“We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” I remember hearing this portion of the 9th Step Promises from pages 83-84 of the Big Book in my first days of not drinking. I use the term not drinking for I did not have a clue about what the recovering life could look like at that point in my life. My 29+ years of drinking had come to an embarrassing, painful, anger-filled, and life saving intervention by my boss and others who loved me. As I slowly started hearing how the work of the Twelve Steps could lead to these promises being fulfilled, I thought “maybe for others, but not for me.” I so desperately wanted to SHUT the door on ALL the regrets I had from this past, especially as they impacted my wife, our son, and particularly our daughter.
For 18 years, she had weathered the storms of my alcoholic behavior. The profound depth of those effects came to bear in her teen years. She was the “Mini-Me” most families find occurring in parent/child relationships – a perfectionist, often flares of deep anger, then regret, then despair, back to anger. Although we did not overlay expectations upon her for school work or other activities, she pushed herself harder and deeper. At thirteen, we dragged her, and I mean I literally threw her over my shoulder to drive to the therapist! Her first sessions she refused to leave the car, so she sat in the back seat while the therapist stood next to the slightly cracked open window. This all happened while I was still active in my alcoholism which continued for another five years – because, as you might understand, I was not the problem!
As I continued working the steps to #8 and 9, the amends making was not possible with my daughter. She was one whom we learn of the latter portion of Step 9 “… unless to do so would injure them or others.” She tolerated being in our home because of her love, care, and protection of her mother from me. So I learned, accepted, and PRAYED that in God’s time a window for making my deep amends to her would open. Over the years following in recovery – now 18 years, matching her age when I began this journey – the windows of opportunity cracked open at times. They usually came after she had drunk too much, did something she now regretted, and was wallowing in that valley of feeling worthless that I had known so well. When she opened a little, I would try to share my experience from times just like this in her life, and ask forgiveness for how I had hurt her in this life. Sometimes my amends were heard and grudgingly accepted, and other times vehemently rejected. I accepted her side of the street and did what I knew I could do in becoming a sober man and father she might forgive and embrace someday. I just kept doing the next things as right as I could, and asked for forgiveness when those character defects popped up again. I just kept coming back as best I could, one day after another after another after …
I offer this part of my story this day for on Saturday, October 17, our daughter will celebrate her marriage to a fine man … and I will be walking her down the aisle! Eighteen years ago, and even eight years ago, I am pretty sure I would not have even been invited to be any part of the blessings of this day in her life.
For this reason, I now embrace this promise of the 9th Step … and for that I am grateful!