Having made our personal
inventory, what shall we do about it? We have been trying to get a
new attitude, a new relationship with our Creator, and to discover
the obstacles in our path. We have admitted certain defects; we
have ascertained in a rough way what the trouble is; we have put
our finger on the weak times in our personal inventory. Now these
are about to be cast out. This requires action on our part, which,
when completed, will mean that we have admitted to God, to
ourselves, and to another human being, the exact nature of our
defects. This brings us to the Fifth Step in the program of
recovery mentioned in the preceding chapter.
This is perhaps difficult,
especially discussing our defects with another person. We think we
have done well enough in admitting these things to ourselves.
There is doubt about that. In actual practice, we usually find a
solitary self-appraisal insufficient. Many of us thought it
necessary to go much further. We will be more reconciled to
discussing ourselves with another person when we see good reasons
why we should do so. The best reason first: If we skip this vital
step, we may not overcome drinking. Time after time newcomers have
tried to keep to themselves certain facts about their lives.
Trying to avoid this humbling experience, they have turned to
easier methods. Almost invariably they got drunk. Having
persevered with the rest of the program, they wondered why they
fell. We think the reason is that they never completed their
housecleaning. They took inventory all right, but hung on to some
of the worst items in stock. They only thought they had
lost their egoism and fear; they only thought they had
humbled themselves. But they had not learned enough of humility,
fearlessness and honesty, in the sense we find it necessary, until
they told someone else all their life story.
More than most people, the
alcoholic leads a double life. He is very much the actor. To the
outer world he presents his stage character. This is the one he
likes his fellows to see. He wants to enjoy a certain reputation,
but knows in his heart he doesn't deserve it.
The inconsistency is made worse
by the things he does on his sprees. Coming to his sense, he is
revolted at certain episodes he vaguely remembers. These memories
are a nightmare. He trembles to think someone might have observed
him. As far as he can, he pushes these memories far inside
himself. He hopes they will never see the light of day. He is
under constant fear and tension, that makes for more drinking.
Psychologists are inclined to
agree with us. We have spent thousands of dollars for
examinations. We know but few instances where we have given these
doctors a fair break. We have seldom told them the whole truth nor
have we followed their advice. Unwilling to be honest with these
sympathetic men, we were honest with no one else. Small wonder
many in the medical profession have a low opinion of alcoholics
and their chance for recovery!
We must be entirely honest with
somebody if we expect to live long or happily in this world.
Rightly and naturally, we think well before we choose the person
or persons with whom to take this intimate and confidential step.
Those of us belonging to a religious denomination which requires
confession must, and of course, will want to go to the properly
appointed authority whose duty it is to receive it. Though we have
no religious conception, we may still do well to talk with someone
ordained by an established religion. We often find such a person
quick to see and understand our problem. Of course, we sometimes
encounter people who do not understand alcoholics.
If we cannot or would rather not
do this, we search our acquaintance for a close-mouthed,
understanding friend. Perhaps our doctor or psychologist will be
the person. It may be one of our own family, but we cannot
disclose anything to our wives or our parents which will hurt them
and make them unhappy. We have no right to save our own skin at
another person's expense. Such parts of our story we tell to
someone who will understand, yet be unaffected. The rule is we
must be hard on ourself, but always considerate of others.
Notwithstanding the great
necessity for discussing ourselves with someone, it may be one is
so situated that there is no suitable person available. If that is
so, this step may be postponed, only, however, if we hold
ourselves in complete readiness to go through with it at the first
opportunity. We say this because we are very anxious that we talk
to the right person. It is important that he be able to keep a
confidence; that he fully understand and approve what we are
driving at; that he will not try to change our plan. But we must
not use this as a mere excuse to postpone.
When we decide who is to hear our
story, we waste not time. We have a written inventory and we are
prepared for a long talk. We explain to our partner what we are
about to do and why we have to do it. He should realize that we
are engaged upon a life-and-death errand. Most people approached
in this way will be glad to help; they will be honored by our
We pocket our pride and go to it,
illuminating every twist of character, every dark cranny of the
past. Once we have taken this step, withholding nothing, we are
delighted. We can look the world in the eye. We can be alone at
perfect peace and ease. Our fears fall from us. We begin to feel
the nearness of our Creator. We may have had certain spiritual
beliefs, but now we begin to have a spiritual experience. The
feeling that the drink problem has disappeared will often come
strongly. We feel we are on the Broad Highway, walking hand in
hand with the Spirit of the Universe.
Returning home we find a place
where we can be quiet for an hour, carefully reviewing what we
have done. We thank God from the bottom of our heart that we know
Him better. Taking this book down from our shelf we turn to the
page which contains the twelve steps. Carefully reading the first
five proposals we ask if we have omitted anything, for we are
building an arch through which we shall walk a free man at last.
Is our work solid so far? Are the stones properly in place? Have
we skimped on the cement put into the foundation? Have we tried to
make mortar without sand? If we can answer to our satisfaction, we
then look at Step Six. We have emphasized willingness as being
indispensable. Are we now ready to let God remove from us all the
things which we have admitted are objectionable? Can He now take
them all, everyone? If we still cling to something we will not let
go, we ask God to help us be willing.
When ready, we say something like this:
"My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me,
good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single
defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to
you and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to
do your bidding. Amen." We have then completed Step Seven.
Now we need more action, without
which we find that "Faith without works is dead." Let's
look at Steps Eight and Nine. We have a list of all persons
we have harmed and to whom we are willing to make amends. We made
it when we took inventory. We subjected ourselves to a drastic
self- appraisal. Now we go out to our fellows and repair the
damage done in the past. We attempt to sweep away the debris which
has accumulated out of our effort to live on self-will and run the
show ourselves. If we haven't the will to do this, we ask until it
comes. Remember it was agreed at the beginning we would go to
any lengths for victory over alcohol.
Probably there are still some
misgivings. As we look over the list of business acquaintances and
friends we have hurt, we may feel diffident about going to some of
them on a spiritual basis. Let us be reassured. To some people we
need not, and probably should not emphasize the spiritual feature
on our first approach. We might prejudice them. At the moment we
are trying to put our lives in order. But this is not an end in
itself. Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum
service to God and the people about us. It is seldom wise to
approach an individual, who still smarts from our injustice to
him, and announce that we have gone religious. In the prize ring,
this would be called leading with the chin. Why lay ourselves open
to being branded fanatics or religious bores? We may kill a future
opportunity to carry a beneficial message. But our man is sure to
be impressed with a sincere desire to set right the wrong. He is
going to be more interested in a demonstration of good will than
in our talk of spiritual discoveries.
We don't use this as an excuse
for shying away from the subject of God. When it will serve any
good purpose, we are willing to announce our convictions with tact
and common sense. The question of how to approach the man we hated
will arise. It may be he has done us more harm than we have done
him and, though we may have acquired a better attitude toward him,
we are still not too keen about admitting our faults.
Nevertheless, with a person we dislike, we take the bit in our
teeth. It is harder to go to an enemy than to a friend, but we
find it much more beneficial to us. We go to him in a helpful and
forgiving spirit, confessing our former ill feeling and expressing
Under no condition do we
criticize such a person or argue. Simply tell him that we will
never get over drinking until we have done our utmost to
straighten out the past. We are there to sweep off our side of the
street, realizing that nothing worth while can be accomplished
until we do so, never trying to tell him what he should do. His
faults are not discussed. We stick to our own. If our manner is
calm, frank, and open, we will be gratified with the result.
In nine cases out of ten the
unexpected happens. Sometimes the man we are calling upon admits
his own fault, so feuds of years' standing melt away in an hour.
Rarely do we fail to make satisfactory progress. Our former
enemies sometimes praise what we are doing and wish us well.
Occasionally, they will offer assistance. It should not matter,
however, if someone does throw us out of his office. We have made
our demonstration, done our part. It's water over the dam.
Most alcoholics owe money. We do
not dodge our creditors. Telling them what we are trying to do, we
make no bones about our drinking; they usually know it anyway,
whether we think so or not. Nor are we afraid of disclosing our
alcoholism on the theory it may cause financial harm. Approached
in this way, the most ruthless creditor will sometimes surprise
us. Arranging the best deal we can we let these people know we are
sorry. Our drinking has made us slow to pay. We must lose our fear
of creditors no matter how far we have to go, for we are liable to
drink if we are afraid to face them.
Perhaps we have committed a
criminal offense which might land us in jail if it were known to
the authorities. We may be short in our accounts and unable to
make good. We have already admitted this in confidence to another
person, but we are sure we would be imprisoned or lose our job if
it were known. Maybe it's only a petty offense such as padding the
expense account. Most of us have done that sort of thing. Maybe we
are divorced, and have remarried but haven't kept up the alimony
to number one. She is indignant about it, and has a warrant out
for our arrest. That's a common form of trouble too.
Although these reparations take
innumerable forms, there are some general principles which we find
guiding. Reminding ourselves that we have decided to go to any
lengths to find a spiritual experience, we ask that we be given
strength and direction to do the right thing, no matter what the
personal consequences may be. We may lose our position or
reputation or face jail, but we are willing. We have to be. We
must not shrink at anything.
Usually, however, other people
are involved. Therefore, we are not to be the hasty and foolish
martyr who would needlessly sacrifice others to save himself from
the alcoholic pit. A man we know had remarried. Because of
resentment and drinking, he had not paid alimony to his first
wife. She was furious. She went to court and got an order for his
arrest. He had commenced our way of life, had secured a position,
and was getting his head above water. It would have been
impressive heroics if he had walked up to the Judge and said,
"Here I am."
We thought he ought to be willing
to do that if necessary, but if he were in jail he could provide
nothing for either family. We suggested he write his first wife
admitting his faults and asking forgiveness. He did, and also sent
a small amount of money. He told her what he would try to do in
the future. He said he was perfectly willing to go to jail is she
insisted. Of course she did not, and the whole situation has only
since been adjusted. Before taking drastic action which might
implicate other people we secure their consent. If we have
obtained permission, have consulted with others, asked God to help
and the drastic step is indicated we must not shrink.
This brings to mind a story about
one of our friends. While drinking, he accepted a sum of money
from a bitterly-hated business rival, giving him no receipt for
it. He subsequently denied having received the money and used the
incident as a basis for discrediting the man. He thus used his own
wrong- doing as a means of destroying the reputation of another.
In fact, his rival was ruined.
He felt that he had done a wrong
he could not possibly make right. If he opened that old affair, he
was afraid it would destroy the reputation of his partner,
disgrace his family and take away his means of livelihood. What
right had he to involve those dependent upon him? How could he
possibly make a public statement exonerating his rival?
After consulting with his wife
and partner he came to the conclusion that it was better to take
those risks than to stand before his Creator guilty of such
ruinous slander. He saw that he had to place the outcome in God's
hands or he would soon start drinking again, and all would be lost
anyhow. He attended church for the first time in many years. After
the sermon, he quietly got up and made an explanation. His action
met widespread approval, and today he is one of the most trusted
citizens of his town. This all happened years ago.
The chances are that we have
domestic troubles. Perhaps we are mixed up with women in a fashion
we wouldn't care to have advertised. We doubt if, in this respect,
alcoholics are fundamentally much worse that other people. But
drinking does complicate sex relations in the home. After a few
years with an alcoholic, a wife get worn out, resentful and
uncommunicative. How could she be anything else? The husband
begins to feel lonely, sorry for himself. He commences to look
around in the night clubs, or their equivalent, for something
besides liquor. Perhaps he is having a secret and exciting affair
with "the girl who understands." In fairness we must say
that she may understand, but what are we going to do about a thing
like that? A man so involved often feels very remorseful at times,
especially if he is married to a loyal and courageous girl who has
literally gone through hell for him.
Whatever the situation, we
usually have to do something about it. If we are sure our wife
does not know, should we tell here? Not always, we think. If she
knows in a general way that we have been wild, should we tell her
it detail? Undoubtedly we should admit our fault. She may insist
on knowing all the particulars. She will want to know who the
woman is and where she is. We feel we ought to say to her that we
have no right to involve another person. We are sorry for what we
have done and, God willing, it shall not be repeated. More than
that we cannot do; we have no right to go further. Though there
may be justifiable exceptions, and though we wish to lay down no
rule of any sort, we have often found this the best course to
Our design for living is not a
one-way street. It is as good for the wife as for the husband. If
we can forget, so can she. It is better, however, that one does
not needlessly name a person upon whom she can vent jealousy.
Perhaps there are some cases
where the utmost frankness is demanded. No outsider can appraise
such an intimate situation. It may be that both will decide that
the way of good sense and loving kindness is to let by-gones be
by-gones. Each might pray about it, having the other one's
happiness uppermost in mind. Keep it always in sight that we are
dealing with that most terrible human emotion, jealousy. Good
generalship may decide that the problem be attacked on the flank
rather than risk a face-to- face combat.
If we have no such complication,
there is plenty we should do at home. Sometimes we hear an
alcoholic say that the only thing he needs to do is to keep sober.
Certainly he must keep sober, for there will be no home if he
doesn't. But he is yet a long way from making good to the wife or
parents whom for years he has so shockingly treated. Passing all
understanding is the patience mothers and wives have had with
alcoholics. Had this not been so, many of us would have no homes
today, would perhaps be dead.
The alcoholic is like a tornado
roaring his way through the lives of others. Hearts are broken.
Sweet relationships are dead. Affections have been uprooted.
Selfish and inconsiderate habits have kept he home in turmoil. We
feel a man is unthinking when he says that sobriety is enough. He
is like the farmer who came up out of his cyclone cellar to find
his home ruined. To his wife, he remarked, "Don't see
anything the matter here, Ma. Ain't it grand the wind stopped
blowin'?" Yes, there is a long period of reconstruction
ahead. We must take the lead. A remorseful mumbling that we are
sorry won't fill the bill at all. We ought to sit down with the
family and frankly analyze the past as we now see it, being very
careful not to criticize them. Their defects may be glaring, but
the chances are that our own actions are partly responsible. So we
clean house with the family, asking each morning in meditation
that our Creator show us the way of patience, tolerance,
kindliness and love.
The spiritual life is not a
theory. We have to live it. Unless one's family expresses a
desire to live upon spiritual principles we think we ought not to
urge them. We should not talk incessantly to them about spiritual
matters. They will change in time. Our behavior will convince them
more than our words. We must remember that ten or twenty years of
drunkenness would make a skeptic out of anyone.
There may be some wrongs we can
never fully right. We don't worry about them if we can honestly
say to ourselves that we would right them if we could. Some people
cannot be seen - we sent them an honest letter. And there may be a
valid reason for postponement in some cases. But we don't delay if
it can be avoided. We should be sensible, tactful, considerate and
humble without being servile or scraping. As God's people we stand
on our feet; we don't crawl before anyone.
If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will
be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a
new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor
wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity
and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have
gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That
feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose
interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.
Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon
life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will
leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which
used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for
us what we could not do for ourselves.
Are these extravagant promises?
We think not. They are being fulfilled among us, sometimes
quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if
we work for them.
This thought brings us to Step
Ten, which suggests we continue to take personal inventory and
continue to set right any new mistakes as we go along. We
vigorously commenced this way of living as we cleaned up the past.
We have entered the world of the Spirit. Our next function is to
grow in understanding and effectiveness. This is not an overnight
matter. It should continue for our lifetime. Continue to watch for
selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear. When these crop up,
we ask God at once to remove them. We discuss them with someone
immediately and make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone. Then
we resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help. Love and
tolerance of others is our code.
And we have ceased fighting
anything or anyone, even alcohol. For by this time sanity will
have returned. We will seldom be interested in liquor. If tempted,
we recoil from it as from a hot flame. We react sanely and
normally, and we will find that this has happened automatically.
We will see that our new attitude toward liquor has been given us
without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is
the miracle of it. We are not fighting it, neither are we avoiding
temptation. We feel as though we had been placed in a position of
neutrality safe and protected. We have not even sworn off.
Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for us.
We are neither cocky nor are we afraid. That is how we react so
long as we keep in fit spiritual condition.
It is easy to let up on the
spiritual program of action and rest on our laurels. We are headed
for trouble if we do, for alcohol is a subtle foe. We are not
cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve
contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition. Every
day is a day when we must carry the vision of God's will into all
of our activities. "How can I best serve Thee, Thy will (not
mine) be done." These are thoughts which must go with us
constantly. We can exercise our will power along this line all we
wish. It is the proper use of the will.
Much has already been said about
receiving strength, inspiration, and direction from Him who has
all knowledge and power. If we have carefully followed directions,
we have begun to sense the flow of His Spirit into us. To some
extent we have become God-conscious. We have begun to develop this
vital sixth sense. But we must go further and that means more
Step Eleven suggests
prayer and meditation. We shouldn't be shy on this matter of
prayer. Better men than we are using it constantly. It works, if
we have the proper attitude and work at it. It would be easy to be
vague about this matter. Yet, we believe we can make some definite
and valuable suggestions.
When we retire at night, we
constructively review our day. Were we resentful, selfish,
dishonest or afraid? Do we owe an apology? Have we kept something
to ourselves which should be discussed with another person at
once? Were we kind and loving toward all? What could we have done
better? Were we thinking of ourselves most of the time? Or were we
thinking of what we could do for others, of what we could pack
into the stream of life? But we must be careful not to drift into
worry, remorse or morbid reflection, for that would diminish our
usefulness to others. After making our review we ask God's
forgiveness and inquire what corrective measures should be taken.
On awakening let us think about
the twenty-four hours ahead. We consider our plans for the day.
Before we begin, we ask God to direct our thinking, especially
asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or
self-seeking motives. Under these conditions we can employ our
mental faculties with assurance, for after all God gave us brains
to use. Our thought- life will be placed on a much higher plane
when our thinking is cleared of wrong motives.
In thinking about our day we may
face indecision. We may not be able to determine which course to
take. Here we ask God for inspiration, an intuitive thought or a
decision. We relax and take it easy. We don't struggle. We are
often surprised how the right answers come after we have tried
this for a while. What used to be the hunch or the occasional
inspiration gradually becomes a working part of the mind. Being
still inexperienced and having just made conscious contact with
God, it is not probable that we are going to be inspired at all
times. We might pay for this presumption in all sorts of absurd
actions and ideas. Nevertheless, we find that our thinking will,
as time passes, be more and more on the plane of inspiration. We
come to rely upon it.
We usually conclude the period of
meditation with a prayer that we be shown all through the day what
our next step is to be, that we be given whatever we need to take
care of such problems. We ask especially for freedom from
self-will, and are careful to make no request for ourselves only.
We may ask for ourselves, however, if others will be helped. We
are careful never to pray for our own selfish ends. Many of us
have wasted a lot of time doing that and it doesn't work. You can
easily see why.
If circumstances warrant, we ask
our wives or friends to join us in morning meditation. If we
belong to a religious denomination which requires a definite
morning devotion, we attend to that also. If not members of
religious bodies, we sometimes select and memorize a few set
prayers which emphasize the principles we have been discussing.
There are many helpful books also. Suggestions about these may be
obtained from one's priest, minister, or rabbi. Be quick to see
where religious people are right. Make use of what they offer.
As we go through the day we
pause, when agitated or doubtful, and ask for the right thought or
action. We constantly remind ourselves we are no longer running
the show, humbly saying to ourselves many times each day "Thy
will be done." We are then in much less danger of excitement,
fear, anger, worry, self-pity, or foolish decisions. We become
much more efficient. We do not tire so easily, for we are not
burning up energy foolishly as we did when we were trying to
arrange life to suit ourselves.
It works - it really does.
We alcoholics are undisciplined.
So we let God discipline us in the simple way we have just
outlined. But this is not all. There is action and more action.
"Faith without works is dead." The next chapter is
entirely devoted to Step Twelve.
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