(from Essay February 2019)
When I walked through these doors, all I knew was that I had screwed up, got caught, and wanted to get out of my predicament. My wife was ready to end 38 years of marriage and be rid of me. And of my mood swings, impatience and insatiable demands for sex. I got a sponsor and began the Steps. I had difficulty trying to understand what my sponsor was telling me. The one thing I could see were the people who had longevity in the program looked genuinely happy. So I kept coming back.
I was staying sober and I was not feeling so happy. At the time, I thought it was the Steps that kept tripping me up. At times I felt as if my sponsor was trying to drag me into the open so that I would be exposed for observation and critique. Was this a battle of wills? Who would give up first?
While I could walk away anytime I wanted, if there was hope, then it was in SA. Somewhere inside me I knew there would be a happy destiny if I would have faith and trust in my higher power.
Later I realized that God spoke through the SA writings, the fellowship in the rooms and my sponsor.
With a sigh I plodded onward through the Steps. I began to notice that something had changed about me and I could not put my finger on it. The mood swings had begun to lose strength. I could actually talk to my wife without wondering what the heck she was concerned about. At church I understood what my pastor was talking about. I discovered I could go for days without sex with my wife. My sponsor stopped sounding like a cocky know-it-all to me and, which blew my mind, he was actually a really kind man. Yet I still felt I was carrying around the same old burdens.
Step 4. I figured this should be easy enough. I could list a boat load of stuff that’s wrong. But it wasn’t long before I realized the searching and fearless moral inventory was about me. This Step was painful. It could not happen quickly for me in a few hours, days, or even weeks. I had never, ever attempted to look deeply into the driving force behind who I am. In the past, there were often caring, misguided attempts by counselors, pastors, friends, coworkers, family and a psychiatrist to help: “You need more confidence. You should try harder. Don’t give up. You just need to believe in yourself!” What they may not have known, and what became apparent because of this program, was that I was a man suffering from the bondage of self.
With patient reassuring guidance from my sponsor, each resentment and defect of character was revealed and placed on paper. One by one their effect on me, my emotions and perceptions of myself were brought out by revelation from God, my highest power. Without realizing that I was doing it, I absolved God on his throne. And then it happened. I saw the driving force that ruled me nearly my entire life. My defects of character pointed to that one thing that I had unwittingly allowed to corner me into the bondage of self, which was Fear.
As I looked over my Step 4 work I saw myself as a pitiful man crushed by the unrelenting force of his own fears. I was afraid I would not measure up, not be good enough, afraid I could never be the person I knew I never was. I was afraid of not being accepted, and if I was accepted I was afraid they would find out that I am who I fantasize myself to be. I hid in fear behind impatience, anger, sexual pleasure and day dreams of victory over those who kept me from the success I felt I deserved. Yes, I know there will be other character defects to deal with. And, at this crossroads of my life, I discovered in my Fourth Step my big ugly character defect is fear. Seeing this lifted a huge load from my shoulders but still I realized I was not yet free because knowing of this is not the same as learning how to deal with it. There was more that I had to do, here and now in this program.
Step 5 sounded daunting, but knowing what the Fourth Step inventory had revealed to me made it liberating to admit the exact nature of my wrongs. God heard me out and I now know He is listening to me. My sponsor warmly received my Fifth Step. He became the person in whom I know I can place my most intimate trust.
Step 6. My sponsor asked me if I thought I was entirely ready to have God remove these shortcomings? I said, “Absolutely!” Then he asked me why I thought I was ready. I looked at him and thought, “Oh crap.” I had read all the major texts concerning Step 6 and had written out some of my answers. What was I afraid of?
I could hear the raging fear river building in intensity. “Hold on Pat, you are standing at the river.” I knew I cannot do this myself. I never could and never would. God can. Are there character defects I want to cling to for comfort, security or familiarity? If there are any, as long as I remain willing, God will bring them out. I don’t want to know how life would be without them, I want to BE without them.
Only now am I starting to find out who I really am. Surrendering my will and my perceived right to sit on the throne of self-will will likely bring me back to my defects. God provides the strength and courage for me to have come this far. I do not doubt he will continue to do so. This is what I see ahead of me: God, having removed these character defects, teaching me how to live without the character defects I am yet to discover.
Pat M, California, USA