12 Steps: Step 4 is Not About Beating Yourself Up

Step 4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Never, ever kick yourself in the rear for your past. This is NOT how Steps 4-8 of the 12 Steps should be done. Looking at what you did–or were not able to do–admitting it, asking for help from your Higher Power, making amends are all beautiful and important. Doing that will take the chip off your shoulder. But that does NOT mean beating yourself up mentally for your mistakes. FIRST accept the fact that YOU WERE ABUSED. You are working on correcting all that came out of that mess. Beating yourself up more only adds to the problem and gets you no where. It’s Like The Day Of Atonement So how should one make a searching and fearless moral inventory? How do you do it without beating yourself up? That is an excellent question. It takes me back quite a few years. When I was growing up, my parents and I would go to synagogue for Yom Kippur, the Day of Attonement in the Jewish calendar. There were quite a few times when you literally had to beat your chest as you recited all your sins! That really made me feel bad. I didn’t want to feel bad and yet, there I was, confronted with all my sins and I just felt awful. Mind you, I was a child. No one explained to me how to do this right! It took me years to learn how to do it without feeling horrible. And here is the secret: Recognizing mistakes is not an indictment against your whole Self. That’s...

12 Steps: Step 1 – Control

Step 1.We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable. Acknowledging weakness is very scary. It means letting go of the one thing that may have kept us alive–substances. These steps pertain also to any other addiction whether it be gambling, narcotics, work, shopping, sex. The addiction seemed to have been the only way to go on in the face of great, unimaginable pain. Now you are faced with a realization: To whatever degree it worked, it has also wreaked havoc with your life. What to do? Do you want, finally, finally, to be in charge of your life? The beginning is the acknlwledgement that addiction was only a temporary solution and not a great one. It required an unimaginable cost. Consider the paradox: It is possible to gain control over your own life by acknowledging a lack of control over alcohol. But it means letting go… And what does powerlessness really mean anyway? Alcohol is one of the great cop-outs for not facing our pain. If we use substances–or other addictions–we have a dandy excuse for not being in control of our lives. The moment we admit we are not in control when we drink, we are forced to take control when we don’t drink. That is what’s so scary. We are scared of so many things: of feeling of failing in life of being rejected once the veil of alcohol is removed of sharing secrets of betraying our abusers of discovering we don’t know who we are So alcohol serves as a pretty good excuse to stay stuck. But it doesn’t have...

12 Steps: Step 6 – Remove the Obstacles

Step 6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. Well, I’m going to be iconoclastic. I don’t think that the things we do that hurt others are necessarily defects of character. So, I might be parting ways with the terminology here–but not with the spirit. Let’s begin by defining defect of character as distinct from defective behavior. The difference between character and behavior is the total unwillingness to change. In fact, it goes deeper. It is the total unwillingness to recognize the need for change. So if John beats his wife, does it only when he’s drunk, and doesn’t feel bad the next day when he’s sober, that would be a defect of character. If he feels bad but blames her for getting him upset, that’s bad. But I still see hope for him because he is capable of a little compassion. Perpetrators in jail for violence can learn to feel compassion. What Is A Defect Of Character? Of course, I will admit, the job is easier because they are in jail so they have some motivation to work on themselves and get out sooner. But then again, jail does have some tough customers. I work with tough customers all the time myself and I really believe that once they begin to be in touch with their own pain, they are capable of feeling the pain of others. Therefore, I’m not convinced that even the diehards have character defects. Sure, there is a small minority of serial killers out there. I would agree that they have some serious defects of character. Yes, anyone who...

12 Steps: Step 3 – Choices

Step 3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. If you thought this one would be simple and obvious, you have another guess coming. This step is about nothing less than the meaning of life: Why are we here? What is our purpose? If there is free will, how do you reconcile that with turning our will over to God? And what does any of this have to do with happiness? Why did the Step-writers distinguish our Will from our Lives? What does any of it have to do with my substance abuse problem or my recovery? Obviously, I can only answer from my own perspective, so bear in mind that this is one person’s view. Attend meetings, read, talk intensively to your sponsor and get other views. My view will draw heavily from Jewish philosophy. I think we are here to make this world a better place. Don’t snicker! I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Why should I be the one to make it a better place when my abuser(s) sure didn’t?” You have an argument there, I’ll give you. But imagine if everyone had that argument. Then the world would have no redeeming values and we would have been swallowed up in a dark pit a long time ago. There would have been no Mother Teresa or Malala Yousafzai. As messed up as the world seems to be, clearly, there are some good people in it. So my question to you is: Do you want to be one of them? In your heart,...

12 Steps: Step 2 – How to Get God to Help You Recover

Step 2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. Well, if you look through this site, you’ll know that I believe in God, so if you don’t agree with that outlook, you’ll have to figure out how to work out this one without that construct. Just hear me out for a moment: When people have been subjected to terrible pain, it is logical and natural to say, “There can’t be a God in the universe.” After all, if there is a God, how in the world can He or She allow such things to happen? I sure can’t answer that question–no one can. We are all limited by our humanness. Humans, after all, only have 5 senses. We can’t see the future; we really can’t understand the past the way people who lived it did; we can’t see too far away even with good eyesight; we can’t understand other cultures too well; we can’t even understand our family, for goodness sakes. Don’t Try To Understand God So, yeah, we are intensely limited. Naturally, we can’t understand the concept of God, let alone how a God that is supposed to be good can cause pain. Many times I’ve talked to Holocaust survivors who say they gave up on God and I don’t argue with them. Who am I to do so? The pain you suffered to get where you are now was just as great. It was your personal Holocaust. I learned, as a therapist, that if I focus on the unanswerable questions, I spin my head into a pretzel and lose more...

12 Steps: Step 5 – Connecting

Step 5 – Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs How many times have you heard some certain 7-year old say, “sorry” like this: “Sorrrrreeee.” He’s kind of fed up with saying it. But someone told him he had to apologize. Guess what, folks? That’s not an apology. It does absolutely nothing for his soul. It does not repair in any way the injury he caused another. And just saying “sorry” – or moving on without it – will not undo any hurt you have caused those who you were supposed to love. See, here’s the sad but true fact about being an abuse victim: The Coping Strategies You Used To Survive Meant You Didn’t Know When You Hurt Others Read that line over: The coping strategies you used to survive mean you didn’t know when you hurt others. Whatever you did to survive was a means of not knowing: cutting, drinking, drugging, sex, gambling, anger rages, numbing, dissociation, whatever. They were all ways of getting away from your pain. Makes total sense. But the downside is that you didn’t know anything else either. Not knowing is not knowing. It can’t be selective. So when you’re busy drowning in drink or whatever your addiction, and you’re blessedly removed from the pain, you are quite capable of unknowingly and unconsciously hurting someone else. And it is now your responsibility to figure out what you did to whom and why it hurt. Because if you didn’t figure that out, you’d be perpetuating the damage that was done to you onto some other...
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