Posted by: innerpilgrimage | April 11, 2011

Learning to Walk After Crawling for So Long

      Yesterday, after nearly a year-and-a-half of putting it off, I finally put down my first resentment on my new Step Four Inventory.

      I have been so afraid of being drawn into the pain, and I do feel the pain as I let my resentful addict-self blame the person I feel resentful toward. I let it speak, I honor that part of me. I let it tell me how I was hurt, what vulnerabilities that wretched, wretched person targeted when they went after me. I let myself be a victim for three columns of my Step Four Inventory, and a little pain comes up. It’s not the intense pain of when it initially happened, but remembering it still triggers that desire to get away, to get revenge, to do harm to others.
      By touching this part of me, I can use that light discomfort–despite its exhausting nature–to move on to the next part of the Step Four Inventory.
      When I consider what I contributed, I have to enter into my recovered mind. I have to step back and think about what I was doing in addiction (as resentments are addiction’s stock and trade–they really do sustain the pain-threshold simply because they justify the suffering). With a recovered mind, I can step back and separate out what I was doing that was out of alignment to my core values and what contributed to my lack of serenity at the time. The choices become less about me and more about why I would go against my values (even then, since I was miserable after making the choices every time–otherwise I wouldn’t be resentful) to chase something on a desperate hope.
      I like having the extra sections about what it taught me and what I can do about it today. Instead of stewing in yesterday, it brings the resentment forward and gives me an opportunity to write down how I can use that resentment as a learning experience now.
      And from the despair, from the pain of being angry at someone for not being controllable, from the pain of knowing I was deeply out of spiritual alignment when I made the choice . . . the seed of hope is planted and tended to so it can grow.
      The way I am doing my fourth step doesn’t leave me in the misery of yesterday. It dips into yesterday, plucks out an event, examines it, then takes from that event a new way of living after the fact. And, like any grief process for a person who has spent a lifetime denying themselves healthy sadness and grieving? Even a few entries have exhausted me. This is going to be a very long process, possibly months of daily work until I have it. And I realized as I was writing that I needed a lot more blank pages to write, because this is not going to be a small Fourth Step Inventory. Even without everything? It’s going to be huge.
      I consider every time I said, “No regrets,” in the past, and I realize that it was very likely the biggest red flag I had. However, it apparently was so big that I could hide whatever issue was under it and lie to myself that the red meant passion and love and desire, not danger. Every moment I decided to label as a “No Regrets” moment is turning into a resentment moment. Good lesson to take forward, honestly.
      So, for me? I’ve learned a few things about doing a Step Four Inventory (as it applies to me):

1. I have to write it by hand because typing it on the computer puts something between me and the process and it doesn’t really get through–even if it is faster.

2. Practice should make it go faster over time, but trying to fill a page on day one feels like trying to make abstinence that first day–it feels impossible, exhausting, frustrating, too much.

3. I have many more resentments than I first thought, and I can’t really separate them out of the fear and sexual stuff that’s supposed to come later in my inventory. But I will do my best once the well of resentments dries up. I trust if something is going to be there, it will be.

4. I have to trust that people won’t read my Fourth Step Inventory and freak out on me. Yes, I have a responsibility to put it into a place that says, “This is not for public consumption.” However, if a person violates that, there is a deeper issue at hand than them finding out I resent them or that I wronged them. If I cannot trust a person to respect that privacy, then I have to consider if I want that in my life–since I am working to remove that “need to know at any costs” behavior from my life and trust my intuition instead of observation and hypotheses on and conclusions about what I think I see.
      Lots to learn about myself while I do this. I’ve already identified a couple of people I need to make amends to, and it was intuited from what I realized was my contribution to the situation.
      Like I said, very rough going, but it feels rigorous. It feels like the best of my ability. And even if it takes months, it’s a project which will allow me to move forward on the promises, move out of a life motivated by the addiction-driven past, and move into a life where the emotional baggage I’ve been collecting and dragging around with me for years can finally be retired.
      Right now, the core driving value I have is to live a life which requires the minimum amount of amends to make. I’ve already burned enough bridges that I will be sitting with amends letters to people for years or possibly the rest of my life. But if I make them, even simply spiritually because things are blocking me from doing it in person, I will have made them. And I trust my Higher Power will bring those people into my life if a face-to-face is needed. It will happen without me trying to force a meeting. And I am nearly, completely to the point of letting it go–having practiced it again and again until it really does make sense to let it go and trust that what amends I can make (because I know where the person lives and know how to contact them or can find out) are the ones to focus on first. Do what I can with what I have; if the tools and opportunity drop into my life, use them then. I will get the chance if I am supposed to. Otherwise, there is a strong lesson in the nature of taking responsibility for the consequences of my actions. Doing harm–intentional or unintentional–has consequences I cannot change to serve my own purposes. If I try to change them? I am acting in addiction, trying to manipulate something in order to manipulate a person into giving me what I want–forgiveness. And if I do that? Um, it’s doing harm, and the forgiveness will always have an element of being undeserved, insincere, and stolen. No, if it’s given freely (like love), then it has value. And to have it given freely, I can’t just walk in and make a show of having remorse for getting caught and wanting to be forgiven so I can stop feeling hurt (and resentful that the person can’t forgive me). I have to live a life where I can accept both forgiveness and lack of forgiveness from others because I cannot control it. I have to live a life where the change in how I live is more important than the “I’m sorry.” I have to live a life where the mistake was recognized and the solution is being worked toward on a daily basis. That the lessons learned have changed me, have made a difference within how I approach the world.
      We all want to feel like we’ve influenced people in our lives. I have found that I have gone about it wrong, trying to push and bully and force people with anger and advice (especially advice I needed to take, myself!). Life isn’t about promotion; it’s about attraction. I’m not supposed to be a proselytizing messenger; I am the message.
      The message I sent yesterday is that I am willing to do anything to have my unfair share. The message today? Probably that finally surrendering to doing just one Fourth Step entry is enough progress sometimes. Just opening the door a crack to show myself that I can survive this, that my fears are just shadows. That in surrender to something I don’t want to do, I can practice the courage to do things in the future which will challenge me in ways I never thought possible–and not only survive, I can thrive and learn and be reborn into a life after a major life change.
      It’s a good thing.
      My name is Jess, and I am a food addict and approval addict, driven to the extremes by both addictions. I find my food is the monster under the bed. It’s a wonderful way to see the patterns of my approval addiction–the big monster in the closet. But like all monsters, once the light’s turned on, it’s just a shoe or a pile of laundry or the ugly Christmas sweater hanging in the closet that I forgot I even owned (and felt too guilty to return because someone would get hurt). And as I look at the extremes, I am beginning to understand what living in moderation actually means. I can live without denying myself and feel kind to others and I can live without overindulging myself and feel kind to myself. There is a balance, a peaceful place where I am not beneath and I am not above anyone. And that is where I find actual serenity.


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