Ask an Addict is a column penned by Helena Paivenen, a Kamloops scholar with expertise in addiction issues and someone who is also an addict. The column is meant to inform and help. If you have a question you would like answered, email it to email@example.com. Anonymity is guaranteed.
I believe in the axiom that an unexamined life is not worth living.
For years I was unconscious, but didn’t know that I was. I operated on autopilot. Before my addiction took hold, the first crack in my unconsciousness was when a good friend informed me I was more than just a nurse.
You’d think this would have been evident, but for some reason, it hit hard.
My whole identity was based upon that as it was a role I knew how to play well.
However, with nothing to guide me, I had no idea how to do that.
This is why I love the steps. They give great suggestions on how to live, without any pre-determined, prescribed roles to dictate who I must be. In working the steps, I (we) get to become authentic, truly me (us).
The steps bring clarity and create incredible depth and meaning in life. For alcoholics/addicts and for anyone with nothing but grey despair, the steps create bright, coloured magic.
The program promises “you will be amazed before you are halfway through” and it’s true.
Incredible things happen. Events beyond my comprehension and explanation have occurred.
The steps, if we work them daily, bring forth events you could never have imagined. Thus the effort is on working the steps and being open to whatever transpires because, often, these events are beyond your wildest imagination.
Step 4 is about making a searching and fearless moral inventory of yourself.
Step 4 allowed me to look clearly at me, how I have lived, to examine myself in my life. The key words in this step are “searching,” “fearless” and “moral.” This is why I began by identifying my fears. Our literature states we are driven by a thousand forms of fear, so I wrote each and every one of my fears down.
My list was long. I wrote quickly, almost without thinking, so as to not block the flow. It included everything — even spiders and fast-running, small mice (which my cat once brought, live, into bed for me one night. All I felt was something wiggling against my body. Imagine my horror at feeling something running across my face. My boyfriend was not impressed when I called him at 3 a.m. to drive over to my house to catch the mouse.)
My other fears included heights, claustrophobic situations, extreme physical pain, family dying and dog dying — but, interestingly, not my own death.
Fear often manifests into secondary emotions, such as anger, resentment and rage, so it is important to identify every one we have.
This is the beginning of step four. I realize I have spent a considerable amount of time selling the program. It is because Step 4 is where many will stop.
At this point, people either relapse, quit the program or stay forever on steps 1,2 and 3, never moving into Step 4— in essence, not working recovery.’
It is not easy to clearly look at yourself, knowing that in Step 5, you will share everything with another.
However, this process is incredibly freeing. There is freedom in exposing dark into light — looking at our shadow side, as Carl Jung would say (whom the founders of the program did consult when creating the steps).
If you are working the steps or sponsoring someone and fear or resistance pops up, then it is time to stop. It is the time to reaffirm that you will be guided through the process.
However, your part is to ask for help. Ask the universe, the higher power, nature, the wind to help guide you. Ask to be willing and open. Ask. Just ask. After all, You. Deserve. It.
Next time, I will finish Step 4 and begin Step 5. Thank you for your letters and emails of support. They truly do make a difference.