I grew up in a denomination where I went to confession and received forgiveness. I didn’t have to go back to anyone and say I was sorry (I probably wasn’t) unless a teacher or parent (mother) told me to do so.
Step five was a new experience of “confession” as were steps eight and nine. Now I had to continue to do this?
After a few years of going to meetings for all the wrong reasons and not drinking, I slowly began to work the steps as a program of recovery. It took a while for me to understand that I did not just “do the steps” one time and that was it. This program, I learned, is not about not drinking but rather it is about living - living every day as a healthy human being. What I had been told before was beginning to make sense: “Seamus, if you’re not living the program you’re not working the steps.” This is a daily program that helps keep me alive as opposed to staying in a Dry Drunk modality.
Taking an ongoing personal inventory was an interesting experience. Even though I had ceased to drink, my old attitudes -character defects- were not that easy to break. But then, this is where God, my Higher Power, removes the Character Defects when I put myself in situations and the Higher Powers whispers “this is a good time to say “I’m sorry” or “You could simply say “I am wrong. I apologize.”
One instance stands out in my memory: I really did not to want to go back into the restaurant and tell that bunch of teenagers I was wrong when I told them to relocate from being near ‘my table’ and go sit in the smoking section. As I left the restaurant, it was pointed out to me that I was in the wrong; the kids were sitting where they should have been. I continued to the car.
My Higher Power began to talk to me, .and I argued back: Those kids were only too glad to see me gone. What difference would it make for me to go in and apologize? It’s raining; I don’t want to have to get out of the car again. I turned off the ignition, went back in, walked to where the youth had relocated and told them: “Guys, I was wrong in telling you to move. I was seated in the wrong place. I’m sorry for the way I behaved.” They sat almost frozen wondering, I’m sure, if this old man was “normal.” Perhaps I may have been the first adult to apologize to them. Back in the car I really did feel better. How often now do I have to do this?
Well, as of this writing, I am in the program some thirty-nine years, and I don’t have to apologize anywhere near as frequently as I did when I began to work the eleventh step. I got sick and tired of apologizing, so I learned to watch what I said and what I did. Those character defects were now becoming much clearer to me and, more often than not, I’d catch them before the words and actions took place.
A personal inventory became like making my bed when I got up; like having that first cup of coffee in the morning. It became a way of life as in living the program and in living the program I automatically worked the step.
The personal inventory keeps me balanced. I am a good person who makes mistakes. My mistakes have their roots in the Character defects and so by keeping a check on the character defects I have fewer mistakes. However, I am human and there are those times when I get Too Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired (HALT). Thanks to the program, when I now make a mistake I can laugh at myself, own it, apologize if necessary, and Guilt and Shame no longer overwhelm me. I am a good person who makes mistakes; it’s okay to be human.
Continuing to take a personal inventory has – like breathing - like opening my eyes to see the world around me - become a way of life. Making amends, becoming at-one (atone) with self, God and others keeps me humble and happy and for this I am grateful to Bill, Bob, and all those who have helped me work the steps till I learned to live the program.