Sunday, 8 July 2012
Step Nine—do I still regret the past?
When I am still regretting the past, I have to address a number of questions:
(1) Choosing guilt over powerlessness. If I took the actions I took out of a combination of powerlessness over alcohol (powerlessness over the first drink and powerlessness after the first drink) plus being in the thrall of forces within me greater than my intellect plus willpower, guilt really means a failure to recognise this powerlessness. I have to choose between powerlessness and guilt. If I am guilty, I am not powerless. If I am powerless, I am not guilty.
(2) Forgiveness. This applies to others, too. If I am charging myself, I must have standards that I am applying universally: this means I have a plan for my life, and the world around me, and must be measuring myself and the world against those standards. Whatever guns are being turned on me are necessarily being turned on others; inconsistent belief systems always resolve in one direction or another. The question, therefore, is 'whom have I not forgiven'? Whom do I believe is guilty not powerless? Whom do I believe to have acted out of badness rather than ignorance and blinkered self-centredness, driven, as was I, by a hundred forms of fear, self-pity, self-delusion, and self-seeking? When I fully forgive everyone for everything by refusing to see the 'evil', instead seeing past that to the perfect child of God within each person, whose only fault is the possession of an ego that distorts their thinking and therefore action and blinds them to the perfection of themselves and others, then I discover myself forgiven.
(3) Amends. I made a bunch of amends in my first few years, but get-out-of-jail-free cards were collected along the way, and there were many people I did not face personally, for various reasons that seemed quite plausible and were apparently well-founded in sound principles. However, low self-worth, as I called it, afflicted me for a long time. When I was 15 years sober, I went through the Steps again and found 78 people still on my Step Eight list, some from my drinking, many from my years of sobriety. I found and made amends to every single person on this list that I could. When I completed the last action that was in my power, an extraordinary transformation took place: I realised the truth that had been told to me many times but I had never believed, that I was a perfect child of God who had merely been in error and illusion. This was universalised, and the world suddenly seemed quite benign—my life could be affected but I could not.
(4) Playing God. One great reason for regret is imagining what might have been and 'mourning' that. The 'what might have been' that I imagine is usually contrived of various self-centred desires for money, sex, power, prestige, comfort, thrills, and looks. What I'm really angry about is that my plan for my own salvation through wresting happiness and satisfaction from this world was foiled by my own failings. This is not real guilt. This is my ego chastising me for not fulfilling its demands for supremacy.
(5) Spiritual pride. Somewhere along the line I decided that I was here to achieve rather than to learn. The decades of mistakes I saw as a mistake, ironically. They are not. They were the necessary lessons. I am no more exempt from error—sometimes egregious—than anyone. And all error is necessary for me ultimately to be brought to the truth. It forms the material for the lesson.
Everything can be healed; a single run through the Steps usually clears away some of the debris, but a single run through the Steps, or even several, does not mean the Steps have been exhausted, because they comprise spiritual principles that allow for limitless expansion. This isn't a mechanical 'alconomics 101'; it's perpetual growth towards ideals that are never attained in their entirety. There is always more breadth, depth, and weight, and there are always people ahead of us who can chart the waters we are currently foundering in.