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  • "And I need someone to believe in, someone to trust
    I need someone to believe in, someone to trust...
    I'd rather trust a man who doesn't shout what he's found
    There's no need to sell when you're homeward bound
    If I choose a side
    He won't take me for a ride"

    Peter Gabriel - "The Chamber of 32 Doors", from "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway"
    Ray poses an excellent question. It brings to mind, for me, a profound moment that I experienced, while I was going through the 12 Steps of Recovery, as outlined in the chapter "How It Works" in the Big Book of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous). Up until that time, my answer to Ray's philosophical question would have been a very emphatic, "Are you kidding me?!? Yes, goddamnit, I would change a thing - EVERY damn thing!"

    You see, up to that point, it seemed to me that my life had been a series of choices, and each time I'd had a choice to make, I'd made the wrong one. All of these bad choices had led me to that moment, and I wasn't quite yet feeling like that was a good place to be. I believed I was on the right track, but I was still feeling a number of deep down regrets for many of my actions. God, what I would have given to be able to go back and done this instead of that, said this and not that. I was aching deep down inside my very soul for all of the hurt and pain I had inflicted on those I loved, and who loved me.

    I had just gone through the process of taking a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself, as prescribed in the 4th Step, and admitted these things to God, to myself, and to another human being, which is what the 5th Step called for. Believe me, the picture revealed had not been a pretty one. It wasn't so much the things I had done - and I had done some doozies. It was the motivation behind my actions. The most revealing aspect of my character that had come to light from that whole exercise was just how very selfish I had truly been my entire life. It had always been about me. Always.

    Even when I had done some seemingly selfless things, and put the welfare of others ahead of my own, the searching and fearlessly honest aspect of the inventory caused me to see that the motivation behind these actions had still been self-serving. I'd wanted people to see me as selfless.
    I wanted to "get caught" in the act. "Look at me - see what a great guy I am." And yeah, I got caught a lot. I was a legend in my own mind.

    I was very adept at acting humble, when in reality, I lived for the recognition from others of what a great guy I was. In all honesty I knew, deep down inside, that I was really not that person whose image I was trying to live up to. That was who I wanted to be, strove to be, but would never be. It was damn near killed me. Would I go back and change this, knowing what I now knew? Your goddamned right I would!

    I was counting on these steps to take that all away from me. I wanted it gone. I wanted to get well. I was very ambitious about the process. I was having a discussion with my sponser about it. I wanted him to give me my instructions on the next two steps, 6 and 7, so I could go off and start working on them. I wanted to get through this process, and get well.

    He just didn't seem to get my urgency. I really thought he was entirely too laid back about the whole thing. I was seriously considering firing him and getting someone who "got" me a little better. Yeah, up until that moment, it was still about me. And that was keeping me stuck in that moment.

    Fortunately, my wise and experienced sponser heard me out, and just calmly said, "Pete! Don't you get it? Everything that you have done, every mistake that you have made, every selfishly motivated act that you've engaged in, gives the next person that you are working with something to relate to. It's the very thing that will allow them to recognize you as one of them. That's what makes this thing work. You've been there, man, and you've found a way out. The beauty of it is, the sicker you've been, the better position you'll be in to help the really sick ones. This is a gift you've been given. Don't you see?" I still didn't - but, he had my attention.

    "Are you entirely ready to have God remove these defects of character? It sure sounds to me like you are. That's your 6th Step. You're done with that one. Forget about it. Will your shortcomings be removed from you? Well, that's hard to say. I can't help you with that one. That's entirely between you and your God. All this step (Step 7) is about is you humbly asking (him) to remove them. Doesn't necessarily mean that (he) will. That's not your business. The key is, are you truly willing to let them go? If you are, that's it. Move on. It's no longer about you."

    That's when the light went on. That's what they meant when they said you "take" these steps. You don't necessarily "work" them. More like, they work you. All I know is, after that conversation, I no longer regretted anything I had ever done. I did set about making some reparations, where I could. That was an essential part of the healing that was going on. The attempts to do so were now on solid footing, no longer selfishly motivated. My ambition to get well kind of left me. The process of becoming comfortable in my own skin was now taking over. I was becoming human. Flawed. Imperfect. Approachable. Relatable.

    This changed everything. It didn't change one single thing that had happened in my past. But it freed me up to be here now, in the moment, and to stop regretting that past. I embraced it as mine. I could now freely talk about it. Honestly. Doing so could help the next person. I was no longer chained to it with my own regret. It was all a part of making me who I am. It got me here. And, here no longer felt like such a bad place to be.
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