I’m trying to change. I really am…

He said softly, “How did I get here?” I was not sure if he was speaking to me or if it was just a sigh that had turned into a question, but I didn’t respond. His head lifted and then he looked me straight in the eye. This time his voice was clear and the words were said with intensity. “Why do I keep repeating the same mistakes? Shouldn’t I be farther along in this process? I’ve done the meetings, said the prayers, took commitments and even followed your stupid directions. What’s wrong with me?”

Before I could reassure him that he was not as bad off as he believed, he followed with more of his self-loathing. “Look at me! I’m maladjusted to life; a full flight from reality at times! Come on, drinking or not, and although I am a full grown adult, no matter how hard I try, I remain childish, grandiose and basically emotionally immature.” “Why do you say that?” I replied.

“It’s the anxiety I feel right now, or maybe it’s the depression when thinking too much, the fear…the…and that intense desire for excitement. Always! Throw on top of all that an obsessive, compulsive, impulsive, excessive need for attention and acceptance! You are supposed to help me, what’s wrong with me?” It didn’t seem appropriate to give him an answer yet. No, this was far too important to just hand him an answer. He wanted once again an immediate gratification. It wouldn’t help him anymore than handing a bottle over to him.

“Tell me, is your thought life controlled by fear, self-delusion, self-seeking and self pity?”

“Haven’t you been listening?”

“Slow down! Think about this before answering me. What are your motives?”

“Huh?”

“Selfishness?”

“Yes, but not always…sometimes.”

“Your motives, if they’re left unattended, do they seem to arouse in you a need to engage in what may be considered as dangerous behavior?”

“Sometimes? What are you now, some kind of shrink?”

“No, you are just like I used to be. Pride, anger, envy, greed, sloth, gluttony, I really wanted it all. When I got that way, it made me really emotionally sensitive. Raw. All this means is typically we both have a really strong tendency towards taking everything we see or hear personally if left unattended.”

“Really? You feel like that too?”

“Yep, but not all the time any more. In fact rarely any more. I used to be that way all the time. When I came to this program I was a spiritually bankrupt idealist and a brooding perfectionist. Because of this I was constantly defensive and guarded. To cope, I would rationalize, minimize, justify and deny all of my actions while casting blame upon others. To make this even worse, I got a distinct delight and a twisted pleasure out of judging and criticizing everybody I met.

“Wow, no wonder why you drank so much. It must of been hell living like that. What did you do?”

“For the longest time, I did just the same thing that you’ve been doing and feeling. I was just as helpless, hopeless. I felt like I didn’t fit in, I knew that I didn’t belong- I just knew that I must be different than all the rest. The only thing in the past that satisfied my restless, irritable and dissatisfied nature was drugs and alcohol; lots too. You know how that, even that way to find some comfort, eventually stopped working. So I was finally ready to surrender. The pain was finally greater than the fear of change. I hope you don’t have to wallow in the pain as long as I did before you do something about it”

“I am trying to change; I really am.”

“I know. I can see that you are trying. I know you are because we are the same except for one thing; I have worked through the fear and got into action. What has been suggested by this program really is a sufficient substitute to the drugs and frankly vastly more than that.”

“So you know it all, don’t you! You think you have it all figured out.”

“No, far from it. I realize I know only a little but God does disclose more to me and he will for you too, if you will let him. Remember that God will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, but he won’t do for us what we can do for ourselves. You need to fearlessly make an introspective look at the causes and conditions that have brought you to this point in your life. When you do, you will be amazed with what you see. Then that new found awareness will be amplified when you share what you’ve found with another person who can bring it all into a better focus. Just like what’s happening right now.”

The quality of a person’s life can be determined by the quality of their relationships

All to often, what a person considers as “the truth” is only how they have processed the information that they have. When emotions are involved, the “facts” get adjusted to support what we want to believe. What I mean by that is when I feel that I have been done wrong, I will seek out the reasons why and dismiss anything that doesn’t support my position. The process of the personal inventory allows for me to get past this and see not just the evidence that I am attached to, but also the facts that I have an aversion to.

When doing my personal inventory it became more and more obvious that I had problems in my relationships. Like every one of them. Of course the only common denominator was myself. Sure I already knew that I have been stubborn, rebellious, arrogant and outright mean at times but it was really surprising to me that I had gone forty-something years without ever having a moment of extent of this. I don’t think that would have ever happened without doing a personal inventory- which is just an exercise in taking subjective perspectives and reviewing them objectively.

I have a pretty well developed imagination. What I mean by that is not just that I am creative but I am also able to envision scenarios. When those of the opposite sex are involved, I would call it being romantic. Picturing how good we will be together. How we will not have any problems and life will be oh so wonderful. Then when we do share life and its not as I expect it to be, resentments begin to happen. This anger is directed towards them and myself. My imagination once again is attached to ideas that something or someone should be different than it really is. My subjective viewpoint is the core reason why I believe things that are not completely real. My estimations and expectations of what is right and wrong in all of my relationships are skewed because of only recognizing things my way. And I didn’t really know what was happening so I could not change it. That is not until I did my Fourth Step.

Now that I have done the personal inventory repeatedly, and led many other’s through it too, I have concluded that the only reason many people don’t open their hearts and minds to other people is that these people trigger confusion in us. It’s because we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to fully deal with all that is involved. So a lot of us repress and rationalize what’s going on. Over and over again. That’s why living life on life’s term is so difficult. We don’t like what life is giving us, we try to control the relationship, that backfires, we get upset, then we adjust reality by getting high.

Staying sober requires an honesty that surpasses what has been done before. Chronic justification led me to an incomprehensible hopelessness because I could not be honest with myself and therefore others as well.

 

Relationships are the most important factor in having a meaningful and satisfying life. My life was not any of that, so I had to learn how to see myself and the world differently if the quality of life was to improve. And by doing the fourth Step, this exercise in rigorous honesty, I was able to begin to having hope for a better future. But know that being rigorously honest does not mean just focusing on all the wrongs we each have done. Remember, this is about being objective. There are always assets in every person’s character. They just seem to get overshadowed by the liabilities. For me, that was me practicing self-pity; which is me imaging that I deserve something different than what is really happening.

To the degree that we each look clearly and compassionately at ourselves do we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes. When that does happen a better life is unfolding. Doing a personal inventory is the first step in doing that. The fourth Step is the beginning of better relationships. And the quality of a person’s life can always be determined by the quality of their relationships.

I didn’t use to allow myself to feel other people’s love for me – not family, not friends, no one. I lived in extreme fear of intimacy and vulnerability and I self-medicated to the extreme when I couldn’t tolerate my feelings. Any therapist, teacher, mentor, healer who I’ve worked with reading this post knows this to be true of me. It’s been a long road for me to build the resources within myself to feel safe enough to let love in and to trust that life is happening for me and not to me and to stay present with my feelings. Today, I’m grateful.