I want to share today a few wonderful things that have come about for me through this program of 12 steps. I feel like I have not shared in a while and so I will do some "service" and share my "experience, strength and hope."
My life has completely changed since I started working the 12 steps and going to OA meetings. The Big Book has "the promises" and the list is very lengthy and unbelievable [see chizuk e-mail #493 on this page for some of the "promises"]. I never thought that I could have peace and serenity. I never thought I could have ANY of the promises in the Big Book. But since I started, a little over 19 months ago, I have to say that some of these promises are truly starting to come true.
I have to say that I work very hard for my abstinence. I started the 12 step program for my food addiction (19 months and 11 days of back to back abstinence from sugar, sugar substitutes, wheat, flour products and volume) and now I am counting my abstinence from lust (39 days current back to back abstinence) [after a streak of 70 days before that!]. I no longer read dirty material, watch anything that may suggest lust on the computer and other related things. BARUCH HASHEM.
I have such peace of mind and my self esteem is so much better now because I no longer beat myself up for being a two faced person/Jew. The obsession has been lifted and I can now be the real ME.
Anyway, I really wanted to share how the fourth step (which is the step I am working on now - and plowing through...) has affected my life, and the way I think and view things.
I work the steps using the "big Book Awakening" workbook in conjunction with the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. The fourth step ["We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves"] is grueling to say the least. Unfortunately, I have been sitting on this step for a few month now because it was SO painful to do, I was only able to do a tiny bit at a time, once or twice a week, UNTIL I started to daven. I want to share with you the davening I say before and after I work the fourth step (which I now I have been doing Monday through Friday): This is what I say before I start:
"Hashem, I am here to write an inventory. Please help me face and be rid of the things that are blocking me from You, myself and others. Please help me to see the truth, and please, when it is time to stop writing, help me to stop, and to be able to live my life today."
When I finish working on the fourth step for that day (I do about 10 to 15 minutes daily) I say:
"Hashem, I have to go back to my life now. Please, help me to leave this inventory with you for now. Keep it in your hands. Give me Your grace to go back to my day and to not hurt those around me because of the struggles I am facing. I am supposed to be getting rid of self-centeredness, but I can't do that without You. This has really got me, I am feeling it. Please, HELP!"
Once I daven this, it is SO much easier - it is a miracle how it works for me.
Anyway, just an example of a fourth step that I was working on, that I think people here on this forum may relate to, is my resentment towards my husband for not giving me enough attention. When I worked through that resentment, doing it the way it shows me in the Big Book Awakening, I have "learned" a few things:
1) My fears are that he does not care or love me (which I know are not true).
2) I also fear that I am not good enough and not deserving of his attention (deep down I know that is not true either).
3) I learned that I too am not giving him enough attention in other ways! And besides, I don't give enough attention to others who deserve my attention too. And my excuse??? I am only a human being!
Once I realized that I too am lacking in those areas that I am resentful for, and once I realize that my fears are just "fears" and not reality, the resentment becomes almost nonexistent!
Today, a relative of mine called me, telling me how angry she feels against someone. It had to do with money, and she was determined to do her very best to recover that money, and she was seething mad.
I told her that it is a very uncomfortable and distressing situation and she needs to do her very best Hishtadlus to get her money back, BUT, the "results" need to be left to Hashem. Once she realized that the results (having her money back or not) is truly determined by Hashem, she calmed down!
This is how I am these days. I look at my life and what I do - I am on the "action committee" and Hashem is the "results" committee. I am so much more at peace because Hashem is a reality for me. I feel Hashem is holding me every step of the way throughout my day, and somehow I feel Hashem's love for me and it is a feeling that I treasure.
I would not have all this and much more without my abstinence. I know that every day that I have abstinence from my addictions it is a true gift from Hashem.
My mind and heart are free and open to receive Hashem and feel His love for me, because my brain is not fogged from the food or busy with lust.
My life is far from perfect. I have challenges all the time - with my kids, family, health, financially, etc. etc. BUT today, I am not consumed with worry or nerves. Today, I am not burying myself and escaping through my addictions. Today I have peace and serenity because I know that Hashem is with me 100%.
I never liked to "feel" my feelings. This is why I ate over everything. And that is why why I was watching movies and reading books, for hours on end. I wanted to escape from my feelings and from reality.
Today I do not escape. I feel my feelings and many times it can be very uncomfortable. But today I know that it is OK to feel. "Feelings" will not kill me. I do not need to escape, because it will pass.
Another wonderful thing that has happened to me, is that I see Hashem's hand in my life EVERY SINGLE DAY! I constantly see Hashem's help in my life! I am SO grateful for that - THANK YOU HASHEM FOR OPENING MY EYES TO SEE YOUR GOODNESS!
Thank you to whoever read through this megila. It is a service for me to share because it reinforces my recovery.
Miri's post reminds me of something I once saw posted on an Arutz Sheva talkback. The guy wrote:
Many find themselves in destructive behavior when they feel pain and don't see a way out. When I felt pain, I wanted a way to avoid it ...which only took me further from reality.
It's OK to sit with pain ... it's better than the mind-numbing behaviors that remove us from the world.
Thank G-d that we FEEL AGAIN! ... even if it's pain.
Be assured that you are making progress!
Duvid Chaim wrote us the following inspiring e-mail in response:
I appreciated Miri's Sharing about completing the 4th Step. I remember how difficult it was for me as well. How could I actually put down on paper all the history and "stories" that I had that I considered to be so shameful? And how could I possibly share it with another person; my sponsor; who was practically a stranger??
I even remember telling my sponsor that I was such a happy and easy going person that I didn't have any resentments! After he stopped laughing, he asked me to be really honest with MYSELF.
And that's when it really hit me. It wasn't bad enough that I being deceitful with my wife, my children and my friends, but I was also lying to MYSELF! Yes, I couldn't even tell the truth to myself. It was as if I had taken my poor Neshama and locked it in a dungeon - in solitary confinement, far away from the light.
My sponsor told me - and I share this with others today - that each of the 12 Steps is like a KEY. A key that unlocks the dungeon in which we incarcerated our Neshama. Each Step is a KEY that gives us the freedom and the light to achieve sustainable and progressive recovery from our addiction. Each Step is a KEY that opens the door to make room in our lives for Hashem. (In case you think you are already so religious and have Hashem in your life, just read chapter 4 of the Big Book called "We Agnostics").
Once I started working B'Emes - with real honesty - on my resentments, I found that I filled up two pages on my Resentment worksheet. And then, as if I was having an out-of-body experience, I (a man of great emunah-or so I thought) completely filled up multiple sheets on the Fear worksheet. And I don't have to tell you how many ugly and regret-full experiences ended up on my Sex-Conduct Worksheet!
And when I was done, I felt like I had tossed a huge weight off my back. Like the story in the Gemara about the man who placed a baby calf on his shoulders without any big deal. And he fed the calf while it was still on his shoulders. And as the calf grew, so did the man's strength and ability to keep the growing calf on his shoulders. With the passage of time, the calf grew into an ox. Yet thanks to the gradual growth of the cow and the man's "conditioning" that allowed him the carry the weight; he spent a lifetime walking around with a huge ox on his shoulders.
The "ox" in our lives is the lustful addiction that we carry on our shoulders. It grew over time, starting off like a sweet innocent calf and then becoming the nightmarish burden that most of us resign ourselves into thinking that we can never get rid of. And who's surprised? Not only was the calf (addiction) growing into an ox, but so was the "acceptance" and resignation of our condition growing along with it.
Fortunately for us, the 12 Step Program gives us the tools and the Keys to unload this burden from our shoulders and give it over the Ba'al Ha'Milchama - the Master of Wars - who can carry this - and any - burden we have, as long as WE LET HIM.
So to Miri I shout: "Yasher Koach on working the 4th Step. Be honest. Unload your Burden. Feel the Freedom, and enjoy the Light!"
"Keep coming back!"
With warm regards,