“Above all, love each other deeply”
“Above all, love each other deeply because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
I Peter 4:8
As I’m sure many of you can relate to, the years I spent drinking and doing drugs involved a lot of secrets, lies and manipulation. Some of it I did on purpose, some of it I did mostly unthinking.
It wasn’t until I was working on my first 4th Step (Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of yourself) that I realized how much shame was effecting me, poisoning me, dictating everything I did and said. Shame about my past was controlling me as viciously as alcohol used to.
I did a complete 4th Step, going back through my past in detail, writing down every situation or person that still made me feel uncomfortable, even if it had happened when I was six. Through this process I was able to see that when I was still drinking, the shame I carried about all the “bad” things I had done was what kept me using, and my warped mind categorized the partying under “fun” so I could go on ignoring all my uncomfortable emotions like embarrassment or guilt.
So what relieved me of the shame, you ask. Well, I did Step 5 (Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs). I took my notebook that contained all of my writing for my 4th Step and I went to my Sponsor’s house. My hands shook on the steering wheel as I drove.
My Sponsor and I drank cool mint tea and sat on the floor while I read out loud for several hours, word for word, everything I swore I would never tell another human being. Sometimes I cried, sometimes I laughed. My Sponsor laughed too, though she mostly sat there with a small smile on her face, looking at me and listening without comment.
There were moments where I was absolutely terrified and nearly completely unwilling to tell her a certain resentment or behavior. But the good thing about being an alcoholic and a drug addict is that I rarely do things half way. I made my mouth form the words and release the secrets that had been eating me up inside for years.
I told all the stories of my childhood that still bothered me, like getting rejected by my crush in elementary school and being teased in middle school. I told her the cars and buildings I had vandalized, the boyfriends I had cheated on, the money I had stolen, and all kinds of other small events that would seem like nothing, but actually were something.
As I finished reading out loud my most private thoughts and deeds, many that I have never told anyone, I felt this enormous, all consuming, all pervasive feeling of relief and peace. There’s something magical about telling a secret, whether its good or bad. It was like that car I vandalized, that one night stand, that bracelet I stole… it is all a part of my past, yes, but it is somehow, by the grace of my God, no longer a part of my present.
Doing the Steps helps me understand that everything that has happened to us in our lives has affected us, and all the decisions we make from now on will continue to change and dictate our lives. The 5th Step experience is just another indicator that everything we do, say and consume is important.
I realize that most of the situations and people that I’ve been resentful and embarrassed about for so long, really aren’t important anymore, and aren’t any reason for me to be carrying around shame for another second! I am a good person, and I deserve happiness, respect, love, and success. I let others and my lower ego convince me otherwise for many years.
Even though it was really scary, I did my 4th and 5th step. I gave the results up to my Higher Power as best as I could, hoping beyond all hope, thinking: can I really share this much of myself and not be judged. I looked into my Sponsor’s kind, loving face about halfway through my reading, and I asked, “Do you hate me yet?” She said, “No, I don’t hate you. I love you all the more.”
Oh, to be loved even when sharing darkness.