Spotlight on the 12 Steps, 4-6
By Chaplain Larry Wright, A.A, BS., M. Div
Drug and Alcohol Treatment Centers:
When I was asked to write about these steps, it brought
many memories to mind. But the first thing that came to
mind was the first paragraph of Chapter 5 “How It Works.”
You will recall that is the paragraph that talks about rigorous
honesty. Those of you who have heard my lecture on this
know that I believe individuals are incredibly gifted at self deception.
In the program they simply call that denial.
But I think it has more to it than that. I can continue in
my self-deception as long as I am willing to continue in the
same patterns of behavior.
If you have ever dug into the history of
and have been so fortunate to have read some
of the talks given by Dr. Bob, you will know that he often
referred to the “four absolutes” which are; absolute honesty,
absolute unselfishness, absolute purity, and absolute love.
These he said were the standards or measures by which we
should judge our own behavior. Accordingly, any of us who
look at ourselves by these measures should realize just how
far we have to go in our self-development. First we must
accept a set of standards for our lives. This is a personal
decision. Step Four requires a searching and fearless moral
inventory. If you go to
and look up
you will find this definition: “of or relating to
principles of right and wrong.” Listed also are the synonyms;
virtuous, righteous, noble, ethical, and principled. Do I
have a set of standards for my life? It is impossible to do
any moral inventory without a standard of measure. So
the first requirement is that I define what are the measures
that I apply to my life and to my behavior?
The danger with misuse of spirituality in the program is
that our spirituality becomes so subjective it becomes
meaningless. Our culture and the addiction are so focused
on what feels good instead of what is right. We often remind
drug and alcohol patients at our center that if they do the right thing, the good feeling
will follow. If we confuse our spirituality with what feels
good instead of what’s right, we have put our emphasis in
the wrong place. The base word for religion in Latin means
“to bind.” If an individual does not “bind himself/herself ”
to these steps, recovery is impossible.
The Step Four inventory
that individuals struggle with
in the program, is simply the tip of the iceberg.
Everyone knows that the vast majority of the iceberg is
located under the surface, as is true with our individual
character. We are not what we seem to be on the surface.
So that first attempt at self-honesty which one is challenged
with, is just the beginning of what “in theory” should be a
new life. Yet how many really approach it that way?
The answer to that lies within the individual.
The twelve step recovery program
is the vehicle which we use in
drug and alcohol treatment,
and therefore should be the same method
practiced by the staff at our center. After all, we are the ones the patients
first see and we espouse this approach to living. How well
do we see that rigorous honesty being practiced in us? See,
this personal inventory stuff, if done correctly gets pretty
painful from the get go. Even after years of abstinence.
So the first moral inventory usually is pretty superficial.
But it is a beginning.
The next part, Step 5, requires one to be willing to admit
to God to ourselves and another person the exact nature
of our wrongs. It has been my experience that we tend to
put our attention on the “other person.” When we do
that the self-deception has raised its head again because I am
taking the focus off of me and put it on another. There is a
song which begins with this line, “Let there be peace on earth,
and let it begin with me.” In order for me to be at peace with
myself, I must do the things I respect. The self-deception
must become my enemy and I must confront him/me daily. I
have found great comfort and also accountability through
the help of others. That makes the group so important,
because others can give me feedback on my behaviors. In
other words they can help me see me.
The AA/NA treatment groups, when at their best, are the perfect
place for this to happen. As I confront me and receive
encouragement and reinforcement from others, I practice
my new approach to assessing my life. I find new
satisfaction because I am living in a different way. Others
see it too. I find I am enjoying this new approach, I even
begin to look forward to my participation.
Step 6 is when we become entirely ready to have God
remove our defects of character. This is just part of the
process. After I have determined what character defects
are controlling my behaviors, I have to be willing to have
God remove them; especially the ones I enjoy and that
serve me. Remember I am the problem.
So in the process I learn to work on me and leave the
fault finding to God. After all, He is the most qualified
teacher and I must be the humble student. “God grant me
the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the
courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to
know the difference.”
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