The Promises that appear in the Big Book after Step Nine are presented as a payoff from the work done in the preceding steps. That effort includes an inventory, admission of character defects, and righting wrongs to the best of our ability. Recently, I have witnessed several heartbreaking events that resulted from not conducting a thorough review or not facing character defects. Each time, the phrases “We will not regret the past…” and “…we will see how our experience can benefit others” were running through my head because they were not true for the individuals that were hurting. I had to stop and review why they were for me.
My late sponsor, Janie, saved me from myself by pushing me through the first nine steps. The fear of opening the door on the wreckage of my past almost killed me. Those doors held back shame, guilt, humiliation, degradation, and every secret I drank away. They also held me hostage, endangering my very fragile sobriety. And yet I desperately wanted what she had, so onward we marched! She cared more about my sobriety than my feelings. We stuck to a firm schedule until I had completed the step through my first round of amends in Step Nine. It was years later before I understood completely the necessity of not setting up camp in the wreckage but going through to recovery.
The chapter in the Big Book where these Promises appear is aptly named “Into Action.” Opening the doors on my past brought sunlight to a place where there had only been darkness. For me, it was the beginning of a healing process that accompanied my recovery even today. At the age of 20, I entered the rooms motivated only to stop the overt death spiral my life had become and had no belief that recovery was possible.
The Promises did come true and have become more of a constant companion to me instead of a fleeting moment. It has taken work, trust, faith, hope, prayer, and time to lose the feelings of regret. It is a gift from God and the steps that my past does not continue to create tragic stories for me. I am not haunted by the wreckage of my drinking or the mistakes from my 27 years of sobriety. I use the tools in the steps to make necessary course corrections immediately. That was Janie’s gift to me, and my gift to others I meet along the way.
So, if you are holding back, not quite ready to “Clear away the wreckage of your past,” consider that we are with you in the “Fellowship of the Spirit.” You are not alone!