Working the Fourth Step, Again

I am repeating the Fourth Step process – the first time in a few years.  I am using the set of questions contained in the Overeaters Anonymous Twelve and Twelve.  I believe in working and reworking the Steps as a part of my recovery.  The process always reveals new insights and helps me to move along my recovery road.  I am intentional this time around about taking a “moral” inventory and not beating myself up mercilessly as I did some 30 years ago when doing my first Fourth Step in Alcoholics Anonymous.  I am mindful of the fact that over those three decades I have in fact grown and matured.  I am less a person completely governed by “self-will run riot.”  The Fourth Step process certainly informs me of many areas and behaviors of my life in need of a reality check.

So for many of the questions, I was pleased to recognize and write that yes, I have in fact grown in this or that respect over the years but those questions continue to provide new insights.  Here is one:

           Are we snobs?  Do we pay more attention to VIPS than ordinary people?

My knee jerk reaction was – of course not.  I am very salt of the earth.  You won’t catch me at a restaurant with 9 pieces of silverware at a place setting.  But I also got to thinking about the question some more.  For example, my memory has never been a strong feature for me, and I have learned to be very intentional when meeting folks to really concentrate on their names so I don’t forget them.  So when I began to attend a new group meeting on Wednesday mornings, I made a special effort to remember everyone’s name.  Also, I help with a meal through the Open Table program for the underserved every Tuesday afternoon here in New Orleans.  In a given month there might be 30 or so volunteers that cycle through to help.  This past week there was a fellow I had met several times before and had to confess I did not remember his name.  Partially because he is from Belfast, Northern Ireland, with a somewhat thick accent and I am not certain I ever really got his name completely.  But this past week, we re-introduced, acknowledged that both of us had forgotten each others names, and now his name “Artie” is forever impressed on my brain.

But then I got to thinking about those who come to receive a meal, a voucher for a night’s housing, and some toiletries.  I know none of their names. Many of these clients who come for the services are more regular than the volunteers.  In these types of situations, I am more comfortable mingling with the clients than hanging with the volunteers in the kitchen and dealing with the food.  But I have never asked any of the clients their name.  A bit of snobbery – paying more attention to the haves than the have-nots.  Nothing earth shattering, but a truth learned on the recovery road.

A lesson too that the Steps, if I choose to use them, always provide new insights and opportunities for growth.

Giving Back in Recovery

I have strong sense of the need to give back in recovery.  The longer I remain sober, that sense increases.

Although the Christian New Testament line “It is better to give than receive” was used by my grade school nuns for every special collection and the Lenten box of nickels from the candy not eaten, there is more.

I object to what I refer to as the “Santa Claus” mentality of service work where those who have shower gifts like magic glitter on those who have not.  This practice is a rather self-indulgent feel good exercise.  And yes, it is true that in giving we do receive.  I have never done service work whether in recovery or any other context where I did not get more out of it than I put in.

More difficult is being certain not to take away someone else’s opportunity to give so they too then can receive.  That is something I enjoy about 12-Step programs in general.  I learn in the sharing of experience, strength, and hope, from a broad array of folks.  From those very first lessons in detox many years ago, to the continued growth today, including what I learn in the blogosphere, I have received much.

Today, I am grateful for and thank the broad scope of humanity (and canines) who have given me so much.