Monday, November 14, 2016

Conversing Sisters: Reflecting

Me & Lisa, circa 1978

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.


Lisa's Thoughts  

Our journey...

Wow, I too have found so much joy in getting to know you better and understanding your perspectives on God and all that is good. I appreciate you taking the time to really learn and understand what the recovery journey is all about!

I am really looking forward to doing something similar with you, maybe in the Articles of Faith or something you would like me to learn about.

I was really happy to learn how the 12 steps can really impact anyone who chooses to learn about them. They are powerful in their own way. Words cannot express how I feel about you and who you have become! If I am ever in doubt about what is possible, I remember the day you left here without much and created a life that is nothing short of inspiring.

You inspire me everyday and more than you truly are one of those people who live in my heart and light up my soul on a constant basis.

Thank you for your compassion, love and patience over the years. I know, now more than ever, it was not easy for you to witness and experience. I am so grateful that the good Lord has brought us all to some clarity, so we can be of service to those who may be experiencing life as we did.

I am so excited for you to come home and share this Holiday season with you!!!

I love you!

Liz's Thoughts  


I can’t find what I wrote in 2012. I assume I wrote something. I imagine I would have expressed my gratitude for the project, the insights, the shared experience...I know I would have told Lisa that I loved her and looked forward to our next project. The next project didn’t materialize. Life happened…

Lisa relapsed. Why? Ultimately, that’s a question only she can answer. I do know that she made attempts at sobriety. It was the topic of our last communication.

She texted me, “It’s groundhog’s day here in my world. I know I just need to change one thing.”
I replied, “You can change that one thing.”

She died 15 days later.

Grief swallowed me whole. Ripped out my internal landscape. Thrusted me into the inky abyss.
Resurrecting this writing project has been a beacon. Reviewing the Alcoholics Anonymous steps has helped me to see I am powerless over grief - it must be experienced. I came to believe a Power greater than myself could bring me out of the abyss. I had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps - to carry the message of healing, love and light to those impacted by addiction.

In sharing mine and Lisa’s conversations with you, I’ve found connection and meaning. I’ve loved hearing from the people who Lisa impacted during her life. I’ve loved hearing from people struggling with addiction and those who love people in that struggle. I feel a collective embrace and I’m reminded that we are not alone in our suffering and that we are on this Earth school to care for one another. Thank you for being part of this with me.

There are more writings. I have some of Lisa’s journals wherein she continues to work the steps. I haven’t been in a space where I can read them and thus am not ready to share them. I will - in time.

I want to end in the same format the previous posts where written - responding to my sister.


You’re beloved AA and treasured steps have been a balm during this painful time. Thank you for bring AA into my life. It has given me perspective and tools on how to cope with loving addicts and living my life.

Per your wishes, we hosted an AA meeting in your honor a few days after your funeral. It was a choice moment hearing your community speak affectionately about you and share their stories of addiction. Something happened to me in that meeting. The line between the addict and me blurred. I no longer felt like a visitor. Your addiction no longer felt like this other thing - it all became part of a bigger whole. Your community became my community. Your cause became my cause.

For so much of our adult life I was your champion. Now, I feel the roles have reversed. I hear you tell me that I can do this hard thing.

I’m eternally grateful that you are my sister.

I miss you! I love you!

Want to know when the next conversation is published? Sign-up for email notifications (upper right side).  

Monday, November 7, 2016

Conversing Sisters: Step 12, We're Caring This Message

Lisa & me, circa 2009

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 12: "Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all of our affairs."

Lisa's Thoughts  

Step 12 is the reason that AA remains available to all who seek to recover from a hopeless state of mind, spirit and body. This step is crucial in recovery and in life, in general. It is often said that you cannot keep what you aren’t willing to give away. When I first came into AA, I felt intimidated by this step and didn’t realize, even at one day sober, I had something to offer the person who was still drunk. Regardless of how much sobriety someone has, everyone is capable of reaching out and offering service.

Service work kept me sober in the beginning. I jumped into AA with both feet and spent the majority of my time working with others, making coffee, chairing meetings and giving people rides to and from meetings. I had no idea why I was doing it at the time, except my sponsor highly suggested it. However, over time, I realized the internal rewards that come with being of service.

Some of the most powerful moments I have had in AA are when I have had the opportunity to sit down with a woman and take her through these steps as I was taken through them. I am often amazed and baffled at what I learn about myself and the gifts that come into my life as a result of taking a few minutes and sharing what another woman gave to me so freely.

I have spent many nights in emergency rooms, hotel rooms and strange living rooms attempting to carry the message of AA. At times, I can tell you, I felt as though I was wasting my time or would be discouraged when I would spend countless hours with someone to have them drink again. What I learned during that process was it didn’t matter what anyone did with what I offered them. The gift, in all of it, was that I stayed sober even if they didn’t.

This step also allowed me to begin the process of rigorous honesty. I came into AA with so many secrets, secrets I was determined to die with. However, when women stood up in meetings and opened their hearts about neglecting their children and committing adultery, it gave me the courage to open up about my story and what was keeping me hostage from life. I realized that I truly am not alone in my alcoholism and the many behaviors that come from that.

It is due to the women who come before me and who have been willing to spend their time, energy, and resources on me that I am able to offer anything in return. 

Paying it forward is what AA is all about. I love the unity and joy that are found in the rooms. There is absolutely an energy that can’t be explained in words.

Liz’s Response 

Reader, I couldn't find my response to this post from 2012.

Liz's Thoughts  

This step echoes of my journey from domestic violence victim, to domestic violence survivor, to domestic violence advocate. The last interaction I had with my ex-husband culminated into an act of physical violence as he attempted to break down the door of my apartment. The next morning, I was sitting in the domestic violence assistance center at the Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City, Utah. Within a few hours, I was given a protective order, training on how to keep myself safe and a victim’s advocate - all free of charge.

I was amazed at how smoothly the process went and the resources that were readily available to me. As I was sitting in the waiting room for my paperwork to be finalized, I was overcome with gratitude. I knew that this system was in place and these resources were available to me because of the women who came before me – not all of them surviving the violence inflected by their domestic partner. At that moment, in that space, I made a vow to those women that I would from that day forward use my voice to bring light and awareness to the darkness and destructive realities of domestic violence.
I entered that courthouse a victim and left a survivor. It took me many years, a lot of personal awareness work, healing and counseling for me to transition from survivor to advocate. The key was finding my voice, trusting it and then using it.

The art I create, the words I write and the way I live my life are rooted in this vow.

After seeing my art or collaborating with me, individuals will disclose their experience with domestic violence and/or ask how they can get help. This is how I make a difference in the world. This is how I actively participate in life and become part of the global conversation.

Our stories matter. 

Our voices deserve to be heard.

Our experiences are uniquely our own. 

Reach out to another person and connecting to them with vulnerability and love changes ourselves, our families, and our communities. By standing in our truth and telling our stories, we are revolutionaries. 

Lisa's Response


It has been so many years, sometimes, I forget where we have come from, especially in your situation. I believe true healing comes when we pay forward what happened to us in a positive way. I know that you, me and Laura have the ability through our voices to break the abuse cycle that seems to repeat itself in our family.

I am so proud of you and admire how far you have come. I know that whatever is in store for us next will be nothing short of amazing. God would not have it any other way! I love you!

Want to know when the next conversation is published? Sign-up for email notifications (upper right side).  

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Conversing Sisters: Step 11, Improving Our Conscious Contact with God

Me & Lisa, Circa 1978

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 11: “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood him, praying only for the knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out.”

Lisa's Thoughts  

It has been my experience that the most important word in Step 11 is sought. My emotional and spiritual sobriety are completely dependent on seeking God, in any way possible. Step 11 allows me to keep an open mind, build a strong spiritual foundation and allow flexibility in my definition of God and how he works in my life.

The search to live honestly and to live a life of God is what keeps me alive and on my recovery journey today.

I find a deep amount of satisfaction in learning how God works in the lives of others and how he manifests himself in many different forms all over the world.

The power of prayer is unexplainable.

I have seen miracles happen when those around me are heavy in prayer, especially in times of great suffering. I am often amazed at how meditation can transform my way of thinking from Ego to Soul, almost instantaneously.

My favorite prayer, that relates well to Step 11, is the prayer of St. Francis. In his famous prayer, St. Francis asks God to make him a channel, to allow him to bring light to dark, love to hate, harmony to discord etc.  He also asks to understand than to be understood, to forgive than to be forgiven, for it is through dying that one awakens to eternal life. This prayer reminds me that if I am thinking of others than I am not thinking of myself and it is then that I am of the utmost service to my Creator.

In Step 1, we admitted we were powerless, asked to surrender and gave up fighting anyone or anything. In Step 11, we are given back all of our power and more through God - what he is able to do through us.

His will for us and the power to carry that out, I often repeat this over and over again in my head because I have a difficult time discerning God’s will from my will.

However, I do know that if I remain teachable, open, and remember that God is everything, or He is nothing, than I am usually aligned with what He would have me do for the most part. I find that God speaks to me in the most unusual ways.

Meditation allows me to quiet my mind enough to hear what it is he would have me be, but it is after I have begun my day that God begins to speak, usually through other people and in the most unexpected places.

God has answered my prayers through the cashier at the grocery store, my children, my siblings, newcomers sharing in a meeting, bumper stickers and billboards. When I am connected and my eyes are truly open, I see God’s messages everywhere in everything. I am overwhelmed and filled with the love of the spirit.

My days are full of joy and peace regardless of what is going on around me. This is the blessing in working Step 11, however, it takes work!

I remember telling my very first sponsee that if I wanted to stay “spiritually high,” so to speak, then I had to chase God with the same determination and consistency that I chased my bottle.

I never stayed drunk off of one drink for several days. I had to continue drinking to stay drunk. So, it only makes sense that in order to feel the sunlight of the spirit I have to continue to immerse myself in it on a constant basis or I am no longer drunk on God’s love and immense feelings of gratitude and hope for my life.

Step 11 is the one step that I have never stopped working throughout the duration of my recovery journey. My relationship with God, today, is the most important relationship in my life. This allows me the freedom of living in my truth and living, comfortably, in my own skin. It affords me the opportunity to fail and see the blessings and the lessons, rather than be overwhelmed with guilt and shame. It has, also, given me the ability to see God in everyone that crosses my path and assists me in remaining in a state of compassion and love for all of God's children.  

I have learned so much about different religions, spiritual teachers, sages and theories by being open to working this step in my daily life. The rewards have been abundant and I truly feel fortunate for knowing I have this precious tool to keep me moving forward each and every day.

Liz’s Response 


One of the reasons I wanted to do this project is to see where are thinking was similar and where it differed. We both believe in spiritual growth and progression and yet our belief in God is so different. I find it fascinating.

You speak as a traveler searching for a precious artifact. You find pieces of it here and there that give you comfort, understanding, and fortitude to continue on your quest.

I’m so glad we are doing this!  Love you.

Liz's Thoughts  

John Gottman is considered to be one of this country’s foremost marriage and family therapists.  His research on relationship dynamics has covered hundreds of thousands of couples – basically this guy knows what he’s talking about.

Gottman has discovered that what makes a relationship work is the willingness to turn towards each other, to choose connection over disconnection. Particularly, in difficult moments when individuals are feeling vulnerable.

He teaches that it matters less how couples fight, how often they fight, and what they fight about, but rather how they behave after the altercation. Do they go off by themselves and lick their wounds? Do they reach out to someone else for comfort? Or do they reach out to their partner and offer connection? Gottman’s research shows that those couples who chose to turn back to each other have a stronger relationship than those who turned elsewhere.

I believe that this principle applies to step 11. I interpret this step to be making a commitment to continually choose to turn to God, to share all aspects of our lives and experiences with Him, thereby maintain a strong relationship with Him wherein we can receive His guidance and follow His counsel.

If turning toward someone works to strengthen relationships with our partners it most certainly will work in our relationship with God.

In his book Promptings or Just Me?, Kevin Hinckley talks about the mode of prayer and how it is so easy for us to get stuck in a personal repetitive prayers. Prayers that become checklists (ie, give thanks, ask for blessings, care for loved ones etc.) do not further connection with God. He illustrates this principle by talking about how he would be more concerned with asking the Lord to bless everyone including Aunt Irma than about actually sharing with the Lord the things that were on his heart.

Praying for our loved ones is a beautiful and charitable thing but when we do it as a matter of business and a way of avoiding, even subconsciously, exposing ourselves to the Lord there is a problem.

It’s also silly because the Lord knows all. He knows that while we are talking about Aunt Irma we are really thinking about the fight we had with our mother, or our hope that an encounter will develop into a romance, or that we won’t get laid off. He knows these things. The only person we are hiding from is ourselves.

So much of our behavior is a way of avoiding exposing ourselves to our self, and we wonder why we can’t be vulnerable to God and other people. We cannot give to others what we are unable to give to ourselves. God works in the sacred circle. If we are willing to turn towards him, he will bring us back to ourselves.

Lisa's Response



I love the checklist prayer and how often I get into that same routine.. Even today when I am feeling lazy!!!

I enjoyed this essay and enjoyed your feedback. Yes, for me God is a constant, but in my mind, God is not something that is fixed and we already know everything about Him. I believe we know little of what God is, what He truly is capable of, and that is where the “seeking” in my life is important.

I find my most difficult times in life are when I believe I know everything or I know God’s plan for anyone…I believe that the only place God exists is in the NOW and because that is always changing he is constant in that, but what we are able to see of him reveals itself like peeling back the layers of an artichoke, so to speak.

I only believe we as humans have touched the surface of God and all of the amazement, joy, love and wonder that comes from that source-if that makes any sense!

Love you!!

Want to know when the next conversation is published? Sign-up for email notifications (upper right side).  

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Conversing Sisters: Step 10, Taking Our Personal Inventory

Me & Lisa, circa 1996

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 10: "Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it."

Lisa's Thoughts  

Step 10 is a very important step, but in my program it usually is the one overlooked most often.  As I was reading this evening about Step 10 for a little inspiration, I was reminded of how powerful this step is when used daily. As I was reading, I heard things like, “we cease fighting everyone and everything” and “love and tolerance is our code.” Immediately, I felt a heaviness lifted off of my chest.

Connecting with God allows me to put down my ego and all my defenses, open my heart space to love and acceptance. 

I was reminded of how diligent I was in the beginning of my sobriety. Each night, I would journal about my day, I would ask myself a set of questions about honesty, love, openness, and willingness, I would reflect to see if I had harmed anyone that day and would immediately clean up my wreckage. Over the years, I have lost that sense of urgency to keep my side of the street clean on a daily basis - free of resentments, gossip and negativity.

Today, as I work this step, it is no surprise to me as to why I am struggling with my medications. Somewhere along the way, I have allowed small resentments to creep in. I haven’t dealt with my side of the street. Here I am again all tangled up. Luckily, I have a solution today. I know exactly what to do and where to go to live it.

Living a sober spiritual life is absolutely a blessing. However, it does come with a price and often that road is very lonely. I remind myself that it isn’t about what others can get away with and live with. I have knowledge today of God’s grace and mercy, and I can no longer behave in many of the ways I used to, regardless, of how it may be the norm or not.

Working a rigorously honest program takes work. Every decision is either wreckage or love. There is no grey area with that in my life. Recently, I haven’t held myself to the standard of living I know I am capable of when dealing with others. I have found myself saying, “I will let someone else do it,” or “I don’t need to talk to my sponsor about that,” or “Just stay home from the meeting, you're too tired.”

As I have bought into these excuses, one day at a time, I have rested on my laurels. Faith without action is dead. I have proven that to myself on more than one occasion.

I laugh when my sponsor says, “You can coast if you want to but just remember that technically you're still falling,” or “breathe,” and then hangs up. She is so wise.

Taking a daily inventory offers so much peace and serenity in my life. I don’t have to hold onto flat tires and burnt mac-n-cheese for weeks on end anymore. Those mole hills don’t have to become mountains.

I can clean up the wreckage and be a light and an example of what God’s love is capable of. I feel immensely blessed in this moment to be reminded of the simple tools I have today to be back on track with my sobriety. I can’t explain the relief I have remembering and fully knowing, once again, there is a simple solution to myself.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to learn Step 10 on even a deeper level.

Liz’s Response 


This reminds me of something I wrote to a friend recently. She is, currently, processing her childhood trauma – “I want to remind you that you are not alone in your journey.  The road you are walking is solely yours, but it is surrounded by women who are also on the same journey, and every now and then we call out to each other as a reminder that we are never really/truly alone.  You are part of a sisterhood that offers understanding, empathy, love &  belonging. We stand with you as you process your story, discover your voice & learn to use it to tell your unique story (whatever that might look like).”


Wonderfully honest & vulnerable.  I think it may be one of my favorites.

Liz's Thoughts  

Self-awareness is a lifestyle that requires constant and continual diligence, commitment and action. It is imperative that we continually take our own personal inventory, so we are aware of how our desires, intentions and behaviors are manifesting in our lives, affecting the people we interact with and the environment we inhabit. Avoidance, denial and blame are seductive alternatives to awareness and responsibility, but they are masks – masks that inhibit connection to our source, ourselves and to others.  

I appreciate that this step presumes that we will continue to make mistakes. The assumption or quest for perfection, meaning without flaw, is futile and destructive. It is not only impossible to live a flawless life, it also goes against the very purpose of our existence in this Earth school. Our agency is the most valuable gift the Father has given us. Christ’s atonement provides the space and means by which we are able to fully engage our agency. Our experiences, based on the choices we make, will all be for our benefit and growth. With agency comes consequence. We are responsible for all that we create in the world.

The wisdom in this step is that it provides council for when we do make the mistakes. We are to promptly admit them. The key is promptly.

Falling down is a given. What you do when you are down is what determines your character. 

By promptly utilizing the tools learned in the previous steps, we can minimize the damage created by our wrongs. This is what is greatly missing in our culture and politics –the ability and willingness to take responsibility for our actions and make the amends with humility and grace.

The difference between humility and humiliation is great.  Humiliation is when our ego/pride is bruised. Humility is the ability to set aside the ego and become teachable. Humility fosters resiliency, connection and personal growth.

Step 10, also, echoes of a concept I’ve been pondering this past week and have come to believe to be a capital “T” TRUTH: We get exactly what it is that we want. 

That want is determined by our intentions, desires and behaviors. I was, recently, thinking about this in terms of my first marriage. I would have told you, at the time, I wanted a temple marriage (ie a relationship built upon and committed to the principles and doctrines of the LDS church), but my choices proved otherwise. It wasn’t that I didn’t, actually, want these things it was that I held other things in higher value. Instead, I sought after and got a relationship based upon carnal desires and passions. I still live with some of the consequences of that want fifteen years later.

Our want is synonymous with our faith. This is why faith is a fundamental part of our lives and why the scriptures teach us of its incredible power. Christ taught that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed we could move mountains (Matthew 17:20). A mustard seed is very small, about the size of a tip of a pin. If that amount of faith can move a mountain, think about what would be possible if we fully embodied faith in our lives.

Russell M. Nelson in an 2008 Liahona article teaches, “Having faith in [Jesus Christ] means relying completely on Him—trusting in His infinite power, intelligence and love. It includes believing His teachings. It means believing that even though we do not understand all things, He does.”

Elder Nelson goes on to say, “You exercise faith in Christ when you have (1) an assurance that He exists, (2) a correct idea of His character, and (3) a knowledge that you are striving to live according to His will.”

I love that Elder Nelson says that we need to have a correct idea of Christ’s character in order to have faith in him. We know he is the embodiment of love, forgiveness, charity, patience and mercy because of the New Testament. We can further come to a sure knowledge of his character by building our own personal relationship with him by being his disciple.

I find it much easier to put my faith in something or someone that I am familiar with. Joseph Smith taught that faith is often preceded by a bit of knowledge and that through the act of faith we come to have a greater knowledge.

We talk a lot about faith, but I find it difficult to apply this principle to my life when trials and opposition come into my life. In his book, Promptings or Me, Kevin Hinckley uses Peter’s experience of walking on the water as an example of how hard it is to hold our faith when we feel opposition. As you may recall, the apostles are crossing the Sea of Galilee. Christ has stayed behind to pray. A terrible storm comes that threatens the apostle’s little boat. They become very afraid and just when they think all is lost, they see someone coming towards them.

Christ calls to them saying “Be of good cheer, it is I; be not afraid.” Peter responds and says, if it be your will, bid me come.  Christ says come. Peter steps out onto the water and, like Christ, begins to walk upon the water. The winds get worse which frightens Peter.  He begins to sink and calls out to Christ for help. Immediately, Christ stretches forth his hand, catches Peter, and says, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:31).

Now, you may hear this story and interpret it as the time Peter tried to walk on water but failed.  But I challenge you that he did not fail. He did actually walk on water, which was a miracle of physics and faith. It was when the storm got worse that Peter doubted and began to sink. How often has that happened in your life? You step out in faith and then things get worse so you begin to doubt? You begin to sink?

Here’s where this story has the greatest advantage to be applicable in our lives, if we do what Peter did and reach out to the Lord all things can be restored.

Furthermore, I do not believe that Christ is admonishing Peter. I think he says - oh, you of little faith. Why did you doubt?  Did you not see what you are capable of when you have faith?

Through self-awareness we can come to know what it is we truly want and with faith we too can walk on water.

Lisa's Response


This, too, is probably one of my most favorite essays!

It was detailed, honest, and well thought out. I love that you brought up the fact that this step implies that we will make mistakes and God already knows that!!!  In “How it Works,” which is part of the Big Book that is read at every meeting it states, “We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.”

This always gives me a sense of relief and especially helped me when I first got sober.

I, also, love that you bring up doubt and how our lives are truly contingent on our reliance on our higher power as well as our level of faith. These two things have everything to do with our free agency and little to do with God. Yet the paradox is that it has everything to do with God too, if that makes sense.

We are the creators in the outcome…if we live in faith, we open to the flow of all that seems impossible. If we live in doubt, we sink, just as you said. But that isn’t God forcing, that it is our decision. I, too, believe that awareness is the antidote to so many of our human behaviors.

I love you so much!!

Want to know when the next conversation is published? Sign-up for email notifications (upper right side).  

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Conversing Sisters: Step 9, Making Our Amends

Me & Lisa on Halloween, circa 2012

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 9: "Made direct amends to such people, whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others."

Lisa's Thoughts  

Step 9 has had absolutely the greatest effect on my relationships, more than any of the other steps. The other steps primarily focus inward and on myself, whereas this step’s actions includes others. I was extremely relieved when I learned how to make a true amends.

My idea of an amends, previous to this step, was a detailed I’m sorry, followed by begging for forgiveness. This is how I usually tried to right my wrongs in the past. Through working this step, I learned that an amends is so much more than an I am sorry. Honestly, by the time I made it to Alcoholics Anonymous, most of the people in my life didn’t even want to hear it anymore.

Powerful moments have come to pass simply through working this step.

Making a direct amends is a thought out process. It is worked very closely with a sponsor, usually because alcoholics only want to talk about themselves or blame someone else for their shortcomings. A sponsor can assist in keeping the focus on the alcoholic’s part and open the opportunity to the lessons and the blessings that come with total accountability.

I remember rewriting several of my first amends because I would have written out a shortcoming and then follow it up with, “I reacted that way because you…” or “I didn’t feel accepted by you...” etc.

 AA doesn’t have very many no no’s. However, some of the unsaid no no’s are: you don't take someone else’s inventory; own your side of the street but include theirs as well; or offer an excuse for why you made any given decision. This was difficult for me at first because I felt that people, like my father, should know why I acted the way I did. In the beginning, I truly believed it was because of how he raised me.

What I learned in this step is...I always had a choice, my side of the street was my side of the street and my choices were my choices.

I may have been helpless as a child, but I couldn’t blame anyone for anything I created as an adult, even if I had some belief that the continued behavior was due to some wrong of someone else when I was a child.

An amends is always followed up with a willingness to take action to make it right. 

I found that many of the people I made an amends to didn’t want anything back from me; they just wanted me to stay sober and live a happy and peaceful life. It often amazed me how people would respond in kindness all because of my willingness to make it right and stand accountable for my part.

So many relationships in my life have healed because of my continued work with Step 9. Step 9 even comes with a set of promises that are absolutely true,

There are people, on my first Step 9, who have not yet crossed my path, and I have not had the opportunity to make an amends as of yet. It is beautiful how the universe works though, every now and then someone will be at the grocery store or gas station. I get to make an amends in the most random places. The universe always responds to my willingness, and I know in time I will be able to make them as needed.

Also, there are several people on my Step 9 that my amends is never truly finished. These people include God, myself, my parents, my siblings and especially my little children. Today, I make a living amends to them every day. A living amends is a committed action to behave differently and to remain open and teachable to a new way of life. It's a genuine level of humility to these people that you will do whatever it takes to keep moving forward and to give every part of you in love and light.

My family has healed me one day at a time. They were the people I was convinced had caused me so much pain and suffering and yet they are the ones, today, who stand behind me no matter what. It is simply amazing how much I have been blessed with the family I have, and as one of my beautiful sisters passed on to me, “ matter what it takes, we ride home together.

Liz’s Response 


We do ride home together!!!

I think that if we all could chose to making a living amends to the people in our tribe, so much healing could occur. Today, I’m choosing to make a living amends to my intimates. Oh, I do love step 9. It's promise is so powerful. I particularly love, “As God’s people we stand on our feet; we don’t crawl before anyone.” I couldn’t agree more.

In fact, now being on the other side of the repentance process, I can say that once I chose to take responsibility for my actions and make an amends I could stand tall on my own feet for the first time in years.

Another paradox: Avoiding the things we fear the most crushes us; owning them liberates us.

Love you!

Liz's Thoughts  

I was familiar with step 9 before starting this project. In fact, a few years ago it helped bring awareness, reconciliation and healing into my life.

In 2010, someone I was very close to betrayed me - let’s call her “Jane.” Initially, I was shocked, hurt and even angry. After the initial heightened emotions waned, I told Jane that I forgave her and asked her to never do it again. She didn’t honor my wishes. Jane continued with the hurtful behavior. Because this behavior was potentially damaging to my life, I severed the relationship.

By now, Lisa had been active in AA and was educating our family about addiction. She gave us language to use and resources to help the healing process. Jane was in active addiction. Lisa invited Jane to attend meetings with her and she accepted. Shortly, thereafter, I mentioned to Lisa that maybe I should consider reconciling with Jane. Lisa suggested that I hold off. She believed that Jane needed more time in recovery before that conversation would be beneficial for either of us. That is when Lisa told me about step 9.

I liked this step 9.  It allowed me to justify holding on to my resentment towards Jane. She was the one in the wrong, therefore she was the one who had to make the amends. Until she did, I could sit back and stew in my justification.

Thankfully, I eventually realized that in my resentment I wasn’t anymore prepared for a step 9 conversation than Jane was.

I immediately felt humbled.

I had to decide what I wanted more – to hold onto my pride and pain or to lay the foundation for reconciliation. Laying the foundation would require me to make “a searching and fearless moral inventory of [myself].” Jane had long since stopped the hurtful behavior. So, I begin the process of forgiveness in hopes that when she was ready to make an amends I would be ready to accept her offering sincerely with love and compassion.

Eventually, Jane did reach out to me to make an amends. Our reconciliation was difficult, awkward, and uncomfortable, but we leaned into the discomfort and came through the other side stronger and closer.

Lisa's Response


These steps have so much power in so many lives. I have often heard in the rooms of AA that there are millions of members worldwide and just as many people who have been touched by the steps in one way or another.

I like how you pointed out that there is a process that is necessary prior to working Step 9. I absolutely know that this is because an amends requires committed action. Most people are not ready to do anything differently until the time to heal has passed for both people.

I love you!  

Want to know when the next conversation is published? Sign-up for email notifications (upper right side).  

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Conversing Sisters: Step 8, Making Our Lists

Me & Lisa, circa 2009

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 8: "Made a list of all people we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all."

Lisa's Thoughts  

Traditionally in AA, this step is worked through accessing your original 4th step. Everyone who was listed on your 4th step, now becomes your 8th step. I was fortunate enough not to know this the first time I worked the steps. It came completely unexpectedly. However, after working steps 5, 6, & 7, I could absolutely see that I had a part in all of my resentments. So, it made sense that I too owed an amends to many of the people I believed had wronged me for so many years.  In addition to those listed on my 4th step, I also added those who were innocently affected by my drinking career. People who I didn’t resent, yet I felt guilt and shame as a result of my behavior with them.

Step 8 was the beginning of true freedom for me.

Although I felt a level of cleanliness with the other steps, when I began to make right my wrongs true freedom from guilt and shame began to seep in. This is the step that allowed me to list people like my children, Liz and Veronica. People that I was never angry with, yet my actions had caused a great deal of harm.

I was anxious to work this step and Step 9 so I could begin living without fear, or so I thought. What I didn’t realize was Steps 8 & 9 are lifelong processes that never end. There are still several people on my original 8th and 9th step that I have not yet had the opportunity to make amends with. However, I do know when the universe aligns it will provide the opportunity just at the right time. It always seems to work that way.

Making the list was easy, becoming willing was difficult with a few people - my ex-husband, for example. However, with much prayer for willingness it came within a short amount of time, and I genuinely felt love, forgiveness and compassion, for even him - and a willingness to clean up my side of the street.

I have found with Step 8, if there is a person I am struggling to make an amends to, I simply pray for that person for two weeks to have everything I have ever wanted and more. Usually, within a few days the willingness comes along with acceptance, and once again I am moved to peace and serenity.

It is not a requirement to make an amends to everyone on your 4th step. Especially those who truly hurt you such as child abuse and things like that. However, I found a whole new level of freedom within myself when I became willing to make an amends to even those people. Not for their actions but for my actions following any circumstance, even if it was sending them negative energy, or for being in a state of unforgiving for any amount of time.

This is a wonderful preparation step for Step 9 and much needed in my opinion. Step 9 takes on a whole new emotional storm - the habit of praying for others and taking a look at my only my part is crucial in moving forward.

Liz’s Response 


It always comes back to the one thing we can control – our behavior.

Another paradox – when living in the shadow, our behavior is the last thing we want to take ownership of. We try and control everything else, but when we take ownership of our behavior and nothing else, we experience an abundance of peace, healing and possibilities.

Love you & hope you are doing much better.

Liz's Thoughts  

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the interconnectedness of humanity. We are all so deeply connected in a myriad of ways that it is inevitable that our actions will affect at least one other, if not multiple people. We are fooling ourselves if we believe that our actions only affect us. Even the most private of decisions have a ripple effect. We are responsible for the ripples we send out into the world, and when those ripples cause destruction we must make an amends.

I recently saw a reading of Everybody in the Gene Pool by Stephen Mo Hanan. It explores this very idea. It's set in heaven and the principal character, a woman, is just minutes from being born on Earth. There's a Guide giving her last minute advice and preparing her for her new life. As the play continues, we learn that this woman has already lived on Earth as a man and is being reincarnated. It is necessary for her to be reincarnated because in her previous life she caused a tremendous amount of pain to humanity through acts of violence and torture. The God of this play is requiring her to go back and make amends by bringing light and love into the world in order to restore balance. Love is the restorative act. Anything that has been damaged can be made whole through love. 

However, we have to be willing to own our actions and see with true eyes what it is we have done in order to bring about healing. I’ve found that the more I see humanity’s interconnectedness, and continue to enlarge my capacity for compassion and empathy, the more willing I am to take accountability for my actions.  When I’m able to humble myself to this state than love is the natural response.

Lisa's Response


I love that you talk about the interconnectedness between humans and the ripple effect we have intentionally or not.  When you were describing that play I was wondering if someone had written it about JK.

But I do wonder about that sometimes. I believe that there are no accidents or coincidences. Everything and everyone is an opportunity to choose love or not. If I choose not, than there will be an amends at some point. 

Love you!

Want to know when the next conversation is published? Sign-up for email notifications (upper right side).  

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 know that the truth sets me free and my innocence is available, at any time, so long as I become willing to get honest. 

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.

Want to know when the next conversation is published? Sign-up for email notifications (upper right side).  

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Conversing Sisters: Step 6, Removing All These Defects

Lisa & Me, circa 2013

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 6: “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”

Lisa's Thoughts  

Step 6 is truly the step that separates the men from the boys. This is where I learned how I often seek comfort rather than character building. Previous to working this step, I often found myself in a state of reactivity. Without thought, I responded to situations in my life quickly and often harshly never considering that I had a choice in the matter. After working this step, I have come to know that there is a choice in everything I do.

There have been many uncomfortable moments in my life where I have chosen to be comfortable rather than stand in my truth and build my character. I first had to take a look at the big things - drinking, for example. I had to decide moment to moment whether or not I was going to live and stay sober or drink and die.

In the beginning, it was moment by moment, second by second. I would not drink for just that moment and somehow the moments become hours, the hours become days, the days become weeks and so on. This is how I have chosen to become entirely ready to have God remove my defects of character with action. It’s with every response- do I respond in love or in fear every time, moment to moment? At the end of a relationship, I am not ready to let go of, do I sit in it alone with God and heal? Or do I enter immediately into another relationship, so I won’t have to feel the loneliness and rejection?

You see, for me, this step is what I do next with whatever I am presented with. I haven’t always worked this step perfectly and, fortunately, later on down the road there is a step that helps with that too. However, I am aware today that I have choice.

It is in the willingness that power is hidden. When I become willing, with a whole heart, my Creator moves the universe to align with my willingness and, suddenly, with a little practice it seems effortless and almost humorous.   

I often laugh at the things I used to get all worked up about. How I would spend days and weeks festering over one little thing, reacting over and over. I have found such peace and joy in this step. Every time I am able to behave differently, even just once, I feel I am conquering myself a little more each and every day. There is such power in this step, and the more I rely upon it to work in my life the more miraculous my relationships become by simply doing one thing different.

Liz’s Response 


I want more!!  Love you!

Liz's Thoughts  

This step marks the halfway point in this writing project on the twelve steps and the halfway point for any alcoholic working the steps towards recovery.  It is significant then that a willingness, ability and desire (perhaps this is what is meant by “ready”) to allow God to work his miracle in your life happens at this point in the journey. I’ve experienced the first five steps as an awareness of who I am, where I come from, and the actions I have made that have led me to this moment in my life. It is suggested that by engaging in this level of awareness and accountability that I would be ready to have the defects of my character removed.

This is the first step that overwhelmed me, gave me pause and, for which, I had a physical response (a tightening in my chest). In reading this step, I came to really know and understand that the AA program is not playing around; it is playing for keeps.

I don’t always want to give up my defects of character. They are familiar to me, which gives me comfort because I know my place in the world with them. I have engaged with my family, friends, co-works and humanity with these foibles. I know how others respond to them and how to cope with that response. This has given me a level of stasis that I know I can survive in.

However, I don’t merely want to survive this existence. I want to thrive.

Therefore, I must we willing to lean into the discomfort of the unknown, to risk growth and progression.

In pondering this, I hear the words of actor and activist, Ruby Dee...

I find change really comes down to comfort. I will contemplate, intend and plan on change, but until I’m pushed out of my comfort zone, I will not engage in it with any real intent or vigor.  It is at these times of great discomfort I’m am able and willing to let go of my familiar friends.

Our Cousin Angela (therapist) advises me, in these moments, to treat the character defeat as a friend. I invite this friend over for tea, we have a chat, and then I ask it to leave. This approach works for me because sometimes my defects of character are also my coping mechanisms –coping mechanisms that have literal and figuratively saved my life.

It is a painful day when you realize the very behavior that has saved you in the past is the very behavior that is preventing you from further growth.

That is why it is beneficial to take a moment and honor the place it has held in your life (having a chat over tea) and then turn it over to God. I suspect if I have truly worked the prior steps, though this action may be terrifying and painful, with it comes great peace and space to grow into what you are becoming.

Lisa's Response


Yes Yes Yes!!!! Alcoholics share all the time about how their character defects were exactly what previously saved their lives, literally. I can so relate!! I had to manipulate, to an extreme, to get myself out of many life and death situations. It is still one of the ones I can’t seem to let go of.

I love that you shared that quote by Ruby Dee! It is so perfect for this step.
Thank you for all you do! I have so enjoyed this process.

Although, I do need to talk to you and get honest about some things I am struggling with…

I hate that I am not perfect sometimes or that my judgment is still that of an addict.

I love you!

Want to know when the next conversation is published? Sign-up for email notifications (upper right side).  

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Conversing Sisters: Step 5, We Are Admitting

Lisa & Me, circa 2010

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 5: "Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being, the exact nature of our wrongs."

Lisa's Thoughts  

EGO- Edging God Out.  

The 5th Step is the step that allows me to face my ego head on. I like to call it - the ego diffusion step. As I have gotten a little better in AA, this is the step that keeps me from acting on my thoughts and acting with God’s guidance for the most part.  

When I first came to AA, I would have liked to have told you that I was a good mother, a good daughter and a good wife. I probably said out loud, more than once, that the only reason why I drank was because of what others have done to me, and if you had my life you would drink too.  The truth was that I was not a good mother, a good daughter, a good sibling, a good wife or really much good at all, as far as my behaviors were concerned. Facing myself in this manner has been one of the most challenging, yet the most rewarding at the same time.

This step, also, helped me deal with some of my resentments concerning my childhood and the religion I was raised in. I hated having to meet with the Bishop to discuss what I had been up to and then come up with an action plan as to how I was going to change my behavior, so that it would be aligned with what the church was teaching. 

After working this step, I fully understand the power in discussing my wrongs with another human being and the freedom it offers. I do, however, appreciate that in AA it is understood that you can read your 5th step to anyone you choose. It can be your sponsor, your parent, your friend, a guy on the bus, or a religious leader. Having the choice seemed to make it easier knowing that I could completely come clean about my shortcomings with a perfect stranger if needed, so that I would feel safe.  Every 5th step I have worked, I have read with my sponsor at the time.

In addition to dealing with a great deal of ego in this step, it also provides the opportunity for two human beings to share their suffering. I believe suffering is the great leveler and truly is what binds us together. It gets easier to clean up my wrongs when another woman stands up and shares my story in front of a group of strangers. It always made sense to me that if they can do that, then I can most definitely write it down on paper and discuss it with someone I felt very safe confiding in.
Becoming aware of my wrongs has made making them right that much easier. In addition, the awareness allows me to remember the spiritual price I pay when I behave in a way that is not congruent with the program of AA or the spiritual laws I choose to govern myself by today.  These wrongs have miraculously become my greatest assets in working with other alcoholics who suffer as I did.  

Step 5 is that purification process that burns deep until it shines just like a potter’s clay sculpture. The more I am willing to learn about myself the more light seems to shine all around me. 

Liz’s Response 


I love what you have to say about sharing your wrongs with another person. I totally agree.

Also, I completely understand your aversion to speaking with a Bishop and appreciate your willingness to hold space for how it can be beneficial. I only wish that all people had the same experience that I did meeting with my Bishop. I know that they don’t and that breaks my heart.

I did, however, miss in this piece what the process was like to formally admit your wrongs to yourself and to God. You touch on it briefly in the beginning, I crave more of your experience with those two experiences. I think it is inspired that those three admittances live in one step as they are three distinct actions/experiences yet they inform on each other completely.

Love you!

Liz's Thoughts  

This weekend I’ve felt disconnected from the spirit. In my morning and evening prayers I would ask for the Spirit to be with me as I was feeling particularly vulnerable. Yet, I still felt disconnected.  I knew God was with me but I didn't feel the presence of the Spirit. It occurred to me that perhaps this was because I was too consumed with what I was feeling and how I had been mistreated that I hadn’t created space for how I was contributing to the feelings I was experiencing. I realized that my ego was bruised. By admitting this to myself I could then start the process of examining why my ego was injured, what I thought I was entitled to (entitlement is a key informant that this is an ego issue) and what my ego was after.

I’ve been engaging in self-awareness/reflective behavior long enough now that this has become second nature. There is a part of me that gets excited to discover something new about myself, something new to work on and grow from.

It wasn’t until I had admitted to myself that I could take it to God. This morning I acknowledged what was battling my ego and asked for comfort and strength. I still was not feeling the Spirit. In the middle of the day it occurred to me that I needed to ask for forgiveness for being prideful, which I did and felt the Spirit immediately.

As I continued throughout the day, I reach out to a couple of my dearest friends and admitted to them that I’m an ego driven person.  It’s helpful to admit my foibles to others because (1) it allows me to hear my own voice naming and claiming what is; (2) a way of being held accountable and (3) these people are a source of comfort, strength and love.

Admitting my wrongs to myself, God & trusted people helps me to work through my issues and continue the struggle for growth and development.  

Lisa's Response


I love this! I love that we were able to talk about this in depth.

What I have learned over the past few days, or was reminded of, is with every action we are either feeding our ego or our soul, and it is simply a choice we make. The one we feed is the one that survives, or takes control I should say. I believe if we feed our soul our ego will follow suit and work in harmony with it.

This is such a powerful journey we are on, the purpose of life is to learn. I am so grateful for the many painful experiences in our lives that broke us to complete teachability and I believe we are all that more blessed because we are open to learning… that is the miracle.

Love you!

Want to know when the next conversation is published? Sign-up for email notifications (upper right side).  

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Conversing Sisters: Step 4, We Are Searching & Fearless

Me & Lisa, circa 1980

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 4: "Made A Searching and Fearless Moral Inventory of Ourselves."

Lisa's Thoughts  

When I first heard the steps read out loud in a meeting of AA, this was the step that probably scared me the most. At first glance, the words seemed so cold that anytime someone would say them I would be frozen with fear. Immediately, every single demoralizing act would rapidly run through my mind so chaotically that I couldn’t fathom admitting to most of my wrongs- let alone take an inventory of all of these things in an effort to try and make them right.

Fortunately, the steps are in order for a reason. Because I had worked the first three with a woman I loved and knew loved me, when it finally came time to work this step it was a little easier to take a deeper look at it. Surprisingly, when I met with her to receive instructions on this step, it wasn’t at all what I thought it would be. My assignment was to write down all of the resentments I had - the things that just seemed to bother me, anything in my life that I found difficult to let go of, and to write, in detail, the full extent of each circumstance with each resentment.

I am sure my list wasn’t very different than any other alcoholic, even though I was under the impression that I was terminally unique at the time. My list included several people who I felt had harmed me along the way. The people who made it to the top of the list were my father, my uncle, my ex and soon to be ex-husband, several ex-boyfriends, my grandparents, my younger sister and above anyone else was myself.

I remember bringing my long list to my sponsor the next week believing that she was going to truly be impressed by my extensive list, and that she would feel so sorry for me because there had been so many people who had hurt me throughout my life up until that point. So, I am sure you can imagine my astonishment when she read my list nodded a few times and handed it back to me and said, “The next part of your assignment is to write down: your part in each of these situations; what wrongs have you done to these people, and talk about that; and bring it to me next week.”

I was shocked.

I remember driving home that day and thinking: My part. What does she mean my part?! Doesn’t she know how bad these people hurt me? Doesn’t she know what I have done for most of these people and they haven’t done anything for me at all?!   

Geez! I was so entitled.

It is difficult to describe in words how identifying my part brought me to such a place of complete humility and began the journey from resentment to compassion to love.   

I have since worked several 4th steps over the years. I’ve received so many blessings and have learned so many things about myself and how I interact with the world.

I’ve learned that the greater the resentment, the greater my part is.

This isn’t always easy to swallow and usually takes some work for me to really peel back the layers and see my part, but God and willingness always seem to help me get there. I have also realized that we take a “moral” inventory of ourselves not an “immoral” inventory.  Meaning, we get to cleanse out the resentment, identify where we could have handled some things differently, and then look back and see where we have grown, and also where we have done right.

When I work this step with my sponsees, once they have completed the whole resentments list and their part, I also have them make a list of all of the things in their lives that bring them gratitude and joy. I ask them to describe their part in that as well. I think it is healthy to take an inventory of ourselves, to make note of our strengths and the things we would like to improve upon, just as successful businesses do.

This step always keeps me balanced and helps to remind me that I am rarely upset for the reasons I think I am. When resentment comes up for me I always ask myself three questions:

What happened?
What is this reminding me of? (This is usually where the feeling of pain comes from)
What was my part?

These three questions help me move through the resentment quickly, so it doesn’t take up too much of my time and energy. Resentments seem to be one of the greatest offenders in alcoholics and if not dealt with usually lead to relapse. Knowing this, I do take them seriously and stay close to God whenever I am dealing with them.

I do have to laugh, though, at the resentments I have had in the past. Some of them seem so ridiculous to me now. My current sponsor (who is simply amazing) always laughs when I call her with a new resentment. She says, “Honey, resentments may be the dubious luxury of normal people. Unfortunately for you, you are not even close to normal.”

We both laugh, tell each other how much we love one another and the program of AA.  What a blessing it is.

Liz’s Response 


I love the three questions. They are a practical and simple tool to have in life’s toolbox.  It also keeps your mind occupied so that the crazy making parts can’t take over. I love that you add gratitude. I completely agree. Whenever I become anxious or annoyed I start playing the “glad game.”  Pollyanna left a mark on my soul.

I also appreciate the distinction between immoral and moral inventory.  One is for you, the other is for God and, as I learned from you, we need to stay out of God’s business. Yes, it is important to identify and own your part or as Oprah says “Name it so you can claim it.”  Since we are only responsible for our actions & can only change our behavior it gives us a way to work through the resentment. It also allows us to forgive ourselves.  How can we fully forgive others if we are unwilling to forgive ourselves?

This also reminds me of a story someone told me of the time he met Maya Angelou. They had a brief conversation and at the end she said to him – take today to forgive the lies that have been said about you. AND forgive the lies you have said about yourself.

LOVE Maya Angelou!

Liz's Thoughts  

As I mentioned in step 3, I spent the last year of my life preparing to make further/deeper covenants with God. These covenants would reaffirm my commitment and desire to be a faithful disciple of Christ. Before, I could make these covenants I had to prove that I was ready and worthy. Upon deciding to make these covenants, I met with my Bishop to assess where I was at and receive guidance on how I could prepare myself to further progress spiritually. I know that I would have to enter a repentance process. I was fully aware that some of my behavior was not in keeping with the commandments and covenants I had already made. I naively thought that I would confess my sins, that punishment would be given, and that I’d promise never do those things again.

All of that did happen and so much more.

My Bishop told me from the beginning that this process was going to primarily occur between me and the Lord, and that his job was to remind me that the Lord loved me and that I would be forgiven.
That set the tone for a year of taking a moral inventory of myself. It was easy to assess the obvious transgressions. It was much harder to really look at my behavior with integrity and honestly identify where I needed to improve. There were moments when I thought I had thoroughly cleaned my spiritual closet and the Lord would gently and lovely reveal a whole shelf of crap I hadn’t even addressed.

It took me awhile to look at myself fearlessly. I didn’t always want to hold myself accountable for my actions. However, I discovered that everything I uncovered and addressed was met with love and light. Love and light brought clarity and healing.

Once I had experienced this a few times I was no longer fearful about what I might find or how it would be received. Towards the end, I was looking for ways to improve as I wanted this love and light to envelop my entire being.

This is how I chose to live today. I’m constantly taking a fearless assessment of my moral inventory in hopes of actively participating in my life with authenticity.

Brene Brown says, “Choosing to live and love with our whole hearts is an act of defiance. You’re going to confuse, piss off, and terrify lots of people—including yourself. One minute you’ll pray that the transformation stops, and then the next minute you’ll pray that it never ends. You’ll also wonder how you can feel so brave and so afraid at the same time. At least that’s how I feel most of the time…brave, afraid, and very, very alive.”

I appreciate Brown’s honesty that authenticity isn’t always met with acceptance and it doesn’t always feel comfortable. I’ve come to know that ultimately it will always attract and be supported by love and light. Therefore, in order to live in true authenticity it is necessary for me to continually search and fearlessly taking my moral inventory, ensuring that my side of the street is clean so that I can stand in my truth and tell my story with integrity.  This is how I make manifest the glory of God that is within me with humility.

Lisa's Response


I know that you know this process all too well as far as taking an honest look at where you could have been more aligned with your true self and the work and time it has taken to get your recommend back. I love that you share so openly about the journey and about vulnerability.

Thank you so much for sharing this with me and reminding me once again that it begins and ends with humility. In the beginning it is humiliating and in the end it is always humbling. I am so grateful that we get to be humans together.

I learn so much from you each and every day!

Want to know when the next conversation is published? Sign-up for email notifications (upper right side).