A spiritual awakening: a member’s Step Eight story
(Chris, Douai Meeting, Autumn 2018)
It seems incredible looking back now, but when I first went through step 8 with my sponsor, I listed only four names! Of these, two were family members and I didn’t include myself. I knew I was suffering from other people. I came to realise that others were suffering from me too. Even I was suffering from my moods. I had written an inventory of over 9000 words, recording hurts and resentments. Everyone else was the cause of my anger and unhappiness. There were a few admissions of wrongs to another, though. Later, I added a self-justifying narrative to deny being too responsible for these action. I did this by listing plausible excuses or, less convincing, claiming I was later proven right.
Perhaps it was too much for me then to face the real reason for my resentments. They stemmed from a prevailing sadness that my relationships with others had been erratic and chaotic. These relationships would start then fail, riddled with misunderstandings. I was lonely and anxious. I envied others, and often felt just confused. On one occasion my younger sister was eating supper and I stubbed out my cigarette on her plate. I really don’t know why I did this. I was powerless. My sister was one of the four persons I had named in step 8 which became for me like a crack in the dam. It was the place where my self-justification narrative would be undermined. Gradually more
names would be revealed. This is the point where for me a spiritual awakening would begin.
I realised then I had a choice: to take ownership of my actions and make amends. The tools of the program helped me to discern what I could change. I saw myself as a victim. I had a difficult childhood; my father left home when I was four, whilst my mum had chronic health issues. Thanks to my older sister taking on responsibility for myself and my younger sister, we were allowed to stay in the home. By the time I experienced adolescence, I began to experience mood swings. These became worse resulting in breakdowns, loss of job, and a stay in hospital. It is hardly surprising, when I took into account the life I had lived. I looked at my list of four names and thought that cannot be right! I realised I had denied much of my past by shutting the door on it as a way of emotionally coping.
I made a new beginning. When I accepted that my behavior had been wrong concerning family relations, I regretted that. I remember being angry with them for no reason. I realized they had been trying to help me, but in my moodiness I did not appreciate this and had misunderstood their motives. I saw the world through a haze of resentments, made worse by my moods, at times paranoid. I recall feeling frightened.
Mistakes in the past can be used like fertiliser in the present.
Not long after completing step 8 my mum entered her final illness which lasted just over a year. During this time I was able to be there for her as she had been for me when I was ill. I was able to make amends. Likewise, I tried to relate to my sisters as best as possible, by being of service, and accepting their differences of opinion without argument. Again, I made amends. Simultaneously, I had a work colleague of many years who died of cancer shortly after her diagnosis. I was there for her too. I had trusted in my Higher Power. I was also helped by the Slogans; “Let go, and let God;” ‘Look for the good;” and “I have a choice.”
Whilst bereavement is a strong emotion, deep down I felt calm because I was glad to have been able to make amends. I was able to let go of past guilt. Rather than passively experience this situation as a victim, I made choices, set the pace. “Just for Today” helped me to accept other people. Step 8 had shown me what I had needed to do. My Higher Power gave me the strength to carry it out. My local EA group accompanied me in this journey, giving me encouragement.
A couple of years later, I went through the steps again with the group. This time when I came to step 8, reviewing the same
period of time, rather than just four names, I listed twenty-five people along with three institutions whom I had wronged. This came as a surprise to me, but it also felt more truthful.
I had grown in honesty and it felt right. Step 8 enabled me to review past relationships and accept more fully my earlier journey. I realised my experiences could be a source of strength for self and others.
Reflections in the Today book show how our mistakes in the past can be used like fertiliser in the present. I no longer felt a need to shut the door on the past. I could now look at the past with gratitude for all it taught me in creating the relationships I have today. I learned how to improve my relations with others. I now find myself rarely alone. Wherever I go, I’m always meeting someone in my growing circle of relationships. At work I have been given more responsibilities, and feel better for it.
The slogans and Just for Todays help me. These are the tools I remember to face challenges each day brings. I never would have thought it until now, but my growth in awareness, in empathy, in an ability to discern and make choices, to establish deep and meaningful relationships, to remain calm in adversity, amounts to a spiritual awakening!
If you would like to share your own experience working the steps, please send it to me here.