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Today, I want to talk about Step 4, which is Made a Searching and Fearless Moral Inventory of Ourselves. When I was new to 12-Step, I got Step 4 mixed up with a Step 1 inventory. A Step 1 inventory is when you write down all of the terrible things you’ve ever done, and how your life is unmanageable. I did my Step 1 inventory with my sponsor and went through all of the “sins” I had made, mistakes I had made, all of the ways my life was completely unmanageable. That is a Step 1 inventory.
Step 4 is a little different than that. It is finding out our character defects. Character defects are the reason why you do those things. For me, the root of most of my character defects is fear. Therefore, I control, therefore, I’m dishonest, etc.
As I started my Step 4, I used my Step 1 inventory of all the ways that my life is unmanageable, and then I added to it, all the things that I could remember that I had done wrong. Then I grouped those together to see what underlying character defect made those things happen. Many of them, like I said before, were fear or control, entitlement, jealousy, pride, blame.
There’s so many character defects. I’m just thinking of them now in my head, because I don’t have them listed here. These are both my character defects, and then there are character defects in general. Doing that was very difficult but getting to the bottom of that was important.
Now, I have done Step 4, now, four times since my husband’s arrest, and since I started recovery for real. The list is getting shorter every time. I still have a list of about seven things that are still bothering me. Fear is, probably, the number one thing right now, my character defect that I’m dealing with. I mostly feel fear when I have someone else in my center, rather than God.
For me, after almost just nine, ten months of recovery, I’m just finally realizing what it would be for me to be sober. It’s two things. That I have God in my center, and that I live in the present moment. Those two things help me. I had to go through Step 4—4, 5, 6, and 7, actually—four times before I got to that point where I realized what was really keeping me out of serenity.
For me, fear was really a major one. I was so afraid of my family falling apart, and so afraid of my husband’s behaviors, that control really came out, and I started to control—try to control everything in my life. Of course, that made everything more unmanageable.
Control was also a serious character defect that I had. Those two things, those two character defects kept me from setting boundaries, which I needed to set. Facing that has been a very difficult thing for me, in admitting those character defects.
For me, that “my participation” thing is extremely important, because I am not responsible, nor did I cause, nor do I have any effect on my husband’s choice to act out in his addiction, or to be abusive. That is not where I’m taking responsibility in any way, shape, or form. For me, I was disturbed by the behavior of others and I lacked the ability to detach with compassion and to set boundaries. “Many of our problems came from our inability to form a true partnership with another human being.”
This is a quote from Alcoholics Anonymous on page 53, and I love it. It says:
“Either we insist upon dominating the people we know, or we depend upon them far too much. If we lean too heavily on people, they will sooner or later fail us, for they are human too, and cannot possibly meet our incessant demands. In this way, our insecurity grows and festers. When we habitually try to manipulate others to our own willful desires, they revolt and resist us heavily. Then we develop hurt feelings, a sense of persecution, and a desire to retaliate.
“As we redouble our efforts at control, and continue to fail, our suffering becomes acute and constant. We have not once sought to be one in a family, to be a friend among friends, to be a worker among workers, to be a useful member of society. As we try to struggle to the top of the heap, or hide underneath it, this self-centered behavior blocked a partnership relation with any one of those about us.”
I, genuinely, wanted to be a partner with my husband and was seeking that. I wanted both of us to have equal say, and be able to question each other, be able to talk to each other. Because I was unsafe, and did not have that ability, instead of setting boundaries, I just tried to make him be safe. That doesn’t work.
So many of my character defects came out in Step 4, and I’m grateful to know that now. I’m also grateful to be safe now, and to, now, work toward having a partnership with someone that is safe, that is healthy.
This is key, especially for those of us who have been abused, or our husbands have been unfaithful through pornography use or masturbation or cheating or affairs. Please listen here carefully.
“Let us not take the blame for what others do. As we work our program, we will see that our shortcomings can become assets. We will find serenity.”
The domestic violence shelter was very helpful with me, as they talked to me about what abuse was. They gave me a book entitled, Why Does He Do That? Here’s a paragraph from this that I think is important to talk about, when we’re talking about Step 4, in terms of when you are the victim of abuse.
It says: “There continues to be social pressure on women to make their relationship work and to find a way to hold the family together, regardless of abuse. Since so many people accept the misconception that abuse comes from bad relationship dynamics, they see the woman as sharing responsibility equally for getting things to go better. Into this concept steps the abuser, telling his friends and family, ‘I still really want to work things out, but she isn’t willing to try. I guess it isn’t worth the effort to her, and she’s refusing to look at her part in what went wrong, she puts it all on me.’
“What family and friends may not know is that an abused woman refuses to ‘look at her part in the abuse,’ she has actually taken a powerful step out of self-blame and toward emotional recovery. She doesn’t have any responsibility for his actions and his choices. Anyone who tries to get her to share responsibility is adopting the abusers perspective.” That is not what Step 4 is about. Step 4 is about genuinely taking responsibility for your own character defects, not the character defects of someone else, and not someone else’s actions.
I’d like to end today with a prayer that I read in Alcoholics Anonymous.
Lord, make me a channel of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, may I bring love.
Where there is wrong, may I bring a spirit of forgiveness.
Where there is discord, may I bring harmony.
Where there is error, may I bring truth.
Where there is doubt, may I bring faith.
Where there is despair, may I bring hope.
Where there are shadows, may I bring light.
Where there is sadness, may I bring joy.
Lord, grant that I may seek to comfort, rather than to be comforted,
to understand, rather than to be understood,
to love than to be loved.
For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven. It is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.”
In my life, I feel like there has been a death. Both the death of my husband, spiritually and physically, because he is gone now, with no contact. Also, a death in me, that I had a great love and I wanted to have a life with my husband. I had a marriage that was alive and now is dead. This brings me much grief and much sadness, and I really miss that. I miss the hope that that brought in my life. I miss working towards something.
I would still like to be working toward that. My husband’s choice to divorce has stopped that, but I’m grateful that I am on a path to peace, and that, as I work through my grief and as I work through my pain, that someday I will feel peace, and someday all things will be made right.
I was in the temple, and a returned missionary just had gotten home the day before. He saw me crying, and he came over, and he said, “If it’s not fine, it’s not the end.” We talked for a little bit. He talked about his mission and I was grateful that he saw me, and that he reached out to comfort me. So grateful for all the people who have comforted me during this time of such difficulty and pain and betrayal. Especially my Heavenly Father, who I have been very ungrateful at times. My pain is so overwhelming it’s been difficult to be grateful, but I can see how he made a way for my escape, and that his hand is in it, and that this is his will, even though it doesn’t make sense.
For so long, I would say that it’s God’s will to have a happy peaceful family. It’s also God’s will to have a happy peaceful family. If one of the members does not want that, and my husband did tell me outright that he is not able to do that, that he said, and most humbly, “I am not able to be what you want.”
What I want is someone who is not abusive, who does not act out in their addiction. In light of that, someone who is unwilling to change, does not want to change, clearly God’s will would be for me to move on. As much as that is so hard for me to wrap my head around, I’m grateful that he made a way for my safe escape.
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