I’ve had a genuinely nice day, and for that I am grateful. It began this morning as I headed out for my latest voluntary shift; as usual, the nerves hit me as soon as I stepped out of the door and realised that I was faced with a full morning of work and responsibility. I’ve done about nine or ten shifts now, so to still feel this nervous about it is worrying in itself. I didn’t feel as anxious today as I did three months ago, when I had to go back for the first time since my disastrous first shift (during which I vomited), but it was still an unpleasant sensation making me want to stay at home and forget about the whole thing. I repeatedly say this line to myself at times like that: ‘I’m not going to die, I’m not being sent to fight in Afghanistan’ which might not sound funny but it does bring me to reality and make me laugh at myself a bit, which gets me to the shift even when I desperately don’t want to go.
I got to the kitchen from where I would be taking meals out in good time, was introduced to my driver who was lovely, and as always, realised that I had nothing to worry about. I’ve done the job plenty of times now, there’s nothing particularly difficult or challenging about it. When you get out there and start delivering the food, it can be quite fun, especially if you happen to have things in common with your driver, which I did today. To be able to talk freely about things that interested me with someone I’d never met before was a godsend. There was one shift a few weeks back when I didn’t get along with the driver at all – seriously, it could have scarred me for life if I let it – and that day the job just wasn’t fun at all. Being an alcoholic it led me to assume that I couldn’t do the job any more because I simply couldn’t bear the thought of not getting along with colleagues. But then I have shifts like today’s, which actually turn out to be the norm, and everything is all right.
After we’d finished I could go to the Sunday AA meeting which has through a natural process come to fit the slot of my ‘home group’. A while ago I wouldn’t have wanted it to be my home group at all, because (as I’ve expressed on here in great depth) I wasn’t getting on with many of the people who went there and I couldn’t stand the social gathering aspect afterwards. Recently I’ve come to the conclusion, though, that it is a great candidate for home group. It’s close to where I live, I don’t generally have problems getting there every week (except on the rare occasions when my voluntary work at the charity runs late), and I know everyone who goes on a regular basis. Every sponsor advises their sponsee to find a home group but I’ve procrastinated on this one decision for four months, mainly because I couldn’t think of a meeting where I didn’t have any resentments or fear issues.
I’m at the point now where I know I need to move past those issues and designate myself a proper home group because without one, I have no reason to go to meetings every week. Of course, without a home group I’ve still managed to go to at least three meetings every week since I came into recovery, but that might not continue to be the case forever. Getting a home group is a bit like getting a sponsor and a commitment. It’s another thing to tie you to the fellowship and to the program. Your home group is the meeting you always go to, come rain, sleet or snow, and you rely on it. With this particular Sunday meeting it helps that my greeting commitment is based there. That’s another reason to make it home group.
Now that I’ve made that decision I feel I’ve taken another step into the program. For four months I’ve taken very slow baby steps into the program; it’s been difficult and very painful at times. I don’t always want to be part of this thing we call the fellowship, I don’t always want the responsibility that comes with being a proper alcoholic in Alcoholics Anonymous. But I am a proper alcoholic and that is why I continue to immerse myself in the program, even when I hate everyone and wish it was all just a bad dream. So I have a sponsor, a commitment and a home group now; three things I never thought I could find for myself when I stepped into that first meeting all those months ago. I have also just made a very enthusiastic start on Step 4, which asks us to make a fearless and searching moral inventory of ourselves. After today’s meeting I spent some time with my sponsor going through the mechanics of Step 4; I’ve read about it before but there was some confusion – it’s a complicated and big step – which has now been cleared up.
To many, step 4 is the beginning of the meaty part of the program. The first three steps deal with higher power, not something I ever found very difficult or challenging. I believe in something more powerful than me now, and that is enough. I’m not in denial about the fact that step 4 will be very painful for me. It is painful for everyone who does it properly – if you don’t find it painful then you’re not doing it right. The good thing about that short term pain is that it leads to long term gain, as someone said in the meeting today.
For step 4 I have to list every single resentment I’ve ever felt, every single sexual misconduct, every fear and phobia. Part of me feels like I’m going to list every single shit I’ve ever taken – you really do need to write down EVERYTHING – but this is a process of healing. It is a thorough and fearless moral inventory; it maps our lives out and cleans all the shit away, ultimately. That is why I’m looking forward to doing it. I have a lot of shit still in my head, and what makes me an alcoholic is that until now, I have never been able to let go of that shit. People think that step 4 is about listing all the things we’ve done wrong and taking responsibility for them, even the things that weren’t our fault – but it isn’t about that at all. Not in my reading of it, anyway. Sure, people have done us wrong in our lives and that can’t be changed, taking responsibility for others’ wrongdoing is not the point of step 4. The point of it is to get us to accept that we have hindered ourselves by allowing the resulting resentments to continue for such a long time. Our reactions to what others have done to us are paramount, because our reactions have been faulty. The greatest resentment of my life, the one I have towards my father, has undoubtedly kept me back in so many aspects of my life, because I’ve clung onto it for years. It drove me to drink and lose all self respect, by leading me to seek father figures in sexual partners.
So I have to start writing all of it down now, and it’s going to hurt big time. I won’t always want to do it. There are things I will want to keep to myself because they are so embarrassing. Future resentments may result from it. But I know I need to do it. I could choose to quit the program here and leave the fellowship to go through personal therapy instead, but I’m highly aware that these things will have to eventually come up either way. Everything that I haven’t dealt with will have to be dealt with in the end, otherwise I will never move on. My new knowledge of step 4 has made it blatantly clear to me that AA is the place for me to be: it is the step where we open up to resentment and fear, the two driving forces of alcoholism, and I knew for a long time before quitting alcohol that anger and fear were the essential themes of my life. I knew it then and I know it now. Anger leads to fear, fear leads to anger; now is the time to move on.