ESSAYSTEP SEVEN QUESTIONS
Have you ever had the experience of suddenly seeing something for what it really is, as opposed to seeing it with the filters of dependency, denial, and dissociation? I certainly have. I have said that in recovery I discovered that those twos that were floating around in my universe could be put together, and voila! Four.
Once I was involved in a class where we made genograms. These are a family tree in which a number of things are noted, such as what people died of, whether they had certain health problems, and whether they were addicts of some kind. It was during this time that I came to realize that there were several types of alcoholism besides the common picture. Some alcoholics, for example, donít drink for long periods of time, then spend a while totally stewed. Some can abstain from drinking easily, but if they start to drink, they cannot stop until they are drunk. Some drink very moderately, only a few drinks a day, never get drunk at all, but if they donít get their little alcohol, they can even develop DTs. Then I found that there were several types of food addiction, too. Someone who gets nervous if they canít chew gum may be addicted to chewing, which is one feature of compulsive overeating. There are anorexics, exercise bulimics, stomach stuffers, and so on. Addiction is a complex thing.
My mother would never have said she was an alcoholic, and probably no one else at the time would have either. She had a few snorts after the sun was over the yardarm. When she decided she should quit, for reasons I donít know, she started gaining weight. Did she exchange one addiction for another? I canít say, but that is something that happens often enough. My father played football through high school and at a college that is a major football school. First team as a freshman. He was remarkably strong, and well built. Iíve seen pictures. But after he quit playing, and got married, etc., he went on to become quite obese. This was how I knew him growing up. Was he an exercise bulimic? I donít know, but there is a good possibility. The genograms began to shed some light on me and my situation. I also know now that I had two alcoholic grandfathers.
The fact is, unless we somehow get rid of our character defects, we are going to either return to our addiction, or take up some other one. And this brings up some interesting things to think about.
The first is the fear of losing something. We know what we have, it is familiar and even dear to us. Losing it would put us where? What would we have left that we could call ďmeĒ? The second is the fear of change itself. Any change, even good change, is stressful. And we are not people who can deal with stress very easily, without food, are we? Finally, there is the feeling that for anything to happen, we have to do something, and we donít know what to do.
Step Seven deals with our situation. The first word puts the only requirement for it on us. Humility. Humility is the correct assessment of ourselves. You will have noted that on a couple of occasions I have asked you to list your good points. Many found this a bit hard to do. But to not recognize our strengths and good points as well as our weakness and bads is to lack humility. And so many have noted that in our weaknesses we find our strengths. The anger that raged against people I love for no good reason can become the fuel to help me create and keep good boundaries so the people who really make me mad canít continue to do so.
But we cannot do this on our own.
AA notes that the newcomer should make some effort not to hang out with his or her old friends, almost all of whom are barflies. Instead, the newcomer is urged to start making friends in the fellowship and with those who donít drink. The company we keep is very important.
So it is with Step Seven. We are asked to assess ourselves, and if we have been working Steps Four Ė Six, we will have made a good start on that. Now we are asked to use that to keep company with another friend, our Higher Power. We did not know a Higher Power who had any interest in our addiction, or who seemed to care. How many times did we ask for a magical fix? ďGod, let me be thin,Ē or whatever. What we did not know was that we could become healthy just by becoming friends with a friend who is very healthy indeed. Like the alcoholic who does not go back into the bar scene, we do not rely on ourselves, but on a new friend, and the fellowship itself, of course.
Getting rid of character defects, our bad habits, is not deprivation, but addition. We just learn how to do things differently. Same us, different behaviors. And health.
Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.
1. Look back over your affirmations and defects, and make a list of all the good ways you would like to be, or to become. This should be fairly extensive.
STEP SEVEN ~ MY ANSWERS
2. Go back and mark with a check or star the ones you will have to act ďas ifĒ you have them, sensing that you may not have them just yet.
3. Compose a prayer to your Higher Power listing each one you have to act ďas ifĒ about, and then turn that over. If you have a God Box or something similar, thatís a good place to put it. Or a journal, or whatever. Share as much of this as you will on the loop. I bet weíll all gain a fabulous collection by sharing this.
4. Take some of your main concerns, or all of them if you have time, and write a brief description of what you life might be like if this or that defect were removed. This is a visualization exercise.
Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.
This list probably could be longer than it is, but maybe itís better to have one than to have an unfinished ďexhaustiveĒ one.
Question One, a list of some of the good ways I would like to be.
1. Iím a good husband and father and grandfather.
2. Iím a lover. While I have a powerful mind, I let my heart have the first say.
3. I have many good friends.
4. I keep pretty good boundaries these days, much better than over controlled and enmeshed relationships of my past.
5.* My control and use of anger is much better than it was, although not perfect yet.
6.* While Iíve been abstinent for a long time, Iím finally beginning to learn how to eat my food properly.
7. I take much better care of myself than I once did. I nurture myself.
8. I tend to live and let live so much more.
9. I take good care of my finances. I pay my bills, I save. I am responsible.
10. I have come to realize that I am not perfect, and do not have to be. God loves me just as I am, and I doing the best I can for today. Progress happens as I let God lead.
11. My humor is still notable, but the nature of it has changed. I do not care to put people down with jokes.
12. I have come to value my feelings as good information, and not to fear them.
13. I am profoundly humbled by the trust you people have put in me by staying with this study, and answering with such depth as you have. You are wonderful.
Question Two: Note the two starred items, 5. And 6.
God, you know I hate it when I get angry and blow my stack. There is no need to do that, and I tend to do it with people who are closest to me. Help me to feel my resentment, whatever it may be, and to respond to the specific situation with truth, but not with meanness. I know weíve been working on this for a long time, and Iím better, but please help me get better still.
And it was so good of you to point out to me that I need to chew slowly. All my life Iíve been scarfing down my food like there was about to be a famine. Even abstinent, I gobbled. (I guess that makes me a turkey.) When I chew slowly, I enjoy my food, and can reach a point of fullness at an appropriate time. Help me to remember to do this. Please.
When I have something to complain about, I can do so without rage. This would help the people around me to live with me better, and me with them. Sometimes I hurt them, and I really hate it afterwards. I would feel better about myself if I stopped doing this altogether. And they might like it, too. Iím not serene when I get this way. I want to be serene at all times, if possible.
Iíve heard about chewing slowly, and I guess I never realized that I wasnít. Just a few days ago it came to me in a flash what this meant, and what I was doing. Since then, Iíve been trying to remember to chew slowly. When I do, I enjoy my meals even more, and find that by the time Iíve eaten my allotment, Iím satisfied. Not to mention itís nicer to not eating so fast, even if it is just an abstinent amount. Meals would be more pleasant, for me and for others.