Oh how I wanted to be catapulted into the fourth dimension! I wanted what I assumed to be the natural ease and confidence of those in long term sobriety. I longed for the self assured demeanor of my employers. Clear thinking, wise decision making skills, self assurance- they represented all of these to me and I watched the actions of these models with curiosity and awe.
After several months of continued clean and sober time I realized that wanting serenity and having it were two different things and the line from one to the other was work. I needed to work the steps. If you have been around 12 Step recovery for a while you know about the steps, you have heard them read each meeting, you may have sampled a few. I have fallen in love with the apparent simplicity yet profound effectiveness of taking the steps, one step at a time, with attention and consideration. I have worked them through on my life as a whole and a single issue at a time. They are designed to be studied and deciphered in order with attention to purpose. When you have examined and performed them all you will experience that fourth dimension that we are promised in the Big Book of AA. It can be like a big “AHA” or a quiet “Hmmmm” as your eyes open and you begin to “get it”. You begin to see what life can offer us (if we work for it.) The process can bring you closer to others and closer to yourself.
This work can bring you closer also to those ideals you had in the beginning of recovery (self esteem, confidence, ease) but also reveal the idealized version of others you may have held. I had thought that life was easy for those I admired, when the truth is life is hard. They had tools to handle how they responded to challenges. That is it. They had developed strategies and methods. They practiced a new way of living. The supposed ease was in my perception, not their experience.
I had thought it was a one and done deal, that I would do the steps and be struck wonderful. A few things came to light by the time I got to step twelve. I had assumed that my sponsor and others had no difficulties in life because, more often than not, they approached life with grace. I assumed that my life would be easy and free from disappointments once I got to the end of the steps. I learned rather that I , too would find ways to meet life on life’s terms; no matter what they were. I became better at dealing with the external difficulties: loss of job, of housing, of relationships. I went through personal and family illnesses, financial insecurity and the death of parents and friends. I could deal with what life presented me. I was just not able to deal with the internal struggles with any ease.I was having trouble with y emotions, my thoughts and my concept of my self. I discovered my own glass ceiling to enjoyment, fulfillment and success in my life. It was me.
Once I had cleared most of the wreckage on my past, and had developed a way of living that prevents or reduces a wreckage of the present I was left with the fact that I was the person in my own way. My low sense of self worth, my fear of professional and personal success, the underlying conviction that I was undeserving and unworthy was what needed to be smashed. My ego identification with being unlovable and unskilled was the part of me that was standing in the way of being of maximum use to my fellows AND myself. I had to find a way to stop sabotaging myself and break through that glass ceiling of self limiting beliefs.
What were these misguided beliefs based on? Was it just fear of success or was there some internal wiring that needed to be fixed? Yes. The internal wiring needed to be mended and some needed to be rerouted. Through sponsorship and other work I was finding that I had something to offer others. I am compassionate and kind. I offered these comforts to others; was I not worthy of them myself? Was I not to be numbered among those who deserved the benefits of my light? What would I tell a friend?
I am my friend. I have sought guidance, help and support in turning the skills of my newfound self, the self revealed by the twelve steps, back toward me. I can lift myself up, I can express my goodness, I can reveal my skills without comparison to others’ and be content in myself. I can break through the glass ceiling manufactured from my erroneous restrictive concepts and expand fully into who I am meant to be. I can break through this barrier and embrace the fuller better less apologetic me. I can be my own right size. From time to time. With the help of others. I am imperfectly imperfect, and I embrace myself.