Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Conversing Sisters: Step 7, Removing Our Shortcomings

Lisa & Me, Christmas morning, circa 1979ish

This post is part of a series of writings I did with my sister Lisa, in 2012. Our thoughts and perspectives reflect a moment in time. They may or may not have changed in the passing years.

Step 7: “Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”

Lisa's Thoughts  

Humility, openness and willingness are the three keys to the AA kingdom, so to speak. It is in humility that I am able to stay teachable and therein lies my freedom. One of the most powerful moments I have had in sobriety is the moment I knelt down next to my sponsor and recited the seventh step prayer. I felt tears roll down my cheeks and spirit bumps cover my skin as I asked my Creator to have all of me, good and bad, so that I may be of the utmost service to all of His creation. It is crucial that I ask God to remove these defects of character because if it was left up to me, well, I would remove the wrong stuff.

I have experienced many moments of humility in my life and although I didn’t know it at the time, I have been very blessed in these lessons. The more I learn, the less I know. I am truly grateful for that. I know the very moment I begin to think I have anything figured out I lose my way and am lost once again.

I have been struggling recently and have now been taken to a whole new level of humility. I have this secret that I have been holding onto for quite some time now, and my ego has held me hostage to what others may think of me.

I have been debating on whether or not I should write today, because I am overwhelmed with my inner child begging and pleading with me to tell the truth. I have not been impeccable with my word, in regards to my sobriety, and I know that if I don’t allow the truth to be present then I will absolutely drink again.

I was prescribed some prescription medication for PTSD, it is a narcotic to assist with anxiety, and I have not taken it as prescribed.

My ego is presently begging me to hit the backspace button, my hands and fingers feel like a million tons and it seems difficult to keep typing. I am not currently under the influence of anything and am clear. However, there have been times over the last several months that I have taken extra medication to calm my obsession to drink again.

Here I am once again, baffled at my judgment, knowing fully that this means I will get to stand up, yet again, as a newcomer, tell my sponsor face-to-face that I have not been honest and, once again, disappoint my family and loved ones.

I am getting honest in this essay. However, I haven’t entirely built up the courage or willingness to get honest with everyone else around me. I am not sure when that day will come, but I do know if I don’t tell someone now the outcome will be an extreme relapse - guilt and shame win every time.

I am writing these weekly essays in partnership with my older sister, who I love and admire a great deal, I know as she reads this she will be extremely disappointed in me and may wish to discontinue our writing assignments. The gift in writing this though is that I can be free of the secret and the dishonesty on some level. Maybe, I will finally be able to get some good sleep and be able to look at myself in the mirror again.

This type of relapse is difficult for me to accept because I have still shown up for my life - I am a better mother, I have felt more inspired to work on myself and spend time mending my relationships with my immediate family, especially with my children.

I have assisted another woman in AA in kicking heroin and getting her life back, yet here I am living incongruently. This disease is cunning, baffling and powerful as the Big Book promises. The Big Book also promises if I am willing to become rigorously honest then I will experience serenity and peace along with a quiet mind.

I have sat up many nights trying to figure out intellectually why I do this to myself, or how I justify it in my mind. So far I haven’t come up with any excuse good enough to explain to others regarding my behavior. Like I said, this hasn’t affected anything outside of me, yet.

I love myself today and so it is the greatest thing I can affect, if that makes any sense.

For the most part I am good, full of joy and love, but occasionally I get overwhelmed with what I experienced the day I defended myself and Lilly. I literally believe something bad is going to happen or I am paralyzed in fear with no explanation. I have been too ashamed to tell anyone the extent of these breakdowns, and usually they happen in the evening when everyone is asleep. So, I have justified taking extra medication in assisting me to get through the night and sometimes difficult days.

I am not sure where I will take this from here. I just knew I had to tell at least one person that I have not been impeccable with my word, or I would turn to the bottle and begin to commit slow suicide. I am very humbled today. The truth seems to offer that to me immediately.

Liz, thank you for allowing me a space where I can be vulnerable and honest. My intention is never to disappoint or hurt you. I hope you know that down to your core. I hope we can talk more about this in an effort to become willing to get honest with everyone else about it. I am just not there yet- I love you.

Liz’s Response 

(Reader, upon reading this essay I called Lisa. We talked, at length, about her relapse and then I wrote this response, which captures the essence of our conversation.)

Lisa – I don’t really have more to say to this than I already have.  Again, I love you and I believe this writing project and, more importantly, our bond is stronger for you having the courage to lean into both – to trust that I would be here and the project would be strong enough to catch you.

Love you!

I hope that your honesty has liberated you and allowed you to continue your journey with more awareness, compassion & determination.

Liz's Thoughts  

Humility is the greatest of all teachers. If I am in a place of true humility there is nothing available to feed/nurture my ego. The ego needs constant attention and feeding to survive. On the other hand, humility just needs space and allowance.

The horrid truth is - I’m more familiar, therefore more comfortable, with the high of the ego than the peace of humility. The ego intoxicates me with its lies of power, control and specialness. Leading me to believe that I’m better at this or that and better than so and so. This disconnects me from myself, my source, my Creator and humanity. And when ego has had its fun, it abandons me.

In an interview for the Oprah Winfrey Network, Simon Cowell talked about battling with his ego and he said that he has learned that his ego with lift him to the highest points and then drop him, every time. Unfortunately, for him that has meant the loss of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in addition to the emotional and psychological losses.

So, I’m to humbly ask God to remove me shortcomings. First, that would look like a street fight with my ego in order to allow space for humility. The frustrating thing about humility is that you can’t seek it.

I find when I try to seek out humility and invite it over for tea, it has moved from where I last left it without leaving a forwarding address! Or just when I think I have a reached humility, I discover that there is so much farther left to go. I’m beginning to wonder if humility isn’t a state of being but an action.        
In the last chapter of the Book of Mormon, Moroni makes a promise to the reader,
"And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost" (Moroni 10:4).

I believe the same promise holds in this step. That “humbling asking” is the equivalent of asking with “a sincere heart, with real intent.” As a Christian, it all comes down to faith in Christ for the removal of shortcomings, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ all things are possible.

AH LISA!!!  I have to go and can’t work on this anymore.  I have more that I want to say about the Atonement & faith. I recently gave a talk on faith and want to put some of it here.  So, this is an incomplete one.

Lisa's Response

Liz- Although this is incomplete I still loved it!  Humility for me is the ability to see myself in everyone else and to stay teachable. I have found too that only truth can free the humility in me. Usually, the truth is my ego is afraid it will lose something it thinks it has or believes it will not get something it wants. When I ask myself those two things in any difficult situation one or the other is usually true. I love that you make reference to a street fight.. lol.. so true!  I can’t wait to hear what else you have to say about this step.

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