Posts tagged Step 4

Doing Step 4

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One of my newer sponsees is just starting to do her 4th Step.  She tells me that she’s had two other sponsors who didn’t give her direction and guidance on doing the 4th Step, nor did they give her any deadline by which to finish the Step.

While these aren’t an excuse, what I’ve learned from experience is that it’s helpful to actively move through the action or process of doing the Steps with the people I sponsor.  My first sponsor did that with me and it helped me process through the Steps and make progress.  This particular woman felt lost, confused and had been overthinking the 4th Step for many months, over 2 years, with two different sponsors.  When I told her she had a week to do the inventory for Step 4 she thought she’d heard me incorrectly.  I assured her that she heard correctly.  The reason for this instruction is that it’s important to get through this particular exercise as briskly and thoroughly as possible.  Once we start the process, information comes to us quickly.  Then, we take the next week to see what else floats to the surface that we didn’t recall during our intentional action of doing the inventory.  The act of seeking the information starts a process in the brain that can continue involuntarily over the next several days bringing more memories to our awareness that we’d long forgotten.  After this following week of letting memories percolate to the surface of her awareness, we’ll proceed to the 5th Step.

I suggest also, that sponsees inform family members and spouses that they will be doing some work that may lead them to seem a bit anxious or out of sorts at times over the next few weeks.  If the sponsee doesn’t catch themselves in a , their family members can also gently alert them, with a predetermined phrase, and the sponsee can call their sponsor or another member of 12 Step programs for support and help to process any upset so that it isn’t impacting loved ones at home.  We are responsible for our actions through the process of doing the Steps too.  The process isn’t meant to happen at other people’s expense during this or any other phase.  It’s a journey, and we are not alone.  Many have gone before us.

The brevity of the two week time span also offers us a target date, a light at the end of the tunnel.  It limits the amount of time that one spends in the recall of actions and feelings that we’re not proud of or enjoying thinking about again.  Remember, Step 4 inventory is who we aren’t.  We call these memories forth as a tool to honestly face our past – where we became lost – and to help us later right our wrongs, our mistakes, so that we can move forward unencumbered by the guilt, shame, embarassment, anxiety and discomfort we feel at the thought of them.  The end result is we have a spiritual awakening and we become happy, joyous and free as the Big Book promises – as a result of doing these Steps.

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 Affirmation for the Day – ” I am willing to grow.”

Remember to say the affirmation at least 3 times whenever you remember it, preferably in front of a mirror.

Course In Miracles Lesson – Let all things be exactly as they are.

Practice – In Let me not be Your critic, Lord, today, and judge against You.  Let me not attempt to interfere with Your creation and distort it into sickly forms.  Let me be willing to withdraw my wishes from its unity and thus to let it be as You created it.  For thus will I be able too, to recognize my Self as You created me.  In love was I created, and in love  will I remain forever.  What can frighten me when I let all things be exactly as they are? 

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Who We Aren’t

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Step 4 seems daunting and so undesirable to many of us.  When contemplating going forward with Step 4 we often cringe, resist, avoid and justify delaying the process. 

At our recent conference one of the inspirational speakers described Step 4 as an inventory of  “Who we aren’t.”  He talked about how we came here pure and clean, with everything that we need – as children of God.  I like that description.  It’s seems true.  And we can be restored.  We didn’t come here hoping to disappoint, hurt and betray ourselves and those we love.  We came here to the planet in baby form – pure, innocent, loving, connected to our Higher Power and with a wonder for life.  When people saw us they smiled – and we smiled back.  Babies and baby animals cause wonder and make people happy when they see them – could it be because others sense the unblemished, sweet connection we have with our Higher Power when we arrive?  I like to think so.

If that could possibly be true, then Step 4 can be who we aren’t, which makes me more attracted to doing it, as soon as possible.  As thoroughly as possible.  Happily, actually.  I did a 4th Step on my marriage recently.  Despite working Step 10 avidly previously, there were some events and behaviors and words uncovered which are not who I am – or who I want to be.  It was helpful and gratifying to discover these areas where harm was caused to my spouse so I can make amends.  What a relief to know that my side of the street is as clean as possible so I can be of maximum service as a partner with the person I chose to love and share my life with.  My daily goal is to show my spouse the person my Higher Power sent me here to be.  Who I am.  What a blessing to have that choice.

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Affirmation for the Day – ” I am a loving child of the Universe.”

Remember to say the affirmation at least 3 times whenever you remember it, preferably in front of a mirror.

Course In Miracles Lesson –  I am not a body, I am free.  For I am still as God created me.  I choose the joy of God instead of pain.

Practice – I am not a body, I am free.  For I am still as God created me.  I choose the joy of God instead of pain.  Pain is my own idea.  It is not a thought of God, but one I thought apart from Him and from His Will.  His Will is joy and only joy for His beloved Children, and that I choose instead of what I made.

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Doing Steps/Decluttering

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I’ve been decluttering our home lately and the parallels with doing the 12 Steps have become apparent to me.

Both our living areas and the basement are part of this decluttering project.  It’s amazing how many unnecessary items we’ve accumulated in the past few years.  Household goods, gifts that people have given, (mostly nicknacks) clothing and lots of paper that could have been gone through more regularly, but wasn’t.  The process of decluttering is about sorting, deciding if things will stay or go, and then creating functional order with what is left so that our home is easy to live in.  Although the process is still underway, I already feel lighter, more comfortable and relaxed in our home.  I also feel proud of myself for doing this work as it’s been quite a challenge for me.  While most of it has been tackled on my own, with the paperwork I’ve sought advice on whether it’s necessary to keep certain documents.  With some clothing, friends have helped me decide yes or no.  Most of the excess has been cleaned and packed up for a local nonprofit so it can benefit others.  That feels good.  The house looks good.  The basement looks better, but there’s more to address – one day at a time.

As with doing Step work, the decluttering was overwhelming at first, but taking one room at a time, in order helped keep my anxiety low and showed results sooner.  That’s how we’re meant to do the 12 Steps, in order, a day at a time with help from our sponsors.  We start to see results soon.  It can be surprising.  But, as we persist with humility and courage we eliminate the behaviors, the unhelpful habits that have cluttered up our lives and made them dysfunctional.  At a recent convention the 12 Step speaker talked about how doing Steps 4 and 5 help us get rid of “who we aren’t.”  Isn’t that great?!  We take inventory and identify who we aren’t and don’t want to be.  When we let it go in Steps 6 and 7, we start to create the space for our Higher Power to remind us of who we are – “pure, clean and with everything we need,” to live a productive, happy life that we can feel good about.  We had only forgotten who we are because all of that clutter was in the way.  Now we have the opportunity to see again, feel more comfortable with us and be of service.  The freedom referred to in The Promises.  It’s worth the discomfort, time and effort of the process, and it creates the space for miracles to fill our lives.

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Affirmation for the Day – ” I am feeling more comfortable in all situations.”

Remember to say the affirmation at least 3 times whenever you remember it, preferably in front of a mirror.

Course In Miracles Lesson –  I am not a body, I am free.  For I am still as God created me.

Practice – I am not a body, I am free.  For I am still as God created me.  I trust my sisters and brothers who are one with me.

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You Don’t Have To Like It

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When anticipating doing my first 4th Step, I called my sponsor for help because of my frustration about the process.  I wasn’t liking the prospect of making this list, and it was keeping me from going forward.  At news of this she very gently said,  “Oh, you don’t have to like it, you just have to do it.”

Those simple words were such a relief to me.  I’d been feeling like a bad person just because I didn’t want to do what the Step called for, and was waiting until some sense of comfort with the Step appeared before starting my list.  My sponsor’s words freed me up to do the list no matter how I felt about it. 

Just getting started on it began to change my feelings about it somewhat.  It didn’t take nearly as long as expected – imagine that?  And, the more I worked on it, the more things came to mind to add to the list – so I knew it would be thorough.  Others have told me they’ve had the same relief just knowing they can dislike Step 4, as long as they do it.  The program works in mysterious ways – and it works.

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Affirmation for the Day – ” I love and approve of myself.”

Remember to say the affirmation at least 3 times whenever you remember it, preferably in front of a mirror.

Course In Miracles Lesson – The world I see has nothing that I want.

Practice – This will not tempt me to delay myself.  The world I see has nothing that I want.

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Working Step 4 – First Things First

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Several women I know are doing their 4th Step.  They’re all approaching it in a different way.  Some think about working on their list, but keep putting it off each day.  One is taking a workshop on the 4th Step and wants to wait until she finishes it before she starts making her list.  Others are scheduling time into their calendars for their 4th Steps. 

What I’m noticing is that the women making the most progress are intentionally scheduling the 4th Step into their week.  They may not finish during the time allotted, however, they just scedule more time later in their week with the goal to finish as much as possible.  Making time to do what is a priority seems to be working for them.

I remember seeing the slogan ” First Things First,” frequently at meetings.  Perhaps this is an area where we can apply that simple refrain.  While the willingness to do a 4th Step is evident in all of these women, I’m grateful to be learning from them what seems to be the most successful approach with this task.  It’s a good life lesson to see the greater success with those who actually schedule or “make time” for what matters – priorities – into our days.

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Affirmation for the Day – ” I am making good progress.”

Remember to say the affirmation at least 3 times whenever you remember it, preferably in front of a mirror.

Course In Miracles Lesson – God’s peace and joy are mine.  Let me be still and listen to the truth.

Practice – God’s peace and joy are mine. – on the hour.  Let me be still and listen to the truth. – on the half hour.

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Gardening – Step 4 or Step 10

My gardening friends and I sometimes let the weeds go toward the end of the Fall.  What that means is the weeds grow underground all Winter and cover 10 times the space by Spring when it’s time to dig them out and make room for the vegetables.  The effort expended to remove the weeds by then is vastly increased, exhausting even for the most enthusiastic gardeners as a friend recently confirmed.  The amount of waste generated covers yards instead of inches.

Unhelpful behaviors are like weeds which can be inconvenient to address in the moment.  But, just like keeping up with the weeds in a timely fashion during the growing season requires less effort and helps avoid injury, doing Step 10, “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it,” prevents us from repeating the mistakes of our past, and keeps us from developing new bad habits and behaviors that are unhelpful as we grow in Recovery.

When we don’t do Step 10, we find ourselves needing to do another 4th Step to clean up the wreckage from our more recent past.  Personally, I prefer to avoid doing any more 4th Steps than are absolutely necessary.  I’d much rather do the 10th Step daily, and keep up with the weedy behavior that might otherwise choke out my ability to be of service to God and my fellows.   Regular weeding with a daily 10th Step is so well worth that smaller/prompt effort, leaving my life uncluttered with plenty of space for my Higher Power to fill it up with miracles.

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Affirmation for the Day – ” I am doing better every day.”

Remember to say the affirmation at least 3 times whenever you remember it, preferably in front of a mirror.

Course In Miracles Lesson – .Salvation is my only function here.  My part is essential to God’s plan for salvation.

Practice – Salvation is my only function here – on the hour.  My part is essential to God’s plan for salvation – on the half hour.

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