Thursday, December 15, 2005

What We Do Is Secret, Part 1

...but I'm going to blow the lid's the exposé...inside an actual...secret society...12-step program...

I'm working on what's called a "4th step" right now, after the AA Step Four: "Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." Basically you journal or write a letter, concealing nothing (if it ain't scary, you ain't doin' it right), about your desires, fears, motivations, actions, the reasons you told yourself you did those actions and the real reasons you did them, the results of those actions and who was harmed and who gained and what your own payoff was--there's always a payoff.

Absolute honesty is the only requirement,
and the openness is why Al-Anon, AA, etc. are anonymous programs. Unless you can say anything and everything in a meeting or in a 4th step, you'll stay stuck.

Once you've written out your confessions/ self-observations, you then, in the "5th step," read this painfully honest scribbling to someone in your program (usually your sponsor). It can hurt. But the alternative for me, in practice, is living in a half-light of awareness about myself, and making the same mistakes over and over, and blaming other people for them instead of taking responsibility and growing up and moving on.

The first time I worked the steps my sponsor asked me, for Step 4, to write a "me list," an exhaustive list of every attribute and characteristic I have. He gave me months to do this and said not to hurry.

It sounded silly in the abstract, likely to produce trivial items like "I love chocolate!" and "I have a thing for large women!" and in fact it did, but in the end, after doing the work and the rather agonizing 5th step, I came to a gut recognition (*not* an intellectual understanding) that...I'm not a bad person...and that many of my least favorite personal traits were actually very good traits, just applied in the wrong circumstances or acted on to excess. Thus, my tendency to rescue people was fine when it meant writing a letter protesting the confinement of a political prisoner...and was idiotic when it meant trying to stage-manage an addict's slow suicide while I blamed myself for her romantic predicament and hid her substance of choice in a niche in the fireplace, to dole out to her in little non-psychosis-inducing increments until she found it and used it all and I had to find new ways to liberate (enslave) her.

Once I'd been in the program a while, I did a 4th step on my troubled relationship with my dad, who died before we could totally make peace...and now I'm doing one on les événements I've recounted to you recently. In an Al-Anon meeting the other day I gave a situation-appropriate, non-I-Ching quoting rundown of les és, and realized I needed to spend some serious time praying about them, and so have spent a lot of time this week either in front of my altar or talking to Kali as I drive, walk, or wash dishes. And She's talked back--that's the miraculous thing...

Someone or Something is it a "bicameral mind" or "archetype" or wishful thinking or imaginary friend or subvocalized adaptive para-awareness...or God...

I was working on my step on my computer today, preferring my recliner and Mozart on the boombox to scribbling in my spiral-bound Al-Anon notebook in some coffee shop...and the section of the step I wrote got named That perpetual feeling of unworthiness.doc. It contains the lines

My H[igher] P[ower] has really been to look for Her light within me rather than for the second-hand light of others' spiritual journeys, others' words. Not that I should be arrogant; She wants me to turn inward to the silence and light She put there when She created me. But...I still have to work on that [unworthiness] thing. It's why I still go in for retail therapy, (fantasized) new relationship therapy, double bourbon on the rocks therapy, blasting music in my car on the way home from work therapy...

when all the while I am seeking what Peter Redgrove, in The Black Goddess and the Unseen Real, calls "the synaesthetic plenum of the...subliminal senses"...the inner divine, the Hidden God...funny that
my Dark Mother has sent me to a Sunday school room in a local church to slay the demons, to a 12-step group of the sort I'd have made sport of just a few years ago--Stuart Smalley and all that--

funny that, as Ramana Maharshi said, "The ultimate truth is so simple" I am simplifying myself to match.

To Be Continued


  1. "I found God in myself
    and I loved Her -- I loved Her fiercely."
    -- Ntozake Shange, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf

    One of my favorite quotes -- I saw this performed back in the 70s and it blew me away.

    In '83, when I was living on my own for the first time, I had to keep telling myself that I was deserving of happiness, that I could take care of myself, that I wasn't crazy, etc. etc. Felt like I was lying, but I had to recondition myself to realize it was Truth, while recognizing that the "truth" I'd grown up with had been Lies.

    It took a lot of time and repetition, and working through different onion layers, but eventually the good stuff sank in.

  2. e_j! it's so funny you bring up that Shange quote, as it's been running thru my head quite often lately--as a desideratum, not a fait accompli [I throw these $5 words around ironically, yall]...

    She's in there--She's showing me--the reprogramming is slowing taking hold. I am about to finish the Step (maybe?), having been handed the missing piece of the puzzle by Fiorenza after our meeting today...