The first AA meeting I attended had the steps posted on the wall. I read them, as this was about the most comfortable thing I could do. I did not want to talk with or look at anyone. It may have been that very day but if not, it was within my first few meetings, that I realized what these “12 steps” were all about. I had never heard about them, or AA, before this. I immediately realized I could never do the steps. I arrived at meetings as an atheist but surprisingly it wasn’t God that was standing in my way. It was steps five and nine. I knew that I could never tell someone else the true nature of all my wrongs and I could never make amends to even some of the people I harmed.
I was absolutely right. I never did the fifth step and I did not make amends. As a drunk I am of course stricken with a bad case of self-centeredness. There are so many things I cannot do. Like quit drinking. I believed God did not exist therefore it was not possible for me to even guess that I could be provided with enough guidance, strength, and courage to do many things with God’s help that I could not do on my own.
The island that was the great “I” slowly become part of the “we” that Alcoholics Anonymous tells us about. I would occasionally speak up at a meeting. I started to talk with people before and after the meeting (babble on my part, lots of patience and tolerance from someone else!). I asked someone to sponsor me and this man got me started on working the steps. This led to my trying to pray and working on forming a relationship with a power greater than myself….that I totally did not understand.
I was told to work on one step at a time. Don’t worry about those I haven’t done yet. That was fine until I got to step four. Now I could think of nothing but step five – it was coming up right after four!!!!! I thought there was no way I could go through with it so I procrastinated. I was finally forced into one of those put up or I-might-as-well-go-get-drunk places. I had a really, really bad day, went to a meeting, and was too scared and disturbed to talk to someone afterwards. I was a mess as I was driving home. I was thinking how bad it was that I couldn’t ask for help at an AA meeting, which was one of few places I knew was a safe refuge for me. I realized I was screwed up in ways that needed to get straightened out or I was sure to drink again. It dawned on me that taking the fourth step inventory might help in figuring out what was wrong with me. Of course I had read and heard this before but now it made sense and might even be something that was necessary. The fifth step be damned – I had to try to work on step four.
The next morning I prayed for God to help me and within a few minutes my list was started. That experience, and a few others that had come before, provided me with enough faith to eventually have the courage to take my fifth step. My sponsor and God were in the room with me while my sponsor talked me through telling him what was written in my inventory. We did my fifth step, not the great “I” that was incapable of taking this action.
As I made my way through the steps my sponsor eventually helped me to work up a plan of action for making my amends. My first was to be to my mother. I found myself sitting at her kitchen table one day, scared as to what would come of trying to make amends. We were having a normal conversation – as I had not specifically told her I needed to talk to her about making amends – but I just couldn’t begin to do what I needed to. I eventually got up and told her I was going for a walk outside. I made my way to a place where I could sit on a bench and there I began to pray for help, courage, and the words I needed to say. I got up after a few minutes, walked back, and made my amend. Just like my fifth step, there were two people and God there for this. My mother was not as concerned with past events as I was, and just wanted me to be well, happy, and sober. A loving response and very consistent with how my mother always acted towards me. It of course made no sense that I expected this experience was going to be very bad.
While it was not easy to make my amends, for whatever reason getting through that first one proved to be the biggest hurdle. I now knew I needed God there with me as I made each amend. A prayer was all that was necessary to make sure I was not alone.
The steps have changed me into a different man than I was, have taught me how to find the strength and courage to carry out many worthwhile actions that I would be incapable of on my own. I am glad to be a “part of” rather than the the island I once felt it was so important to be.
Wishing you all the best in sobriety,