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Friday, January 15, 2016

Facing My Behavior - Step 8

Made a list of all those we have harmed and become willing to make amends to them all.

"Do to others as you would have them do to you."
(LUKE 6:31)

I have been sober longer than I drank.  

This does sound fabulous, right?  And it is, truly, a great gift from God.  The woman who was not assured of living longer than 40 is now 60 years old.  She has outlived Michael Jackson and David Bowie and has been sober longer than she drank and did drugs.

I did not start drinking until I was 17 so if I look at my life as blocks of sobriety I had 17 years, found the solution to my inner turmoil and descended into alcoholism.  I sobered up at 36 so now, after 23 years of continuous sobriety (hopefully 24 in May!) I can say the majority of my life has been spent without alcohol or other drugs.  

On the up side, I am in active recovey.  On the down side, most of the stupid things I have done have been done stone cold sober.  I have hurt people I love, I have made really poor choices, I have lied and cheated and manipulated to get my own way.  It wasn't until, at two years of sobriety, I had a spiritual awakening around the Third Step that my life started to change for the better.

Oh I still made mistakes.  Ask anyone who dislikes me and they will be happy to share all those mistakes with you.  However with hardly an exception I have been able to repair my relationships and the two I have not chosen to repair (both members of the 12 step program to which I belong) I did so because they are a danger to my family.

One of the ways I repaired relationships was the 8th step.

It is very difficult to separate the 8th Step from the 9th - in fact, my experience has been that when we try to have a discussion about the 8th Step in a meeting people inevitably share about the 9th.  

I have been blessed in that I was taught very early on that making a complete list of all the people I have harmed would be ego busting and harrowing.  When I make that list, I write next to each name exactly what I did.  Even if I think I did nothing wrong, I pretend I am that person and I write down what they would more than likely say I had done wrong.  It's not easy - I can never really know what another person is thinking - because I also have to explore how my actions affected them.  Did it affect their self-esteem, their security, their peace of mind?  Did I cause them to doubt their own senses or their own eyes?  How did I HARM them?

Having to face the pain I cause allows me, as a Catholic, to look more deeply at how my character defects have shaped my actions.  I have to be willing to admit those defects are still running the show. Once I do that, this Catholic takes herself to the Confessional before any other action is taken.

I believe that Step 8 is one of the most difficult steps to do in the 12 step process.  I believe that Step 8 truly clears the wheat from the chaff and only those who are truly committed to the type of life 12 steps can offer are going to give it their best shot.  

My experience is this:  Step 8 has been the hardest  and there are times I want other people to do it, not just me.  Sometimes I want to hear someone else admit they have hurt me and whenever I get stuck in that loop it is dangerous.  To spend my time waiting for others to work a program is pretty silly.  It might be nice - but it is foolish to wait on it's happening.  

Today I find the 8th Step to be that which allows me to be the grown up I always wanted to be when I was a kid.  I get to walk with grace and dignity.  I get to do that no matter what is happening around me and even when I would give my right big toe to hear a sincere "I'm Sorry' from someone else.

I do the 8th Step because it gives me the tools necessary for self examination at a deep level.  I am grateful for the 8th Step because it helps me develop true empathy for those humans coming into my sphere of existence.  I teach the 8th Step to others because I want them to achieve the goal of independence from the fear of never being able to say I'm Sorry and have it accepted.

For those who have not started this process....please know, I understand....but get to it.

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