Fred, who has been coming to meetings for months, can’t remember what the 2nd Step is about.
Mary has gotten to the 4th Step several times, then bails, relapses, comes back, and repeats the pattern again.
Alec keeps screwing around with sponsors. He usually has one, but then finds a reason to fire them and find another. Little work results.
Mark has been around for years, talks a good game, but when pressed will admit that he’s never worked the steps with a sponsor and relies on his “spirituality” to keep him sober.
[The names have been changed to protect the guilty, but you know who you are.]
Which begs the question, “How Long Until We Actually Start Work?”
Lest it seem that I’m taking a holier-than-thou attitude here, I can assure you that I’ve been just as guilty as anyone. I fooled around in the rooms for 23½ years without addressing one of my addictions, and the result was pretty crummy recovery, a relationship that wasn’t destroyed but sustained lasting damage, and legal circumstances that could have had extremely severe consequences. Now there’s no way that 23-odd years was wasted. I did stay sober from the addictions I was working on, learned a lot, and was able to help a lot of folks as a result. But the “physician heal thyself” thing comes to mind (or, in this case, recovery guru heal thyself).
I have become convinced to the very soul of my being that “Searching And Fearless Moral Inventory” means exactly that, and that people who don’t work the 4th Step and those that follow are doing themselves — at best — a grave disservice. At worst, they are setting themselves up for tragedy.
I like to use the analogy of cleaning the kitchen. Your kitchen can be spic-and-span, but if you only swept the garbage into the broom closet instead of taking it out and disposing of it, eventually the room will become unusable whether it’s clean or not. Furthermore, some day the decomposing garbage will begin to seep out from under the door, and then it’s going to be pretty hard to even stay in the house.
Looked at from that perspective, we have three choices: we can keep covering the pain with booze, other drugs, and addictive behaviors, or we can hold our noses, go in and clean out the closet, and dispose of the garbage. The third alternative, of course, is to wait until it becomes intolerable, and then abandon the house. Too many of us take the third option when the first becomes inadequate.
I’ll put it succinctly, having admitted that I’ve been guilty myself: If we’re not working the Steps with a sponsor, we are not in a 12-step program of recovery. We’re just fooling ourselves, and cheating ourselves of the real benefits of sobriety. It’s easy to hide in the rooms. All we have to do is come late, leave early, not talk to folks, and… Well, you get the idea. In South Florida, where I live, it’s literally possible to go to two or three meetings a day without seeing the same people twice. Under those circumstances, it’s easy to pose as a winner. But who are we really fooling?
As they say, fooling others can be funny, or it can be rude. But fooling yourself can be fatal.