In order to fully recover from alcoholism, addiction and addictive behaviours, we find we have to trust at least one other human being.
This might be easy for some, to trust, but for me it was very difficult.
Considering my upbringing, this was a big step but as I had little choice…
I am not talking about trusting my wife, loved ones, family etc.
I am talking about trusting someone in recovery. A practical stranger. Someone who is the same boat as you. Who has been where you have been, felt how you have felt.
Like a sponsor for exammple.
Someone you are going to open up to and discuss intimate stuff with, someone who will ultimately know the shameful secrets that can keep a person spiritually and emotionally sick and will continue to do so until we share this stuff and let it all go.
It chains us to the past and endangers recovery because we drank on shame and guilt.
I certainly know I did?
Sorry for being so direct in this blog, it is a message of hope, there is a way to completely turn your life around.
Shameful secrets can fester in the dark recesses of our minds and inflame our hearts with recrimination and resentment.
They can have constant conscious and unconscious effect on our behaviors, how we think and feel about ourselves and how we interact, or not, with others.
Due to the nature of frequent episodes of powerlessness over our behavior, attached to addiction and alcoholism, we often acted in a way we would never act in sobriety. We had limited control over behaviour at times due to intoxication and acted on occasion in a way that shames us today.
Most of us were determined to take these secrets, these “sins” to the grave.
We often take them to grave sooner rather than later unless we decide to be open and share our secrets with another person.
This has been my experience.
Everyone in recovery has secrets they would rather not disclose, but there are not many “original” sins as one suspects and that haven’t been shared in 12 step recovery.
Almost disappointingly I found some of my sins were quite tame when compared to other people I have spoken to in recovery.
That is not to say I did not frequently hurt others, especially loved ones, but under examination they were not as monstrous as my head made them out to be.
These secrets are the emotional and psychic scars of our alcoholic past and they need to be exposed in order for us to fully heal.
In steps 4 and 5 we listed wrongdoings to others and although initially petrified to share them with another, found that it wasn’t as difficult as we thought it would be, once you wrote down the worst top ten. There was an immediate release in fact. A sense of cleansing almost.
Sharing them was obviously awkward but a good sponsor shares his at the same time.
It is therapeutic exchange and shame reducing to know someone else has committed similar sins or has acted for similar reasons; they were powerless over their behaviours. Just like me, just like you.
Alcoholism erodes our self will and choice.
There is nothing so bad that cannot be shared.
The 12 steps were influenced by the Oxford Group who said sins cut a person off from God, and that there was such a thing as sin disease.
This sin disease had very real psychological, emotional and physical and physiological effect on the mind and body. Sins were a contagion that mixed with the sins of others and the sins of families, groups, societies, cultures and countries.
The sin disease idea became the “spiritual malady” of AA.
We can also see this as years of not being able to regulate our negative emotions properly, if you wish to see them as sins.
I see these “sins” also, and perhaps alternatively, as hundreds of unprocessed negative emotions from the past which were never consigned to our long term memories, so they just swirl around our minds for decades shaping how we think about ourselves and the world around us.
Steps 4 -7 and the amends to those people wronged in steps of 8 and 9 allow us to be completely free and in a sense reborn.
It can be viewed as spiritual or an emotional rebirth.
Isn’t this rebirth, catharsis, renewal, a becoming free from the old self, which was kept us ill in our shame and guilt about the past?
We have the chance to be free from the sick version of our real self, the self that has been in bondage, in addiction.
It is almost miraculous, the sudden transformative effect it can have on us. I have seen it many times with my own eyes.
By freeing ourselves from the past, we become who we really are.
We have a sea change in how we think and feel about ourselves and the world around us.
In fact we never become who we really are until we have examined our past and consigned it to the past.
We do fully recover until we do this I believe.
Otherwise we have not really completely treated our alcoholism.
We have simply got sober, sometimes stark raving sober.
We are not bad people getting good but ill people getting well.
All this because we plucked up enough courage to ask someone we barely knew to be our sponsor.
Because we trusted one person enough.
In reality we asked a fellow sinner to hear our sins and through God’s help have them taken off us, or if one prefers, have had the past finally processed and consigned to long term memory where it will take only a special and quite frankly bizarre decision and effort to go rooting around and digging it up again.
I look at the past fleetingly sometimes to help others but I never stare at it too long.
It is a former self.
I have been reborn, I have become who God had intended me to be.
I have become me.