We find unacceptable in others, that which we find

unacceptable about our selves. ~ Anon

In step #8 we get the opportunity to review our past relationships, what went wrong, what our part was, what we learned, and how we can make things better. A few years back, I decided to adopt a “Do Over G.O.D.”. Remember when we were kids, and the game did not go our way? We would holler “do over!” By embracing such a G.O.D., I can relax and realize that even if I screw things up, I will be given another shot at doing things in a healthier way the next time. Goodness knows, there will be many more chances to practice this program every day and every hour for the rest of my time in this human body.

The bottom line that I get out of this step is that there is a bit of bad in the best of us, and there is a bit of good in the worst of us. That feels so much better and more even handed than thinking the whole world is out to get me, or that people spend their nights laying there thinking of ways to foil my plans. During my spiritual journey, I ran into a guru who offered this challenge: to express Namaste to each person I met. Namaste means “the divine in me bows to the divine in you. I do not do this regularly. But, I do come away from situations that are harder to like, and ask, “what is the lesson this person is teaching me?” That helps. Find the good in others and yourself. Find the balance.

Beauty and Diversity

Sobriety is a thing of beauty and diversity that rivals my most vivid dreams. ~ Anon

The fellowship that step #8 and tradition #8 offers us is one that is very diverse. This dis-ease is an equal opportunity process. Every belief system, race, creed, nationality, age, sexual identity, and economic level is represented. Alcoholism does not care where you come from or who you are. It will gladly destroy the fabric of your life no matter how big you think you are. In fact, the bigger you are, the harder you can fall.

For the first time in our lives, we learn to show and accept unconditional love, acceptance, and compassion for everyone who shows up at our doors and even for those who are still in the throes of this dis-ease. That is called fellowship. I will tell you that I bristled at the word fellowship when I was newly in AA. I equated that word with church and come to Jesus moments I had see in the past and did not trust. AA taught me that sobriety has nothing to do with religion. It has to do with spiritually supporting the recovery journey of each other without pushing our beliefs upon them. In fact it is the diversity in recovery approaches that makes this a beautiful thing. What a gift we have in AA.

Ignorance is not Bliss

Often, the greater our ignorance about something, the greater our resistance. ~ Marc Bekoff

After spending 3 days trying to get a 12 step tri-fold flyer put together, I have decided that I learn best by doing. I live life backwards. Instead of getting training or learning how to do it and then do something; I will take on a job or task, and then try to figure out how to do it. I call it baptism by fire. This time, I asked for a strong deadline, so that I do not dilly dally for months on end, reconstructing the project in my head daily (well, truth be told, in the middle of the night)! That is one thing I did differently this time. That was a sane change.

This reminds of step #8. We need directions. We need a sponsor who knows how to do this work. We need to not be so ignorant as to forego our sponsor’s direction and help. This is a WE program. We do not have to do this alone. We do not have to pretend that we know how to do something we have never done before. By using our sponsor’s experience, strength, and hope and by following directions, we can navigate the new waters ahead of us. We do not have to do this alone anymore. We have a fellowship as is promised in step #8.

A Symptom

I have a dis-ease of selfishness, and alcoholism is a symptom. ~ Anon

The very first recollection I have of when alcohol was a problem in my life was at a very young age. Perhaps you can relate.  My notion was that I would not get my fair share, which of course was the lion’s share of whatever was being served. I never drank to sate a thirst. I drank to get blitzed; to be removed of my reality. 1,000 was never enough, and one was too many, of anything.  Some call this black and white thinking…all or nothing. I know, for me that thinking infected my whole life.

In step #8 we are encouraged to pull back to veil of denial and investigate how we were selfish and self-centered in all of our relationships. This can be tricky because our inaction can be as selfish as our actions. For instance: To withhold our affections or boycott a friendship just because we are not getting what we want. To not express ourselves honestly when asked to for fear we may upset the other person. These are ways our inaction harmed others and ourselves. The AA program asks that we only change only little thing, and that is ourselves. It is a small price with some big pay-offs. Such a deal we get in AA.

Why We are Here

There are 3 reasons folks come into sobriety: the liver, the lover or the lawyer. ~ Anon

When we find ourselves saying we were never in rehab or jail, etc.; we need to remember to add the word “yet” to that sentence. The dis-ease is sometimes more progressive and faster in other people’s lives. I like to think that perhaps some of us just have lower pain level tolerances. It really does not matter why we are here or how we got here, so much as that we are here. We got lucky and found the solution soon enough to get our lives turned around for the better. Not everyone is that lucky.

While we are here, we might as well get busy and get better. Time is wasting. Here are some Step #8 questions that might help you in developing your list:

Was the harm done in thought or in action?

Have my attitudes resulted in actual harm?

  • Now put the names of those harmed into 3 columns: amends you will make right away and in person, amends you will make as time allows or by mail, and amends you feel “when hell freezes over” best applies. There may be a 4th column = amends to the deceased. We will talk about that some other time. If you feel unwilling, pray for the willingness to be willing. Enough said. I wish for you all a peaceful day.

End of Isolation

In Step *8, pg. 82 of the 12 X 12 it promises this: “It is the beginning of the end of our isolation from our fellows and G.O.D”. I came into the program as an proud, card carrying agnostic. It took several years and some very strong sponsorship that insisted on G.O.D. = good orderly direction (like praying, meditating, meetings, eating breakfast, getting to bed at a reasonable hour, service, etc.) to set me on a spiritual path. I do believe now in a power greater than myself. It is Mother Nature or the universe. Those are constants that preexisted me and will be here in some shape or form far past when I depart. There is a rhyme and a rhythm that I can depend on, and a concreteness that I can understand.

As a loner, I appreciate my alone time, but I do depend on fellowship and G.O.D. when I get stuck or cannot move beyond a certain issue or personal conflict. I like to call my sponsor daily or text, just to hear another human being. I usually call someone new in AA and an older timer daily. Service is my main thing in recovery. I like to keep my mouth and hands busy in productive things. I do a daily 10-12, pray, and meditate (an active form) daily. My recovery pace is as active (if not more) now than it ever was. In long term recovery, it is essential to keep up our efforts, lest we become complacent. Keep doing daily those things that got you sober in the first place.

Pain VS Misery

Pain is inevitable; misery is an option. ~ Anon

When we venture into Step #8, we certainly will revisit the pain of the past. That pain was and is inevitable. Pain is a human condition. We have these marvelous bodies that can sense pain both physically and mentally. As a person who has chronic pain, I have learned to embrace pain as a friend. It reminds me that I am still alive, that I can feel, and that I have limits. In the past, I did not register pain or was taught to ignore it. For many years, I thought alcohol helped to numb pain and remove me from reality. It “did the trick” so to speak. The reality is that whatever was causing me pain was there the next day, and I had added shame, regret, and remorse on top of the pain. In other words, alcohol was not the answer, but was a contributor to more pain.

We learn in step #8, that there is/was just so much pain and not any more. It has/had a beginning and it has/had an end. Misery is the result of not letting go of the pain. Pain is optional. How we choose to act and react to whatever pain comes our way, is what really matters. In the AA program, we learn to stop being a victim, put on our big people pants, and face life head on. One day, one situation, and one relationship at a time, we get to choose misery or acceptance. Feelings and fears have no real control over us. The promises of AA give us a better and healthier way of existing in this life, pain or no pain. What a deal we have in AA.