Over the past year and a half, I’ve ‘worked’ the 12 steps. But it’s a lifetime process, you are never ‘done.’ For my homegroup meeting tonight, my sponsor called me and suggested I prepare something to say about step 7. I reread the AA Big Blue Book, as well as the AA 12×12 (12 Steps and 12 Traditions) to think about what I want to say.
I’ve been job hunting for many years now, with some temp jobs filling in the cracks. But it’s been six months of steady hunting now, and I’m out of unemployment. My boyfriend is paying for rent and bills while I hunt, and I’m the thriftiest gal in the world, so I don’t have to flip out about money. I am filled with overwhelming gratitude that I can relax and look for work that’s right for me. But its unnerving, and the worst part is that feeling that I’m not contributing. I’m doing art, I’m volunteering, I’m working hard on my sobriety and mental health in therapy and book reading. But it’s humbling to say the least, to not have an income, to not be able to do the things I usually do to feel accomplished, such as travel and spending money and going out.
Step 7 is about humility. Here is what the big book suggests for a step 7 prayer:
“My creator, I am now willing you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do your bidding.” (from page 76 of the AA Big Book)
When I contemplate my life up until now, I see my downfall into despair, time and again, has been a desire to live something different than what I have been given. Instead of making the most of what I have, I want to pretend that I have something else entirely. I want to ride the wave of grandiosity and instant gratification. The very idea of suffering to build character made my toes curl and my stomach heave. Telling myself ‘well this will build character’ is like depression-era talk out of an old book. Well the AA books are old books. As I get older I am starting to see the wisdom of the ages. As the years unfold it just makes sense to start investing in a more long-term gratification. Sometimes that means letting go of the idea I am in control, in order to see what is actually on the plate in front of me. Is it brussel sprouts? Well, I should at least take a bite, I don’t have to like it.
Something in the 12×12 struck me. What I’m really searching for when I pray, when I’m kneeling begging the powers that be for relief, is for peace of mind. The kind I used to seek from the bottom of a bottle, and with the release of the bottle, thought I could never know again.
“But when we have taken a square look at some of these defects, have discussed them with another, and have become willing to have them removed, our thinking about humility commences to have a wider meaning. By this time in all probability we have gained some measure of release from our more devastating handicaps. We enjoy moments in which there is something like real peace of mind. To those of us who have hitherto known only excitement, depression, or anxiety — in other words, to all of us — this newfound peace is a priceless gift. Something new indeed has been added. Where humility had formerly stood for a forced feeding on humble pie, it now begins to mean the nourishing ingredient that can give us serenity.”
(from p. 74 of the 12×12)
As I’ve been sick this past week, I’ve been forced not to do anything at all. Usually I fill up my days with trying to achieve *something*, be it making art, taking photos, seeing beautiful things at the park, socializing or job hunting. This past week I’ve done nothing but lay around coughing and indulging in passive entertainment. What I achieved was a measure of serenity I haven’t known since I quit smoking pot 4 months ago. I managed to relax a little, and find a bit of peace of mind. It turned out this week, ‘stuck’ at home, forced to just rest, was one of the better weeks for my mental health I’ve had in recent memory.
“As long as we imagine that we have the power to swim to the far shore of sanity on our own, we will inevitably swim against the current. Only when we are too broken to swim do we collapse into the sea itself and discover the current carrying us where we need to go.” (Recovery: The Sacred Art p. 105)