Step Nine
1996


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STEP NINE ~ PART ONE

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

When I heard the steps read at my first Overeaters Anonymous meeting, I
clearly remember thinking, "Well, that won't be hard.  I don't owe anyone
any amends."  I can hear the voice in my head even today, 14 years later.
"*I'm* not to afraid to say I'm sorry.  *I* know how to apologize."  That
was before I understood what it says in the AA BB about alcoholics being
some of the sorriest folk around!!

Besides...what did my overeating have to do with anybody else's life,
anyhow.

Well, I sure am glad the Ninth Step is where it is.  How anyone can do
Step Nine before steps 1-8 is a mystery to me.  How else would I have
uncovered the people I owed amends to, if not for step 4?  How would I
have have had the fear removed without steps 2 & 3?  Shilly-shallying,
tricky little rule-bender that I am (terminal uniqueness), if a real-life
human being hadn't been there to raise an eyebrow from time to time during
step 5, would I have told all??  Had I not turned over the old garbage
I had been carrying around for decades in steps 6 & 7, experiencing some
small taste of humility (not my cup of tea), could I have made a step 8
list?

By the time I came to the Ninth step, all my doubts had been removed.  The
question became not to whom I needed to make amends, but rather how was I
gonna fit all those amends into one lifetime?  How could I talk to A about
my errors?  What was I going to do about X, the s.o.b. who ruined my life?
I resented him all right--he showed up on the step 4 list, but surely I
wasn't expected to make an amend to him!  What about the people whose
names I couldn't even remember?  My father died when I was 19 years old;
my mother, several years before I found the program.  How could I make
amends to them?  And why?  What difference did it make?

This is where my sponsor came in.  (Personally, I don't see how anyone
works this program without a real live sponsor).  She helped me sort it
out.  Together with guidance from the AABB and the AA 12 & 12, I could
begin to see what this step was all about.  She sent me off to read P 76
of the AA Big Book where it says, "Now we go out to our fellows & repair
the damage done in the past.  We attempt to sweep away the debris which
has accumulated out of our effort to live on self-will & run the show
ourselves."

But why, I wanted to know?  Why is it important to sweep away the debris
of the past? (I'm what's called 'a hard case.')  Well, for the first
week's WTS assignment, I suggest you do what my sponsor told me to do:
Read pp. 76-84 in the AA Big Book, and then answer the following
questions:

1.      Why can't we just go on from here?
2.      What is the meaning of the phrase "Faith Without Works is Dead"?
3.      For whom are we doing this step?
4.      What do we hope to accomplish in Step 9?
5.      Where does your Higher Power enter into this process?
6.      What is the connection between Steps 9 & 3?
7.      What is the connection between Steps 9 & 12?
8.      What is the real purpose of Step 9?

You might want to share your responses with your sponsors & the WTS loop.

Keep coming Back,
Sylvia

STEP NINE ~ PART TWO

When I asked myself why I was doing Step 9 & for whom, part of me really
believed that was making these amends for others. If you believe that this
is the purpose of Step 9, call your sponsor & get to a meeting
immediately!

Having done the 4th & 8th steps, I had a list of people I felt I
owed amends.  Some of the amends I was anxious to make.  It was clear in
my mind that I was toting around a lot of old trash.  It wasn't hard to
identify who those people were.  Mostly they were the people closest to
me.  The ones I lied to, the ones I lashed out at in misdirected anger,
the ones whose weaknesses I may have exploited.  Then there were the
amends I owed, but was not quite ready to make. The people or institutions
I stole from, the friends I betrayed. I knew they were necessary but
wasn't sure how to go about it.  Fear of their reactions held me
back.  I couldn't figure out the best method.  I was pretty sure I was gonna
make these amends, just didn't know exactly when or how.  Still
another group of people to whom I owed amends were those I felt *really*
uncomfortable about.  I wasn't sure I was going to make these amends at
all, but with my sponsor's help became at least willing to put them on the
list.  Maybe I'd be lucky.  Maybe they'd all die before I got around to
them!  Maybe I'd experience some spiritual experience that would make it
all possible.

I had to share my feelings with my sponsor who suggested that I read what
is written on p. 77 of the AA Big Book:  "The question of how to approach
the person we hated will arise.  It may be he/she has done us more harm
than we have done him/her, and though we may have acquired a better
attitude toward this person, we are still not too keen about admitting our
faults."  Even after sharing & reading we find that we remain unwilling to
make an amend to the b#st*rd who, we believe, ruined our life.

With the loving (and firm) guidance of my sponsor, I became willing & able
to see how my self-centeredness had affected my marriage and my ability to
parent.  I could figure out how my father telling me how he had cheated on
my mother fueled the anger that affected my relationships with all men.  I
could let go of my mother's contempt for women in general and accept and
love an essential part of myself.  I could understand what the family
therapist had meant when he said my kids didn't have any problems -- *I*
was the problem! (Talk about pissed off!!)

These became the first people I was willing to make amends to: my family,
past & present, and since I was willing it wasn't too hard.  But what
about the sunuvabitch who stalked me for 3 years?  Do you mean to say I
have to make amends to him too?  Not on your life, babycakes!

Smiling sweetly, my sponsor suggested that I make up a chart similar to
the 4th step chart in the AA BB.  It looked something like this:
NOW LATER MAYBE NEVER
1.Mom-for refusing to tell her where I was going & when I'd be back, just to show her how independent I was. Caused her to worry. 1.Cousin Judy--hated her all these years & cut off contact with her family because our mothers played power games & we were the pawns. 1.Nora--fired me. It's gonna be hard to talk to her w/o getting defensive. 1.Mike--S.O.B. kept me tied up in court 3 years. I'll never make amends to him!
2.Kid brother:hated him/jealous/wrote him off when Dad died. Hate his guts. 2.Husband #2--alcoholic? crazy? 2.Husband #1--adulterous b*st#rd. sued me for custody & won. --
By starting with the people in column one, she explained, I may be
surprised to find that by the time I have finished making amends to them,
the folks in column 2 have moved over to 1, and the ones in 3 may have
slid over to column 2, etc.  Yeah, yeah, sure, sure, but much to my
amazement, "later" becomes "now"  and I began to make my amends as
necessary.

Eventually we come to those in column 4 - the Nevers, although, having
made amends to all those who came before, we may have discovered that they
too have moved up a column or so.

This week's assignment is to make your chart & discuss it with your
sponsor.  Next week - The Nevers + How To Do It.

Love, Sylvia

STEP NINE ~ PART THREE

This is the week you've been waiting for!  Today we come to those people
in Column 4 of our amends list:  The Nevers (although, having made amends
to all those who came before...with the help of our sponsors..we may have
discovered that they, too, have moved up a column or so.)

We turn to p. 77 in the AA Big Book and read, "The question of how to
approach the man (or woman) we hated will arise.  It may be he has done us
more harm than we have done him and, though we may have acquired a better
attitude toward him, we are still not too keen about admitting our
faults."

Right.

This is about admitting OUR faults, not about listing HIS.

"Nevertheless, with a person we dislike, we take the bit in our teeth.  It
is harder to go to an enemy than to a friend, but we find it much more
beneficial TO US.  We go to him in a helpful & forgiving spirit,
confessing OUR former ill feeling and expressing OUR regret."

At this point, it might help to go back & remember the real purpose of
step 9: 'OUR REAL PURPOSE IS TO FIT OURSELVES TO BE OF MAXIMUM SERVICE TO
GOD AND THE PEOPLE ABOUT US." (p. 77, AABB).

Taking a deep breath we continue to read, 'UNDER NO CONDITIONS DO WE
CRITICIZE SUCH A PERSON OR ARGUE.  Simply tell him that we will never get
over (compulsive overeating) until we have done our utmost to straighten
out the past.  We are there to sweep off OUR side of the street...HIS
FAULTS ARE NOT DISCUSSED."

For the unexpected results, read para. 2 on p. 78.

***** Now that we know why we are going thru this process, to whom it is
that we owe amends, and when to make them, the next step in the process is
to determine what form these amends might take.

Well, the step does say "direct amends...whenever possible...except when
to do so would injure them or others," so the preferred method is
"direct."

In the AA 12 & 12 it states, "Most of us begin making certain kinds of
direct amends from the day we join AA.  The moment we tell our families
that we are really going to try the program, the process has begun...at
the first sitting it is necessary only that we make a general admission of
our defects.  It may be unwise at this stage to rehash certain harrowing
episodes."

Whew!  Don't have to do it all at once.

"Good judgment <not my strong suit>," the passage continues, "will suggest
that we ought to take our time."  (Please note:  This does not say that
good judgment suggests we should wait forever!)  But what's this about
sit down with them...Face to Face?  Yep.  That's what it says.  "...we may
need to use a little more discretion (with employers) than we did with the
family. We may not want to say anything for several weeks, or longer.
First we will wish to be reasonably certain that we are on the <AA> beam."
Good idea.  All those broken promises and trampled resolutions from the
past rise up to haunt us...  Maybe we'd best wait a bit to determine if we
are walking the walk, and not just talking the talk...

Okay...the time has come.  Why not make an amend by phone or letter (or
e-mail?)  Well, simply said, it's a whole lot easier to weasel out on
paper or computer or over the phone that it is f2f.  And it does say
direct, doesn't it?  Well, okay, face to face whenever possible.  But
what's it all about?  What goes into the amend?  "...we can freely admit
the damage we have done and make our apologies.  We can pay, or promise to
pay, whatever obligations, financial or otherwise, we owe."  The amends
are about restitution, Financial or Otherwise.

"Most alcoholics owe money," the BB says.  Well, guess what?  So do a lot
of compulsive overeaters.  There's the money I spent trying to keep up
with the "Joneses,"  the restaurant meals I charged to my credit card so
that I could "play with the big kids," the debts I accumulated rescuing
others, trying to buy their love, the monster bill I owe for giving in to
immediate gratification (self-will run riot.)

Joe & Charley - those two wonderful alcoholics who have taped Big Book
seminars in clear, understandable language from their own experiences
remind us that the "physical" aspect of our disease & recovery is not
limited to our bodies and substances.  It includes everything that is not
within the concept of "spiritual" or "emotional."  So "physical" describes
our families, friends,jobs, homes, pets, automobiles---anything in the
material world.  Financial restitution will make a big dent in the amends
required in our "physical world."  But what about the "otherwise"?  How do
we make amends for years of self-centeredness and neglect of our loved
ones?  How do we pay back our employers and friends for the lack of
attention to our responsibilities because of our obsession with food and
eating?  "Yes, there is a long period of reconstruction ahead.  We must
take the lead.  A remorseful mumbling that we are sorry won't fill the
bill at all.  We ought to sit down with the family (there it is
again...f2f)  and frankly analyze the past as we now see it, being very
careful NOT TO CRITICIZE THEM...So we clean house with the family, asking
each morning in meditation that our Creator show us the way of patience,
tolerance, kindliness & love."  There it is, right on p. 83.  We make
spiritual and emotional restitution with patience, tolerance, kindliness
and love replacing impatience, intolerance, unkindness and unloving acts
and attitudes.

What if the direct f2f method of making amends just isn't possible?
Perhaps the person or institution which we have harmed is at an extreme
distance.  What do we do if the person has died, the company gone out of
business, the school closed its doors?  The indirect amend is sometimes
the best solution for a situation that cannot be managed any other way.
Charlie visited his father's grave & made a commitment to look after his
mother thru her old age.  This was his amend to both his parents.  The
shoplifter who stole food from the supermarket would be met with stares of
unbelief if he came forward to try to pay for the items he had taken years
before. The stores have already written those costs off. Their accountants
wouldn't know what to do with the money!  But an anonymous donation to
Meals Without Wheels in the amount "owing" would serve the right purpose.

With the guidance of my sponsor, I wrote a letter to my ex-husband taking
responsibility for *my* 50% or more of what went wrong in our marriage.
(This was one big miracle.)  It would have been useless to call. He would
have hung up on me.  I stopped badmouthing Mike, my partner of 7 years,
and found compassion for this terribly sick, still suffering compulsive
overeater.  I signed the necessary legal papers as soon as he asked me to
(and gave up a chance to 'get even'--another miracle.)  I did a public 5th
step concerning The Stalker, admitting to myself, my h.p. and a room full
of other people the exact nature of MY wrongs (seduced him, exploited his
vulnerability, ridiculed him behind his back) and became willing to make
amends (see The Stalker later...).  I wrote to my kid brother and told him
how sorry I was that we didn't have a stronger relationship and how much I
admired him for his gentle & generous nature; I told my sons I loved them,
each and every time I had contact with them; I forgave my (deceased)
parents for being human and concentrated on the wonderful lessons for life
each had tried to pass on to me; I called my big brother and just thanked
him for being who he was.  The *sins* of omission are sometimes greater
than the ones I actually sign my name to.  I became willing to call my
ex-boss & invite her for coffee. If I ever see her again, I will thank her
for the important lessons that resulted from her letting me go.  I took my
credit cards out of my wallet & made a commitment to send a certain
amount of $ monthly to my creditors.  I committed to paying cash.
Although I still have a long way to go and I haven't kept that commitment
perfectly, I am about a year ahead of my mental schedule of payments, and
with any luck at all will have the VISA bill that ate San Francisco paid
off before I retire.

As someone on this loop remarked, as we become willing to make amends and
start the process, it is not unusual to discover others we may have
overlooked.  Later on, in Step 10, we will surely learn how taking
inventory daily can contribute to this process.

*** This week's assignment***
Imagine forgiving the person who has harmed you the most.
You don't have to do it, just imagine doing it.
What would it look like?
How does it feel?
If you have a mind to, share this with your sponsor.

Make a Restitution Chart.
NAME FINANCIAL "Otherwise"
3 yr old son -- read a bedtime story nightly
Mom Buy a new refrig. Certainly wore out the old one! --
Boss -- Work 1 hr a week unpaid overtime to make up for all goof-off time
spouse -- Spend 1/2 every evening just listening
Next week we'll talk about Stalker and other things.

Keep Coming Back,
Sylvia

STEP NINE ~ PART FOUR

This year, Sunday, the 22nd of September is the eve of Yom Kippur, known
also as The Great Sabbath, the Day of Atonement in the Jewish Tradition.
Between the 13th of September (the eve of Rosh Hashana, the New Year) and
Yom Kippur, tradition states that God looks over our lives and our deeds
for the previous year and decides who will be inscribed in the Book of
Life for another year.  We are told to perform a "heshbon nefesh," an
accounting of the soul, and to settle accounts, financial & otherwise.
These accounts exist on two planes:  Matters between human and human and
those between the individual and that person's Higher Power.  We are
taught that we cannot settle the score between ourselves and God As We
Understand Him unless we have straightened things out between our
neighbors and ourselves. Having done so, we then pray to be released from
our vows of the previous year, and to start the new year with a clean
slate.

To me, it is no coincidence that Step Nine occurs where and when it does.

May we all be inscribed for another year in the Book of Life!!

g'hatima tova

Love, Sylvia
*****

This week I would like to share about the "loose ends," the people to
whom we may never make direct amends or to whom "living amends" are the
way to go.

The AA 12 & 12 states:  "There can be only one consideration which should
qualify our desire for a complete disclosure of the damage we have done.
That will arise in the occasional situation where to make a full
revelation would seriously harm the one to whom we are making amends.
Or--quite as important--other people.  We cannot, for example, unload a
detailed account of extramarital adventuring upon the shoulders of our
unsuspecting wife or husband.  And even in those cases where such a mater
must be discussed, let's try to avoid harming 3rd parties, whoever they
may be.  It does not lighten our burden when we recklessly make the
crosses of others heavier."

I am unceasingly grateful that this was not an amend I needed to make.  I
take no credit for this.  It is simply evidence that my h.p. had an eye
out for me much earlier than I ever knew.  That doesn't mean I was 100%
faithful in all my relationships.  I was living with David when I started
seeing Larry.  I packed up my stuff & moved out of the apartment while he
was away on a fishing trip with a buddy.  I didn't even leave a note.
Larry insisted.  I did go back eventually and apologize.  David was a
good friend to me and certainly didn't deserve to be treated that way.   I
know today that my behavior was symptomatic of my love addiction, but that
was long before I had a program of any sort.  But for the most part, I was
"serially monogamous" and closed one door before I opened another.  But
what was I going to do about The Stalker?

Here again, my sponsor's guidance proved invaluable.  Just because I had
reached a level of spirituality where I could take responsibility for my
own actions didn't mean that he had changed.  (And indeed, today -- 15
years later -- he still sends me birthday roses via a friend because he
doesn't know where to find me.)  When I proudly announced to my sponsor
that I was ready to sit down with him and make direct amends, she grabbed
me by the lapels and said, "Oh, no you don't!"

I was astonished and confused!

"Well, what do you think would happen if you called him and met him," she
asked.

"Oh."  And the light went on.  The fact is he would have taken that as
encouragement and it might have thrown him back into his obsession, and I
would have unwittingly hurt him and myself in the process.  So she
explained to me that my willingness to make direct amends at any time that
it appeared I could do so without hurting either of us was sufficient for
the ninth step.  And I remain willing.  If that opportunity ever presents
itself, I will be right there.

She helped me sort out another tricky situation as well.  What to do about
the young man who came into my office when I was working as an employment
counselor and who went off on an interview I had arranged, but by way of
several bars?  Had I hurt him by not telling his father (a friend of mine)
that his son might be an alcoholic?  Should I have made some excuse to the
prospective employer and continued to send the kid out?  He had a wife &
child.  Had I hurt them?  Reminding me of the similarity in our diseases,
she helped me see that to cover for him would be the hurtful action, that
of enabling.  I did not owe him an amend; his pain was not of my doing.

It was my sponsor who reminded me that the first person who should be on
my list of those whom I had harmed was myself.  *I'm* the one whose
relationships/body/spirit had suffered the most as a result of the things I
had done and left undone.  She was the one who introduced me to the
concept of "living amends."  She explained that true amends meant changing
how I interacted with myself and others.  She pointed out how, by
overeating compulsively, I had perpetuated the damage started by others by
denying my own worth, my own feelings.  She helped me see how living in
"victim mode" kept me in chains of my own devising.  She explained how
turning the world back over to a Power greater than myself might give me a
chance to rest & recuperate from an over-developed sense of
responsibility.

The AA Big Book reminds us that this is a program of action, not analysis,
and that "faith without works is dead" or as Chinese peasant wisdom says,
"Talking doesn't cook rice."  No absolution here.  To make an amend and
immediately turn around and continue old behavior doesn't cut it.  After
all, to amend means, "to change."

"After taking this preliminary trial at making amends, we may enjoy such a
sense of relief that we conclude our task is finished.  We will want to
rest on our laurels.  The temptation to skip the more humiliating and
dreaded meetings that still remain may be great.   We will often
manufacture plausible excuses for dodging these issues entirely.  Or we
may just procrastinate, telling ourselves the time is not yet, when in
reality we have already passed up many a fine chance to right a serious
wrong.  Let's not talk prudence while practicing evasion." (p. 85 AA 12 &
12).

What about the really tough stuff?  "Perhaps we have committed a criminal
offense which might land us in jail if it were known to the authorities.
We may be short in our accounts and unable to make good.  We have already
admitted this in confidence to another person (step 5), but we are sure we
would be imprisoned or lose our job if it were known" ...padding the
expense account...behind in alimony or child support, etc.  Well the BB
says (p. 79), "Reminding ourselves that we have decided to go TO ANY
LENGTHS TO FIND A SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE, we ask (our Higher Power) that we
be given strength and direction to do the right thing, no matter what the
personal consequences may be.

"THE ONLY EXCEPTIONS WE WILL MAKE WILL BE CASES WHERE OUR DISCLOSURES
WOULD CAUSE ACTUAL HARM." (p. 85 AA 12 & 12.)  How do we know if an amend
falls into that category?  We can ask ourselves the following questions:
"Are we going to be so rigidly righteous about making amends that we don't
care what happens to family & home?  Or do we first consult those who are
to be gravely affected?  Do we lay the matter before our sponsor or
spiritual advisor, earnestly asking God's help and guidance--meanwhile
resolving to do the right thing when it becomes clear, cost what may?"
(p.86 AA 12 & 12)

The examples given in the Big Book involve adultery, embezzlement,
character assassination and default in alimony. (Boy! Those alcoholics are
troublemakers, aren't they!  We CO's wouldn't be caught dead doing stuff
like that, would we? <GGG>).  The founders of AA made a sensible
calculation that if a drunk's family would suffer by his admission, he'd
best find another way to make amends.  The man guilty of destroying
someone else's reputation was guided, with the help of his loving family
and his business partner, into making public amends, risking his own
reputation to clear that of a business rival.

There's quite a bit of talk about "sex relations" and the amends
engendered by "domestic troubles."  Drinking does complicate sex relations
in the home, say the writers of the Big Book.  Well, so does overeating.
Those of us who have used our overweight as a means of creating a barrier
between ourselves and our lovers know how true this is.  Those of us who
have used food as a defense against intimacy with our spouses or s.o.'s
know what this means.  And those of us who have exploited others more
vulnerable than ourselves also understand. ("Thirteenth Stepping" may fall
under this category.)

So, in summation, we have two methods of making amends:  Direct or
indirect.  The direct method is recommended whenever possible.  The
indirect method may include telephone, letters, or in cases where
restitution (financial or otherwise) cannot be made because of death,
distance, or risk to others, by an appropriate act.  All of these must be
accompanied by a change in our behaviors so that our futures will not look
like our pasts.
*****
Assignment:

Write your eulogy.
What would you like people to say about you after you're gone?
What can you do today to walk toward that goal?

Share this with your sponsor if you wish.

Keep coming back,
Sylvia

STEP NINE ~ THE PROMISES, PART ONE

Good morning!!

Thanks to {{{Sylvia}}} for chairing this month's Step Study on Step Nine, and
to all of you who have joined in -- either through sharing or through simply
supporting this loop by being here.

We can all look forward to a great Step Ten study, with {{{Bob}}} sharing his
experience, strength, and hope as our chairperson for that Step.

Sylvia asked me if I'd help her wrap up the Step Nine study by sharing on one
of the most important benefits of working the first nine Steps -- amazing
promises come true for us, "sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly," as a result
of this Step work.

So here's Part 1 of two parts:


On pages 83-84 of the Big Book is some very beautiful text which has over the
years become known as The Promises.  (Let me throw in a quick pitch here for
a very fun exercise: that is to read the book cover to cover looking for all
of the *other* promises besides the ones on 83-84.  There are lots more!)

The text on the promises that we're focusing on today is that which follows
the discussion on how to do Steps 8 & 9 -- the amends Steps.  First we are
reminded that "The spiritual life is not a theory.  We have to live it."
 Making a "living amends" from here on out is one of our chief assignments --
and we can begin to do that even if we are on Step One right now.

We're also reminded that this process isn't about "crawling before anyone" --
it's about courage and taking responsibility for our lives.  That is a *very*
empowering place to live from -- not a place of fear or shame or guilt at all
-- but a place of deep self-esteem.

And, now, drumroll and trumpets, here is that treasured text about The
Promises:

*  (Promise 1)  "If we are painstaking about this phase of our development,
we will be amazed before we are halfway through."

     "This phase of our development" is, of course, referring to actually
working the amends Steps. Here we are told that we will begin to experience
the healing benefits "before we are halfway through" our list of people we
have harmed.  Listening to stories around recovery tables, it seems that most
of us are "amazed" from the very start.


*  (Promise 2)  "We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness."

     When I was lost in my disease, with a body more than twice the size it
started out to be, there was absolutely no freedom and I was certain I would
never be happy.  Food was my higher power and the more I ate, the more
fearful and depressed I became.  For me, recovery wasn't about finding "new"
freedom -- it was about becoming truly free for the first time in 39 years.
 It was a "new happiness," though -- as I began to experience a depth of joy
I never imagined possible.


*  (Promise 3)  "We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on
it."

     I never dreamed the day could come when I would view my past as my gift,
but now I do.  I realize now that everything that happened to me needed to
happen precisely the way it did in order for me to be the whole and truly
happy person I am today.  All of those tragedies were the patchwork quilt of
my unique history, leading me inevitably to the only force powerful enough to
heal my life -- the God-inspired, God-filled Twelve Steps of Overeaters
Anonymous.  Nothing short of those tragedies would have made me desperate
enough to try the Steps after all else failed.  Anything less would have
surely led me to a life where "okay" was good enough.  And, in truth, in the
beginning "okay" was a marked improvement over what had been before.  But we
don't have to settle for "okay" in recovery.  We can have it all!!


*  (Promise 4)  "We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know
peace."

     One of the things I realized some years ago was that, even though I'm a
poet, before I found recovery, I had never used the word "serenity" in any of
my work.  It was not a word that had ever occurred to me -- just as I had
never used the word "joy."  When those emotions are experienced, we begin to
understand that there is no substance, no chemical, no food, no *anything*
that can ever measure up to the experience of true serenity, and deep inner
peace.  I had become so addicted to chaos -- the adrenaline rush of anger, the
inner turmoil ever driving me to find *someone* or *something* that would fix
me -- the idea of serenity and inner peace was as foreign as the idea that I
might actually lose the more than 120 extra pounds that seemed cemented to my
five-foot-high body.  To "comprehend the word serenity" and to "know peace"
-- these are daily gifts today for someone absolutely convinced this promise
was hogwash.


*  (Promise 5)  "No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see
how our experience can benefit others."

     This is another promise that guarantees we will be released from the
pain of our past, showing us once again that our past can be our gift.  I
once thought my tragedies were far darker than anyone else's could be.  Today
I sponsor women whose stories make my past look like a birthday party.  But
they ask me to sponsor them because I've "been there" -- and because I'm not
there anymore.  Those who go before us on this healing pathway have that
credibility -- they are speaking from a place that tells us they will
understand.  But they are also speaking from a place of such hope -- and one
of those hopes is that we will indeed find that "life of sane and happy
usefulness", passing on our own recovery to others.


*  (Promise 6)  "That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear."

     I didn't know that much of what I brought with me was reeking self-pity
until I had worked the Steps with a compassionate, caring, wise sponsor who
helped me change my perceptions about each and every sad tale I told -- and
in the telling hoping for pity -- never dreaming I'd find something far more
healing and helpful.  There was good reason for "that feeling of uselessness"
-- I had failed my children by becoming an unfit mother and their lives were
in danger when they were with me -- from my passing out with cigarettes in my
hand to my bringing home strange men out of such a hopeless depth of
loneliness I began to think one could die from loneliness alone.  In spite of
all my creative gifts, I hadn't written anything but self-pitying garbage for
over six years, and I was about to lose yet another job.  I knew I would as
soon as my boss learned I was technically unemployable.  They had hidden me
as far from the public eye as they could get me -- I'm sure they could smell
my unwashed obese body clear across the room.  That these feelings would be
replaced entirely seemed more a fantasy than a promise.  But years later, I
find I am more creative than I ever dreamed I could be.  And the quickest way
you can get me into action is to suggest I might be feeling self-pity.  That
makes me gag today.  :)

Part 2 follows

Love,
Billie Wilson
Juneau, Alaska

STEP NINE ~ THE PROMISES, PART TWO

Hi again!!  Here's the second and final part on the promises:


*  (Promise 7)  "We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in
our fellows."

     I had no idea how selfish I was until I began working the Steps,
uncovering all those defects of character that had blocked me from "the
sunlight of the Spirit" for most of my life.  I really did think I was the
center of the universe and that the world owed me a living -- it was
somebody's *job* to make me happy and to fix me.  Gaining interest in others
took some time -- first of all I didn't feel I had anything to offer anyone.
 When my first sponsor said, "If you've been abstinent for 24 hours, you have
something to give the person who does not know how to do that."  -- she
showed me a very simple truth about the 12-Step pathway.  Being here for each
other is why it works so well.  This is one of the reasons the Big Book
suggests that, when all else fails, we work with others.  Thinking about
someone else, instead of myself, for even five minutes was a very new
experience!! :)


*  (Promise 8)  "Self-seeking will slip away."

     Yeah, "slip away" is good.  :)  It's a process and we can totally trust
the process.  If I try to be a little bit better human being today than I was
yesterday, slowly but surely, I will be less interested in self-seeking
matters and be less ego-driven in my decisions.



*  (Promise 9)  "Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change."

     This is one of my favorite promises.  When my first sponsor met me, she
said I was the most negative human being she had ever met in her 18 years of
solid recovery.  My whole attitude and outlook on life sucked.  Every
thought, every word, was tinged with negativity.  I was cynical about
everything -- or so arrogant, I was sure I was wasting my time with "these
people and their hokey little program."  I think I can safely say that there
is almost *nothing* that I see the same way I did then.  My perceptions of
people's behavior and events -- even tragic events -- has been altered by a
spiritual "filter" that has me looking at everything from a totally different
place.  Again, no one could have convinced me this was possible -- let alone
so readily available to anyone willing to do the work to get it.


*  (Promise 10)  "Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us."

     The Big Book says, on page 68, that we "outgrow fear" (another promise).
 My whole life was permeated with fear in the beginning -- ranging from
low-level anxiety all day every day to frequent panic attacks to sheer terror
at nighttime.  One of the chief fears was "economic insecurity" -- as I
juggled the bills from month to month to cover the deficit resulting from
buying binge foods and all of the other irresponsibility around money that
came from impaired judgment.  Fear of being judged by others, fear of
rejection, fear of failure -- so many fears -- including totally psychotic
fears like being afraid to drive over a bridge because I thought it would
collapse when my car got in the middle.  I was so "used to" these fears, I
never could have imagined what my life would be like without them.  Today I
cannot imagine any food tempting enough to convince me I should give up this
life of freedom from fear, this life of knowing that I will be taken care of
and that all is well, this deep sense of well-being in all my affairs.  This
is a very good promise!!


*  (Promise 11)  "We will intuitively know how to handle situations that used
to baffle us."

     Ah, I love this one too!!  On page 87, it talks about how when we are
new at this seeking spiritual solutions for all our decisions, we might take
some "absurd actions" thinking that's God's Will for us -- but that, if we
persevere, "our thinking will, as time passes, be more and more on the plane
of inspiration.  We come to rely on it." (another promise!)  I was *always*
baffled in the past -- everything seemed overwhelming or, at best, confusing.
 Today, I know "There Is A Solution" is another promise of recovery, and that
all true and lasting solutions are spiritual in nature.  I love the clarity
that comes from abstinence.  I didn't know I lacked that clarity until I
experienced that clarity.


*  (Promise 12)  "We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we
could not do for ourselves."

     I was one of those who really struggled with the "God stuff" -- I'm glad
I had nowhere else to go and just stuck around long enough for the miracles
to begin to happen.  In the beginning, I chalked them up to coincidence.
 After countless "coincidences," I began to consider that maybe there was
something else going on here.  I got willing to call that Something Else HP
-- and then God -- although my concept is perhaps not exactly what someone
else's might be.  When I seek to align my life with the principles of
rigorous honesty, personal integrity, kindness, thoughtfulness, and
unselfishness -- life just works better.  And things unfold in ways that
ego-drivenness could never bring about.


And here's the really cool deal that tells us these promises aren't just for
the select few -- or that they *might* come true randomly -- like winning the
Readers Digest Sweepstakes.  Here's the promise of all promises:  the
assurance that they are gifts for each and every one of us -- like a
beautifully-wrapped and ribboned gift that has our name on the gift tag:

"Are these extravagant promises?  We think not. They are being fulfilled
among us, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.  They will always materialize
if we work for them."

*  They will *always* materialize if we work for them.

Go for it!!  If I can find this to be absolute truth in my life -- anyone
can.  I'll ask that key question my first sponsor asked me:  "What have you
got to lose to give this program 100 percent?"

We have so much to gain -- and it's far far easier to take this pathway to
healing than to stay lost in the disease.  None of us are lost anymore.  The
promises are our guiding stars out of the darkness and into the light.

Love,Love,Love,
Billie Wilson
Juneau, Alaska

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