my moral inventory would’ve been weak and my shadow side would’ve eventually usurped my efforts. 

Because I was embodying 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 take accountability 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.

On the other hand, the 4th Step was a draining experience for me. Sometimes, when things seem their darkest, it’s difficult to see the positive. Initially, I discovered, it was difficult for me to take credit for the positive in me. I lived as a phony, showing only the parts of my self 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 inner addict, my addiction became my teacher about my basic goodness. 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 become powerful.

The addict in me was that same psychic entity that stole from me and then pretended he was helping me look for these qualities. I learned that all those qualities were mine and that they were available for me in my recovery.

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization… 

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