Thursday, July 30, 2009

Step Four.

"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves."

When I came into Al-Anon, I was skilled at taking the inventory of everyone around me: friends, strangers, coworkers, neighbours, casual acquaintances. I did not, however, turn that beam upon myself - I was too afraid to do so, for fear of the ugliness I might find there.

I was a vessel filled to the brim with a nasty soup of fear and shame. Just let anyone suggest that my motives were less than pure, or that my attitude was not the best it could be, and they'd be met with a storm of righteous indignation, and defensiveness.

I couldn't admit to my faults and frailties because I didn't have the awareness of my merits and virtues to balance them out. My first sponsor started me working Step Four by listing my positive character aspects first, and only. I tried for days, and would end up sitting with my pen, an empty sheet of paper, and my own mind completely stonewalling me.

Then one night at my home group meeting, the chair wanted to try an exercise - at the top of a piece of paper, we were to write: "I like (our name) because:" pass this to the person sitting to our left, and accept the page being passed from the person to our right. When our own page arrived back to us, having made the circuit of the group, we were instructed to fold it up, and read it later on at home.

I saw writing on my page, but hurriedly shoved it into my pocket, and when I arrived home, couldn't read it. I was too afraid. I called my sponsor, and asked if she would sit on the phone with me while I opened and read it. She quickly agreed. I unfolded that piece of paper, and slowly read what 11 women, who had known me for a couple of years at that point, had written about why they liked me. It was all positive. There were comments about my empathy, my kindness, my generosity, my sense of humour, my infectious laugh, my thoughtfulness.

I had tears streaming down my face as I read. It was such a hugely powerful exercise for me to read that others could so easily find these positive aspects of my character, when I could find none.

That was the lever that made it possible for me to begin to work Step Four.

Taking my inventory became less an exercise in fear and trembling, and more an archeological dig - a search for knowledge which would help me to understand myself, my motives, and how I operate. I'm comfortable with the idea that I have human faults and frailties, because I'm also comfortable with the idea that I have positive characteristics. The more often I take my own inventory, the less able I feel to take anyone else's.

1 comment:

  1. I don't mind taking my own inventory and getting at the underlying root of my shortcomings. I don't like it when another takes my inventory though. That has happened often with the alcoholics in my life. I've had to let their comments fall on deaf ears which at times has been difficult.