“We are as sick as our secrets”
|Which Feelings Need Addressing & is Step 10 enough? I woke up in the middle of the night with an intense feeling of impending doom. I felt like I was somehow in a position where I had no safety. I felt like I was dangling miles high in the air with no safety net. In my heart and mind I must be putting my well-being in the hands of the wrong thing. It is not uncommon to sub-consciously put our faith into a cigarette or a pill while in recovery from a traumatic addiction. When in that addiction our neuro-pathways had been trained to take the direction where drinking is a solution. Sometimes in recovery our brain takes a wrong turn if you will. All we need do is put our faith back on the right neuro-road where we depend on our spiritual God rather than a person, place, or earthly thing. When I was a very young child I remember having an intense realization that one day I would die. It frightened me because there is no earthly solution for death. It prompted me to seek and connect with my Higher Power.
When I experience impending doom all I have to do is pray and tell my Higher Power how I feel (fear) and remember that He/She/It does have my back and the feeling of fear will leave me. Maybe it was the prospect of death itself that haunted me. Perhaps I had awoken from a nightmare that I don’t remember. Do I need to write a fear list? If the feeling does not let-up by prayer alone then “Yes” back to Step Four!
The fear list is an important part of our on-going maintenance in sobriety. You will find the directions for it in Step Four of the big book. “But that’s Step Four I should be over that!”….So some say. However my experience is in the matter of emotional sobriety and overcoming grave emotional disorder I revisit the fourth step as often as needed and Step Ten is far from enough maintenance to keep my emotions in check.
In Step Ten the book reads that we are pretty much cured of regarding drink & drug as a solution, this is true to any extent. “The problem has been removed, it does not exist for us.” However emotions and emotional sobriety are another matter, if I don’t stay emotionally balanced I will eventually see alcohol as a solution. Absolutely we do “recoil” from alcohol if we work the steps but will we “recoil” from being self-destructive or hurting others? Or will we just switch to another self-destructive habit?
STEP TEN-“Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”
This is a very limited prospect of which is useless without the rest of the 12 steps.
Step ten works good enough for a quick apology or when simple self-acknowledgement of a defect then a little prayer will resolve resentment, shame, guilt or fear but if it doesn’t rectify my deep negative feelings a little more work may be necessary even though I have worked the steps thoroughly. Truly Step Ten is not much of anything without the rest of the 12 Steps actively in place in our lives. Furthermore without prayer and meditation we are usually not spiritually fit enough to take our own inventory anyway.
Do I have any unresolved resentments I ask myself? If so I need to pray for that person and if that doesn’t work I do a step four and five including “my part” and not eliminating “wrongs done to me” and how both of those have made me feel. If it brings up deep feelings I let myself feel them and I cry.
If I have a reoccurring memory of an event in my past and it is attached to an intense feeling; that is when prayer is not usually enough. That does not mean I don’t pray. It just means that there is something in my past that I need to explore with an empathic listener who can hopefully relate to the event. I write down what happened. Have I wronged anyone? Do I feel guilt or shame? Remember our heart does not have to make sense it just needs to express itself, raw, & without editing. I share my feelings with a listener whom will neither shut me down, shame me, nor invalidate me for my feelings.
Staying disconnected from our feelings is an old survival skill that worked. To truly process core feelings we need to connect with them 100% and write, cry, scream, talk, moan, run, or even punch (the bag, pillow) them out.
Let’s face it folks some AA, NA members are in the business of invalidation. These members will always look for the differences instead of the similarities. Furthermore they will look for the “wrong” in anything you propose to them. This may work for some people…but blame is a principle of co-dependency not a principle of healing in recovery.
Do I feel dirty, wrong, and bad? We must not allow our intellect to cloud our fourth step by invalidation. Admitting core feelings like “bad, dirty, wrong, disgusting, or cheap sounds embarrassing but these are the common human feelings that surface after living an addicted life. These deep feelings need to come out or they will make us sick. Let’s face it not only have most of us crossed our own moral boundaries when in addiction but we also have core issues that need addressing from childhood. Oftentimes adults taught us that we were just plain “wrong” and that we don’t even have a right to be who we are and feel how we feel.
Remember we in recovery usually reach out for some secondary dependencies or lesser addictions when we get sober. You won’t hear it talked about in the rooms much but that’ what we do.
There are two kinds of people in AA those who struggle and admit it and those who struggle and don’t talk about it. We certainly don’t struggle at all times and we do reach a place of peace if we work the steps but we are never finished doing the work while human and alive.
Do not be too hard on yourself for that is a character defect within itself! Come on folks! We are all doing the best we can for right now. From what I have experienced in Narcotics Anonymous the way they sometimes ostracize fellows for secondary addictions it feeds into the sickness of keeping secrets, repressing emotions, and feeds our shame issues. Some groups forbid members to chair meetings if they are on much needed psyche meds or pain meds even non-narcotic meds. Intolerance and a lack of acceptance for others and their personal medicinal status is just that…a lack of understanding and empathy.
In recovery we often struggle with sick relationships (co-dependency), cigarettes, food, sexual promiscuity, anger issues, even your non-narcotic prescription drugs…nevertheless we are doing way better than we were before AA and the 12 steps. Do not think that your recovery is counterfeit if you struggle with one of these? Believe me we all struggle at times. You will find that when one of us overcomes ALL of our little crutches we then become highly judgmental, and our control issues hit their highest peaks. It’s always something! Not a justification just fact. Best we accept ourselves and other as human and remember “OUT OF THE PROBLEM INTO THE SOLUTION”!
Disclaimer: Oftentimes people in recovery from addictions, usually men do not need to ever return to a fourth step after doing it once, they don’t need to talk about their feelings, nor do they need an empathic listener. They are emotionally and spiritually healthy. These type fellows have either had an intense spiritual healing experience or they have gone to therapy for a year or more and worked through their core emotional issues, or have done both.
Alcoholism in itself is traumatic experience to our hearts and minds. My suggestions in the following articles are for those in recovery who have a knowledge of the 12 steps and have had trauma in their past and are in need of an emotional healing from that.