Self Honesty And Forgiveness, Steps 4, 8 and 9 of The 12 Step Program with Paul and Dave

SOA 12 | 12 Step ProgramSelf honesty is important for an addict doing the 12 Step Program. This will pull skeletons out of the closet and it forces them to face their faults, recognize their resentments and find a way to forgive themselves. We have a self-justification tendency because in the past we always think that we were right and this caused us to hurt others. The road to drug recovery will make us ask forgiveness from these people as well, not only to make amends but to finally move on to a better life. Paul and Dave’s personal thoughts on the 12 Step Program continues with steps 4. 8 and 9.

In this episode, I’ll be discussing steps four, eight and nine of the Twelve-Step Program with my colleague, Dave. If you are working this Twelve-Step Program with a sponsor, he or she is likely to require that you work the steps one by one in order. I am grouping steps four, eight and nine together in this podcast because these three steps are related to each other. These three steps are about identifying our faults and asking for forgiveness for these faults. Step four is making a moral inventory of yourself. Step eight is making a list of people we have harmed. Step nine is making amends with these people. In the next episode, we will cover steps five, six and seven, and we’ll cover steps ten, eleven and twelve. I will read the AA Literature on each step, and then Dave and I will discuss the step in a friendly way which we hope will add to your understanding of what the step entails. Then we’ll move onto the next step and repeat the process. Let’s start with the AA Literature on step four.

Listen to the podcast here:

Self Honesty And Forgiveness, Steps 4, 8 and 9 of The 12 Step Program with Paul and Dave

Step four is making a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. One difficulty in applying the step can be the inability to be honest with ourselves, denying our faults as a fault in itself. In the past, we may have lived with the conviction that we were always right. Our tendency to self-justification could stem from that. This situation may become complicated if we hold our troubles inside where they can ferment and explode. Perhaps we hold grudges. Ill will and resentment can make us sick. When we find ourselves indulging in this unhealthy activity, it helps to act quickly. The longer we harbor a grudge, the harder it is to lose it. If we get hurt easily, we are a problem to ourselves as well as to others. By honestly analyzing our feelings, we can see if we are at fault. When we forgive ourselves as well as others, the hurt can gradually disappear. We should examine our motives for selfishness too. We make a list of positive and negative characteristics, remembering that self-honesty is all-important. We don’t rationalize or excuse ourselves or list hurts we received, but we don’t ignore or minimize our good qualities either. We make it a searching and fearless moral inventory. Dave, welcome to the podcast.

Hello, Paul.

Step four is one of the big steps in the Twelve-Step Program. It’s the one where people have to face up to all their faults. What are your thoughts on step four?

It’s a tough one for a lot of people. Personally, I don’t like to look at my faults. I understand the reasoning behind it, but it is a difficult step in the process.

When you were in the throes of your addiction, did you feel that you had any faults?

Yeah, but they were easy to make it go away. If you have another drink, you realize you have faults but you don’t seem to mind as much.

It wasn’t as if you didn’t think that you had faults. You did but you covered them up.

I knew I had faults but not as many as I had because we lie to ourselves and our addiction. It’s easy to blame someone else for something that’s our fault.

How many times have you worked the Twelve-Step Program, just once or multiple times?

I’m on my third or fourth shot at sobriety in the Twelve-Step Program. I have nineteen months now and I’ve had almost five years.

You’ve done step four three or four times. Did you do it with a sponsor each time you did it?

The first two times, no. I did it on my own. This time around, I did it with a sponsor with much more success.

I have another piece of literature here that discusses various points about step four. One of the subjects that this literature brings up is resentments. “Within the context of step four of making a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves, resentments are an issue. Our resentments cause us discomfort. We were obsessed with the past and the future and therefore cheated ourselves of the present. We need to write about these resentments now and see the parts that we play in forming them.” Do you have any input points on resentments?

Most of my resentments are all focused on mistakes I’d made in the past, not necessarily resentments towards others but mistakes I have made and bad decisions. That drags me down into the hole.

Do you ever feel resentment that you weren’t born 100years earlier or you weren’t born into a more affluent family or you weren’t born on a Hawaiian island or resentments like that?

I had a lot of those things growing up. My resentments are this wish that my parents would have been around more. It’s not necessarily resentments on what I had, just what I didn’t have.

The point that this literature is trying to make up with discussing the point of resentments is that it helps to unearth some of the moral inventory items that we should be writing down on a piece of paper. By thinking a little bit about our resentments, it helps us to make a fearless moral inventory of ourselves. The next point is relationships. Most addicts have had problems in relationships. When we think of relationships that might help us to make an inventory of our good points and bad points, and if we think of the people who we’ve had bad relationships with, probably we’re going to be unearthing some of our negative characteristics. If we think of people who we’ve had good relationships with or periods where the relationship has been good, then we’re probably going to unearth some of our positive points within our personality.

I’m going to move on to some other adjectives that are descriptive of ourselves to help prompt us in creating this moral inventory. For everyone out there, see for yourself, think to yourself, “How much does the word I say ignite a little fire inside your belly or perhaps inside your mind?” These words are adjectives that are somewhat negative characteristics within people. The first one is guilt, the next is self-pity, depression, loneliness, hopelessness, denial, shame, resentment, frustration, anxiety, failure, arrogance, intolerance, anger, confusion, betrayal, fear, inadequacy. Which ones jump out at you? They may help you to make a fearless moral inventory of yourself, your characteristics, your positives and negatives.

That sounded more like a list of the reasons I drank. After about the third or fourth adjective that you had said, I thought, “That one, that would be a drink.”

I should balance that out with a list of adjectives that are more positive. All of this is intended to help everyone to get a concept of step four of the Twelve-Step Program, which is to make fearless moral inventory of yourself. That’s why we’re trying to discuss subject matter. It will help to unearth content for you to make a fearless moral inventory of yourself. Those are good points as well as bad points. Mostly, they’re bad points, but we do want two lists. One is good points, good characteristics, and the other is bad. I want to balance out that list of adjectives with a more positive list. These are willingness, open-mindedness, acceptance, sharing, kindness, tolerance, love, faith, awareness of a higher power, positive action, generosity, caring, being clean, gratitude, honesty, patience, courage, trust, forgiveness. Did that balance it out?

It completely balanced it out. The first list was myself in my addiction. The second list is myself in my sobriety. When you’re in your addiction, you’re not patient, you’re not free, you’re not active, you’re not forgiving. You’re very selfish in your addiction. Maybe that’s just me.

You’re my colleague on the show and your input is valuable. That’s fantastic because who wouldn’t want to be more like the second list? Most people would prefer to be the guy on the second list or the girl on the second list. If you want to be on the second list, the way to get there is sobriety. A couple of other talking points that I’m going to bring up is shame and guilt. It is important that we realize we are not responsible for many of the things we did in our addiction, although we are responsible for our recovery. Answer the following questions. Do any resentments that you have on your list make you feel guilty? Do any resentments that you have on your list make you feel shame? The subject of shame and guilt, we’re trying to delve into it. Step four is definitely a reflection on yourself. You’ve got to look inwards. It’s a little bit difficult. A lot of addicts have had difficulties and their journey on addiction has burnt many bridges and caused them a lot of social troubles. This is a difficult step. There’s no doubt about it. Step four is one of the most difficult steps in the Twelve-Step Program. Step eight and nine are related to step four because, first, you make a big moral inventory of all your faults as well as your good points, and then you go about asking for forgiveness for all those shortcomings. We’re trying to help you deal with it by demystifying the process and by discussing it. Once you know what you have to do, it’s a lot easier to do it than if you have no idea what it is that you’ve got to do.

Another point on this subject is times that we felt victimized. There are many people who truly are a victim. Some people get into addiction as a result of abuse. Abuse creates victims. There are a few lines on the subject of feeling victimized. “Honestly appraising these situations gives us a new perspective and helps us to see how we have set ourselves up as victims. Through this process, we have the opportunity to find freedom from our victim thinking and our victim relationships.” Here are two questions. When have you felt victimized? Were you really victimized or did you volunteer? These are deep questions, especially that second question. I’m not trying to suggest that any victim volunteered. The question is a deep question that’s being put out there for people who are serious about the Twelve-Step Program, not to bring any pain to themselves but just to help them through it. I’d also like to talk a little bit about fear. Dave, do you have any points you wanted to raise on the subject of victim?

We all tend to, in our addiction, make ourselves a victim. It’s a lot easier to justify the escape of drugs or alcohol from my personal experience. I don’t consider myself a victim. I don’t live my life that way. There are times where I would just say to myself, “This happened to me, so that justifies doing this,” and whatnot. It’s easy to fall into that trap. It happens to us all. Basically, it’s easy for us to get caught up.

SOA 12 | 12 Step Program

12 Step Program: When you’re in your addiction, you’re not patient, you’re not free, you’re not active and you’re not forgiving.

The next subject I wanted to talk about is fear as related to step four with making a moral inventory of your faults and your good points. Having taken a close look at our self-centeredness, our resentments, our relationships, we see that fear, doubt and insecurity have been at the core of much of our behavior. Our fears have kept us from doing things we wanted to do and becoming the people we wanted to be. List the fears that you have such as fear of the unknown, fear of pain, fear of responsibility, fear of commitment, fear of growing up, fear of failure, fear of success and write a paragraph on each of these fears plus any additional fears you have experienced. Dave, what are your thoughts on fear?

I was thinking that another way to look at it is, “What if?” The fear of, “If I do this, what if this happens?” Even the success, “What if I do get that job? What if my world spins out as a result?” It could be overwhelming even if it’s something positive. The what if kept popping into my head. It’s easy to overthink things that can stimulate your fear and get you too far into your head.

The subject of fear brings up a story that’s popped into my head. This one is a very different story. I grew up surfing and I still surf today. I was surfing outside of Santa Cruz on what they call the North Coast in a break called Four Mile. I was paddling towards where the other surfers were. There were waves coming in on either side of the bay and it was creating a current, taking people out into the middle of the bay. I used the current to get out and behind the breakers. I was paddling sideways to where the other surfers were sitting, waiting to catch waves. A shark fin came out of the water about 100 yards away and came straight at me at a high rate of speed. There was intense and massive fear. It was a serious situation because we were four miles outside of Santa Cruz. If you get bitten by a shark in those environments, you’re probably going to bleed to death.

It took about three or four seconds for the shark fin to then go underneath my surfboard. I could have literally touched the fin. It was that close. It was moving very fast. I waited a second or two before paddling as fast as I could to get in shore of the other surfers. I was surprised that I wasn’t bitten. As that shark was travelling towards me, my life did flash in front of me and there was intense fear. Because I lived through the process and I came out unscathed, it was a positive process. It was a positive experience. When my life flashed in front of me, what also flashed in front of me were the things in my life that I have not done and the things that I wanted to do. The two big ones were I had never been married and I didn’t have a child. Now I’m married and have a child.

I was wondering, you said when it flashed before your eyes, if it was the regrets that flashed or was it the positives?

It was both. My life did flash in front of me, the past or the things I’ve done. There was also a section of the type of things I haven’t done. It happens because when you have intense fear like that, your brain operates in very much the reptilian section of the brain. The very core center part of the brain kicks in and that’s how your life can flash in front of you that quickly. You’re withdrawing right into the center core part of the brain. I saw both the past and what I hoped for the future. Because I came away unscathed, it was like looking death in the face and then not dying. I definitely felt as if I had been given another chance at life. It was a massive experience for me. I have had an adventurous life. This is not the only time I’ve looked death in the face, but it’s the most recent time. It happened about six or seven years ago. We all have those experiences. If you’re active and you’re out there, when you’re in your twenties you do a lot of stupid shit. I was one of those guys. I did a bunch of stupid shit. This incident happened when I was in my mid to late 40s. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody but I’m glad it happened to me. I’m glad I didn’t get bitten.

That was my contribution on fear, that fear is not always a bad thing. It can be harnessed and if nothing significant happens, you just experience the fear. You don’t get actually injured. It can be a positive thing. It brings us into a final point on the step four subject matter, which is dreams. We’re using the subject of dreams to help people to identify a fearless moral inventory of themselves. On the subject of dreams, some of us addicts have lost our ability to dream. What were some of your childhood dreams? What are your dreams today? In completing step four, we might ponder towards the end of step four, what our dreams are and use that to help us to complete a fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Dave, do you have any points?

What popped into my head though when you said when you’re younger and as getting older, it’s how your dreams have changed. You have this idea when you’re younger and it’s grandiose. Then you get older and you find yourself in another direction. I can even relate mine to sobriety. As a young man, I always wanted to be a behavioral biologist. I thought, “If I can watch animals all day long, that would be great.” I found how much schooling was involved in events in my life and I didn’t pursue it. There’s regret there but then I’m in a position now with the job I do now. I help people.

I’m an above-the-knee amputee and I am a lab technician. I make prosthetic legs and leg braces for people. I’m in the business of helping people and that has fulfilled a dream I didn’t know I had. In my sobriety, I find I get much more satisfaction giving than taking. I feel like I have fulfilled a dream that I didn’t know I had. Maybe that’s the best way to put it.

Within the context of doing step four, these dreams that we had in the past and the dreams that we have today, it’s a process of discovering our own identity. We should just be fearless as best as we can to express what our dreams were in the past and to express what our dreams are today, and perhaps some elements of those dreams will manifest themselves. It will help with the fearlessness of creating this moral inventory of ourselves and getting through this process of doing the steps. Step four is definitely a difficult step. You’re taking a long hard look at yourself. You’re saying to yourself, “Where have I screwed up? What are my negatives?” Also, take a little time to put down your positives and take a long hard look at yourself. This is an important process in achieving the sobriety lifestyle. Hopefully, what we’re discussing is going to help you to get through this process. Now what we’ll do is jump to step eight because it’s related to how we have hurt people.

Step eight in the AA Literature is make a list of all the persons we have harmed and become willing to make amends with them all. Since this program gives us the opportunity for spiritual growth, we find that we can no longer continue to pass off our discontent upon others. We often fail to recognize what harm we are doing, but until we see it, we cannot become willing to make amends. In making our list, we are likely to find that we have harmed ourselves the most. Therefore, we become willing to make amends to ourselves as well as to others. Dave, what do you feel about step eight and making a list of all the persons we have harmed?

SOA 12 | 12 Step Program

12 Step Program: We often fail to recognize what harm we are doing, but until we see it, we cannot become willing to make amends.

When I went through it, it was like “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” You harm so many people in your life. I tried to keep my list relevant to people I’d harmed while I was in my addiction, not just in general.

You kept your list to being people who were part of your family or fairly close to you, and not somebody at the grocery store who you didn’t know you swear, for instance?

Yeah, exactly. To add that to my list is something I can’t fix and to me seemed pointless. Mental note, “I was a dick at the store to somebody,” but I’m not going to spend any time on that because it’s not going to fix anything. Mine was more personal relationships with people, not just irrelevant people.

We have some additional literature on step eight which is maybe going to help us to have some jogging points that we can talk about. It’s basically questions that have been put out. What is the most difficult thing you’ve found in making the list of persons you have harmed? What is the most difficult thing you’ve experienced about becoming willing? What are some of the ways that you have harmed some people in recovery in the present? What reservations do you have that are robbing you of the benefits that step eight has to offer? Do you expect to make a complete list? If not, why? When harming people, do you have all kinds of acceptable reasons why socially unacceptable behavior is okay? How does doing your will affect how you treat people today? Do you have financial amends to make on this list? How did working step eight change your life? Does seeing yourself as a victim interfere with putting a name on a list or becoming willing to make amends? On the point of making a list of people, we should probably start with the people that are closest to us, our immediate family, our immediate friends, our most important friends, our most significant connections.

Definitely people that are still very much a part of your life today, the most immediate people that you relate to.

Put those names down. Let’s not over-complicate it. It’s a case of making a list of names, people who are part of your life today and they have a significant role.

It is a list of names. It’s not a list of names and what you did. You don’t have to write down what you did and all the different things that you did because that’s overcomplicating things.

Most people might have ten names.

It shouldn’t be a book.

Maybe you’ve only got five names, perhaps you have twenty names, but you’re probably not going to have more than 50 names. You might be a very social person with a lot of contacts but 50 names would be a lot. Five to ten would probably be normal. These are people that are in your life today. You’ve still got contact with them and they have a meaningful relationship with you. It shouldn’t be that hard to make a list of names of people who you should make amends with, people who you have harmed in one way or another.

Step nine, make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. If we have earnestly, thoughtfully, and prayerfully worked on the preceding eight steps, this step urges us into action. Direct amends frequently can be made. If we have harmed others by neglect, ill temper or harsh treatment, a conscientiously pursued change in attitude may counteract the injuries. If we have avoided work and community involvement because of embarrassment, fear or laziness, we can make amends by accepting our share of responsibility. Sometimes making amends could hurt innocent people. In that case, clearing our own conscience by hurting others would be a second wrong on top of the first. AA teaches us to move forward. If we have harmed one person in the past, we can help one, tenor a thousand in the future by actively living and practicing the AA Program. Dave, give me your thoughts on step nine, making the amends with the person as opposed to just putting their name down on a list of people to apologize to.

SOA 12 | 12 Step Program

12 Step Program: It’s important that the person you’re making amends to know why you’re doing it.

When I was going through it, instead of just getting in touch with this person, setting it up and just winging it, what I needed to make amends for, I wrote it down ahead of time. I revised it and read it to myself until it said what I felt I needed to convey to them so that it didn’t sound off the cuff and half-assed. It was something that was well thought out. It said exactly what I meant to say. I didn’t read it to them or hand them the paper. I had written it down and put my thoughts in order. It seemed to make that process easier, even if I just gave myself bullet points, almost like having notes for a speech so that it covered all my bases.

I’m sure it gave the person on the other end of the apology a feeling that you had thought this out and that you were seriously making an apology or amends to them that wasn’t just a casual drop-by, “Because I was in the neighborhood and I thought I’d say sorry because it crossed my mind that perhaps it was a good idea.”

It’s important that the person you’re making amends to knows why you’re doing it. It isn’t just out of the blue, “By the way, sorry I know I’m an asshole.” That’s not how it works.

Did you tell people that you were working the Twelve-Step Program and this was part of the Twelve-Step Program?

Every one of them, yes, I did. I’ve apologized to people for other things like we all have, but this is a specific process. It’s important to my recovery. The people that I spoke with know what I’m doing. They know I’m trying to get my life together.

You’re speaking to people who are close to you in the first place, so they have an idea that you’re working on this aspect of yourself.

My addiction wasn’t a surprise to anyone. They knew and they knew why this was happening. When I did approach them, it was important that they knew, “I’m so into getting this right that I’m going through these steps because my way didn’t work.”I know we repeat that all the time, but these steps are in this order for a reason.

Step nine is, make the amends. Dave raised some very valid points there that he made notes as to what he was going to say to people before he made the amends so that it felt very sincere and very deliberate. The people who he was making amends with knew that he was doing it as part of the Twelve-Step Program. These people were close to him and it was a deliberate effort to recognize his faults in front of the people that he had faulted in his past.

I hope this is helping people. I would like to encourage you to tune in for our next episode where we’ll go back and cover steps five, six and seven. These steps four, eight and nine were put together because they seemed logically to go together. The wise people that developed the Twelve-Step Program chose to break them out and separate them with a couple of steps in between. I’m sure it was all for very good reasons. We just them together on this podcast because they logically seemed to go together and might help people in understanding the concepts of the Twelve-Step Program. We hope that you tune back into our next episode where we’ll discuss steps five, six and seven. Thank you very much for listening. I wish you all happiness and sobriety. Take care and be good.


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