by Michael W. (Sullivan 1999)
I ruthlessly faced my sins and became willing to have my new-found Friend take them away, root and branch.
~ Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 13
The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous show me a new way to live – a life I could never have imagined while I was actively in my addiction. Today my life is full of wonder, peace, serenity, honesty, willingness and humility. Our co-founder Dr. Robert Smith issued a very profound admonition when he stated “Keep it Simple.”
I keep my life simple by working the 12 Steps on a daily basis. When I began my journey in sobriety my sponsor was adamant that I do the steps in the order they are written and as quickly as possible. So it was that I completely surrendered 100% to Step 1, the knowledge that I was powerless and my life unmanageable.
Step 2 offered me an answer as to where I might find the necessary power I would need to overcome my alcoholism. It suggested I might find a Power Greater than myself. The improper use of my own self-will had brought me to the brink of death. I was to align my will with the will of a Power Greater than me. One night as I lay awake thinking what this Power might be, a very soft voice whispered to me “Look in your heart; it is there you will find me.” This was a pivotal point in my recovery. I now knew a God of my understanding. He was a feeling, not a thought. I stood at the door of Step 3.
Quite simply I made a decision in the affirmative that I would give my will and life over to “my new-found Friend” (God as I understand Him). I had opened the door with the key of willingness. Willingness that He should have all of me. That I would go to any length.
I found myself pondering greatly this Step 4 that many seemed to wince at when the suggestion was made that we must now look at ourselves and make a searching and fearless personal inventory. I had heard nightmarish stories of members who upon looking at the wrongs they had done had simply “gone back out,” not being able to face their past. Again my sponsor said to me, “Michael, there is no right or wrong way to do this step. Put what you perceive as the most glaring liabilities on paper, then share them with another.”
I have done extensive research on early A.A. Dr. Bob would take newcomers through the steps in approximately four hours. Dr. Bob took Duke P. (sobriety date: August 15, 1940) through his fourth and fifth steps in about an hour. Dr. Bob told Duke to “Keep it simple and lubricate with love.” I wondered at how Dr. Bob had done this. It seems that Dr. Bob’s method of taking members through the steps elicited a 75% success rate in 1945.
With this in mind and my curiosity piqued, I looked further into the reason for AA’s past success. I found my answer in what was then and is still today called the Beginners Meetings. Members are taken through all 12 Steps in four one-hour sessions. I found one of these meetings in my area and attended.
Dr. Bob utilized an assets and liabilities checklist adopted from the Oxford Group. This checklist contains the liabilities on one side: resentment, fear, selfishness, dishonesty, false pride, jealousy, envy and procrastination. On the other side of the list we find their opposite: the assets of forgiveness, faith, unselfishness, honesty, humility, trust, contentment and action. Our program suggests that in working the steps we turn from living a life of self-consciousness to life of God-consciousness. The liabilities in the list are a result of self-will; the assets are God’s will for us.
I chose my sponsor as the person I would speak to regarding my shortcomings. Being that I was the sicker of the two, he did the writing. We started with reciting the 4th Step prayer and then proceeded. All of my defects and my part in them were put on paper, I talked them out and when we were done we reviewed the checklist. The liabilities/defects side were what I needed to watch for and the assets/credits were what I needed to strive for. Upon completion of my inventory, I felt a great burden had been lifted from me.
Today after many 24 hours one day at a time I work with others and work the 4th Step in this way. I and a fellow member or members perform this step on a monthly basis. It is a wonderful foundation 4th Step as Dr. Bob meant it to be. He kept it simple and I do my best to follow his recommendation. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to do this step. Just do it.
I thank you all for your lives, may God bless and keep you and Alcoholics Anonymous forever.