Most of my life I considered myself a considerate, self aware, down to earth person. Through writing a 4th Step inventory I discovered I was anything but. In taking an honest look at my petty resentments and my self image-based fears I saw how entirely shallow and selfish I had been. A grim realization for a teenager who had declared themselves ‘super self-aware’, a realization so humbling I would not have been able to bring myself to put it on paper if my situation was anything short of life or death.
My thoughts and actions up until I began practicing the 12 steps revolved around me. Constantly thinking,
“How do I feel?”
“How can I feel better now?”
“How am I going to feel later?”
“How do I look?”
“Do people like me?”
This exhausting perspective, viewing the world through how I thought it perceived me, lead me to be a deeply dissatisfied person. I was filled with fear, self doubt, and unrequited expectations.
My mother would spend sleepless nights crying at the foot of my bed as I would twist in pain from opiate withdrawal, and I was still able to earnestly believe I was only hurting myself by using, an erroneous belief that could only be the product of profoundly delusional self-centeredness.
My fears relating to my image debilitated me, things like asking for help, going to school, applying to a job, interacting with a 7-11 cashier were a level of “putting myself out there” that was unthinkable for me. This sort of anxiety existed in me for as long as I can remember and well before I started drinking. I had mis-took self loathing for humility and drastically missed the mark. Although I thought a lot of horrible things about myself, I was still thinking of no one but myself, meaning I was of no help to any one else.
Spirituality and altruism are two cornerstones of the 12 steps of alcoholics anonymous. With much resistance initially, I began to apply these principles to my life and the benefits were endless. The spiritual aspect has been the source needed for me to finally be rid of self. It has been the source of power needed for me to be rid of pride and ego, and in turn I am less gravely affected by potential or perceived judgment or rejection. Being able to think of someone besides me, being useful to them has freed me from self centered fears, social anxiety, and insecurities. I have found salvation from the kind of self involved thinking that was making sobriety so intolerable for me, the kind of thinking that kept leading me to drink.
When writing my fourth step I was easily able to see that not only was my fearful thinking harmful to me, it was also causing harm to others. With asking my Higher Power on a daily basis to remove my self centered thoughts and fears I have been given a new perspective on life. Instead of being paralyzed by my emotions I have been set free and given the opportunity to be helpful to others. My feelings of hopelessness and despair has been transformed into a genuine desire to be useful to others, a new stance on life which has given me peace of mind resulting in peace within my relationships with others.