Why Step Eleven is so difficult:
After the deep self-searching and relational reconciling, it would seem that Step Eleven would be a welcome relief. Yet Step Eleven presents new challenges and hurdles. It’s harder than it appears.
Why Step Ten is so difficult:
Step Ten asks us to bring the process of self-assessment into our daily lives. As we complete the day, we are to look back upon it with a careful eye. Were we dishonest, fearful, selfish or resentful? Were we kind and loving? Did we serve others? What could we have done better?
Why Step Nine is so difficult:
Few steps are more daunting than Step Nine, but none so rewarding and freeing. You are becoming accustomed to doing uncomfortable things and moving forward bravely even when you don’t feel it. The more thorough we are, the greater our joy and the stronger our sobriety.
Why Step Eight Is So Difficult:
Having completed the Step Four inventory, we have a good collection of people and entities we have wronged in some way. We have discussed these people and incidents with our sponsor. Now it is time to compile a specific list of the people we have harmed and become willing to make amends.
Why Step Seven Is So Difficult:
We learned some hard truths about ourselves and though we’ve often been tempted to quit, run, or even drink, we’ve stayed the course and kept at it, even if our heart wasn’t always in it. Step Seven is the next hurdle and it represents a challenge because we are often prideful and self-sufficient. It was hard enough to admit that we actually had character defects. And now we have to bring them before God and ask for Him to take them away?
Why Step Six Is So Difficult:
We believe that God has the power to fix us—we saw His amazing grace when we were spontaneously and miraculously relieved of our daily compulsion to drink. But there is still much work ahead; we are told that in order to stay sober we must grow. We must be freed of the exact character defects that caused us to drink in the first place. We must identify the parts of ourselves that are not conducive to a sober life and we must seek change. But how does one actually do it?
Why Step Five Is So Difficult:
For most addicts newly in recovery, this is the first time we have ever authentically examined our own reflection in the mirror. We put our rationalizations, our justifications, and our excuses on the shelf and we looked deep within with a sober eye. We saw the lives we had wasted, the relationships we had destroyed, and the people we’d injured. Overcome by shame and grief, we wondered why our lives had gone this way.
Why Step Four Is So Difficult:
We are setting out to examine our instincts, our appetites, and our personal history as far back as we can remember—in short, our lower selves. And isn’t this, to some degree, what we were drinking to escape? We indulged our instincts to avoid the threat of discomfort. We drank to quell a nagging conscience. We can’t bear to look at our selves, what we have done, and who we have become. But now we are sober and charged with a complete dissection of every person, sin, and drama we drank over. Most people would rather amputate one of their own limbs without anesthesia than to embark on such a fearsome task.
Seeing the inventory as insurmountable, we resist starting; not realizing that in doing so we postpone our recovery, our growth, and our freedom. We know we have been wronged and that we hold grudges, we know we have wronged others miserably, but we cannot bear to look. Or perhaps we are unable to recognize our wrongs. Inventory? What for? Sure, we’ve made some mistakes, but we’re human! This is true, but like excessive wallowing, it is attitude that halts personal growth.
The other hurdle is perfectionism. Believing we will never be able to accurately remember and account for all of the wrongs we have committed, we stall and delay finishing the process until we can get it ‘just right.’ The more we write, the more we remember. Is it possible to actually complete the inventory?
And we have a tendency to quit when things get hard. As it was always easier to grab a drink than to honestly assess our emotional or moral climate, we aren’t practiced in it. We get started and we meet with internal opposition, aversion, anxiety, and even depression. The swirl of uncomfortable emotions prompts us to close the notebook and save the work for another time, maybe never.
“Resentment is the Number One offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have not only been mentally and physically ill, we have also been spiritually ill. When our spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 64)
How To Get Through It:
As mentioned above, we are digging up the very things we drank over. Unless we undergo a drastic purge, we’ll be coerced by our own consciences to drink again. Accept that there is no way around this and that thousands of successfully recovered drunks have trod this path before you. Commit to finishing it, no matter what.
We do this because we need to see our part. We begin by listing all of our resentments—all the people and entities we believe have wronged us. This gets us going, but we don’t stop there. Soon it is time to turn the spotlight on our own lives. Many of us have never seen ourselves authentically. Recognize that the point of the inventory is not to sink you deeper into remorse or self-loathing. You will see the worst of yourself to be sure, but you may also begin to see the best, and the promise of what you can become in recovery.
Get accountable and set a schedule. This step involves practical action steps and a strategic approach. The inventory process shouldn’t take more than five or six weeks. It is a taxing effort and best to move through it rapidly. Set a date with your sponsor to give your Fifth Step to motivate completion within a healthy timeframe. Commit to working on it regularly, maybe a half hour or so every other day. Take it in small chunks.
Understand that thoroughness is required, not perfection. Surely you will forget certain resentments—you can go back and add them later. The point is to be as complete as you can right now. The Tenth Step will help you handle old resentments that may come to mind after the inventory is completed.
“Self-searching is the means by which we bring new vision, action, and grave to bear upon the dark and negative side of our natures. With it comes the development of that kind of humility that makes it possible for us to receive God’s help. Yet it is only a step. We will want to go further…” (A.A. Twelve and Twelve, 98)
Christians, understanding that Alcoholics Anonymous is not specifically a Christian program, question whether it will work for them or if the tenets of the program are compatible with Christian theology. And to others, the principles of A.A. seem new age and unbiblical. Is this an appropriate environment for Christian recovery?
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.