4th Step... Guilt... Self-Forgiveness?

The 12 Steps are the AA program of recovery from alcoholism.

4th Step... Guilt... Self-Forgiveness?

Postby David A » Thu Nov 10, 2016 9:48 pm

I wrote a resentment inventory based on myself and some actions I took in the past which I am having trouble forgiving myself for (I am the one against whom I have the resentment in this case). I did things, like most of us, that are extremely unethical and harmful. The self-punishing behaviors I've been unable to pull myself away from have intensified to a point that I've been thinking about drinking. Not in a serious way, but I've become real uncomfortable with the somewhat-longer-than-normal looks I've been giving the bottles of beer in the grocery store recently.

It sounds very much like what my sponsor described when he was working on an inventory in his early sobriety when he didn't yet have a clear concept of a higher power, and when he hadn't yet been through the formal amends process.

The thing I was writing about today is one of the few things I lied about and left out of previous inventories. I didn't explore it fully then. I did today. It feels a bit like emotional chemotherapy. I don't want to die. But I just feel deep shame, like there's a black mark where my heart is. I am afraid it will never go away. It hasn't yet...

I just can't stop hating myself. Are there any practices in self-forgiveness that anyone can help me out with? Any experiences? Anything at all, really.

I wrote down all the advice, mantras, and reminders I was given in the other thread I started on this site in the newcomer's section. Those are now up on my wall in my bedroom and they get read daily. Any experience, strength, or hope you have to share will not go to waste. Thank you for reading my request. Take care of yourselves.

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Re: 4th Step... Guilt... Self-Forgiveness?

Postby Reborn » Thu Nov 10, 2016 10:29 pm

Hello Dave thanks for sharing. The best advice I can give you is keep moving forward. Remember there nothing you can do right here right now to change the past...in the big book on page 124 it says "Cling to the thought that, in God's hands, the dark past is the greatest possession you have the key to life and happiness for others. With it you can avert death and misery for them." I know it doesn't seem like now but the things you are facing now will be your greatest asset in your journey. Stop listening to that damn ego telling you're the worst person to walk the earth....it simply isn't true...through God all things are possible my friend...I am living proof of that.
We have recovered, and have been given the power to help others. BB pg 132
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Re: 4th Step... Guilt... Self-Forgiveness?

Postby Brock » Fri Nov 11, 2016 6:41 am

As Reborn said it's the ego that says how terrible we were or are, this was something I never used to think about, we tend to think ego is something which says how great we are, but in truth it applies for both good and bad. The last line in today’s daily reflection demonstrates that -
I pray for the willingness to let go of my arrogant self-criticism, and to praise God by humbly accepting and caring for myself.

Also as you say, your own sponsor had problems before he developed a clear concept of a higher power, the more I search and read I can come to no other conclusion than a power who absolutely loves me and everyone else. And it makes absolute sense to follow the second part of that line in the reflection, my acknowledgment of that love and forgiveness is in humbly accepting and caring for myself. Best of luck in finding that forgiveness for yourself.
"Good morning, this is your Higher Power speaking. I will not be needing your help today."
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Re: 4th Step... Guilt... Self-Forgiveness?

Postby ezdzit247 » Fri Nov 11, 2016 2:00 pm

I just can't stop hating myself. Are there any practices in self-forgiveness that anyone can help me out with? Any experiences? Anything at all, really.



Hi David

I was a chronic relapser for almost two years after my first AA meeting. When I finally did get sober, and my brain fog cleared a bit, I began to feel all the feelings I'd been running away from and it was very difficult time for me. Thank God for the fellowship and meetings during this phase! Getting out of myself by doing service work gave me a lot of relief and a chance to feel good about myself for something. Every little bit helped. I didn't feel a lot of resentments, but I felt a LOT of guilt, shame, and remorse about the way I had treated my family and friends, especially towards the end. When I took responsibility for the pain & suffering my selfishness had caused everyone who cared about me. I think it was mainly my guilt which propelled me into making the decision to work the Steps at about 3 months sober. Writing about my secrets in my 4th and then sharing these secrets with another human being in my 5th gave me some relief, but it was working Step 9 that actually gave me the feeling of being liberated from guilt over my past actions. In a way, working this Ste[

Bill W. said:
'You can't think your way into right action, but you can act your way into right thinking.'


This advice has always worked for me and kept me safe, mostly sane, and totally sober for quite a few 24 hours now.
“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children...to leave the world a better place...to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
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Re: 4th Step... Guilt... Self-Forgiveness?

Postby David A » Sat Nov 12, 2016 8:33 am

Thanks y'all. I really appreciate hearing the hope that this will actually pass. I spoke with a former sponsor yesterday, and he concurred that a big part of it is just time... letting the brain fog pass.

:mrgreen: Not feeling super happy today, but practicing doing service for others and doing wholesome things for myself (things that are good for me, rather than things that feel good). I really appreciate the encouragement.

Best,

David
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Re: 4th Step... Guilt... Self-Forgiveness?

Postby Mike O » Mon Nov 14, 2016 12:11 pm

Hi, David.

I'm not sure from your post - have you discussed the issue that is bothering you from your past with your sponsor, or indeed any other person?
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Re: 4th Step... Guilt... Self-Forgiveness?

Postby Duke » Mon Nov 14, 2016 5:39 pm

For years, I wrote a positive affirmation for myself each morning before I set out on the day's business. Simple things like, "I love and approve of myself and I trust the process of life. I am safe. I am already home". I still use them often.

I found that a commitment to think differently was not enough. I had to train my lower self in what that looked and felt like. Change has been slow but steady. Stick with it. I'm sure you'll find the same result. Believe me. You will never regret the effort.
"If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are.", Mother Teresa
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Re: 4th Step... Guilt... Self-Forgiveness?

Postby David A » Mon Nov 14, 2016 6:00 pm

Duke wrote:For years, I wrote a positive affirmation for myself each morning before I set out on the day's business. Simple things like, "I love and approve of myself and I trust the process of life. I am safe. I am already home". I still use them often.

I found that a commitment to think differently was not enough. I had to train my lower self in what that looked and felt like. Change has been slow but steady. Stick with it. I'm sure you'll find the same result. Believe me. You will never regret the effort.


Duke, thank you for sharing your experience. I relate -- I am in a place of making a lot of resolutions to think differently, but it's always so scattershot and inconsistent that it never seems to take root. I like the way you did it a lot, and I am going to try incorporating it into my morning prayer and meditation tomorrow morning. I have already been keeping a journal... seems like a good place to put something like this. 'Preciate it. :)

Mike O wrote:Hi, David.

I'm not sure from your post - have you discussed the issue that is bothering you from your past with your sponsor, or indeed any other person?


I have discussed the biggest part of it with my sponsor. And I discussed the rest of it... all of it... with my dad. Which I later read on some AA sites and was told by a family member who is in the program was not really ideal.

So yeah... I still haven't. I asked my sponsor if he would be up for it, and he said yes but only after we've gone through the first 3 steps formally. The one part of it that was burning me up the most I went ahead and shared with him that night, and he helped me through it. But honestly it's still hard to think about. Makes me want to hurt myself/hurt the other person involved still. So I'd say it's pretty unresolved. But it also isn't actually making me do either of those things ever since I talked with my sponsor... so I figure it's good enough to keep under wraps until I can actually share it.

edit: on rereading I realized this was a little ambiguous -- it was a couple different related things. One of them was a resentment, one was of a sexual/personal nature. I shared the resentment... I didn't share the sex one. I'm much more comfortable talking about how angry I am, but the sex one is just absolutely shameful and makes me feel like a monster. I just can't bring myself to tell him without having a chance to like sit down and explain it fully. I'm afraid of what he'll think of me.

Honestly that's the one I've held onto for years. Never shared it. Never want to. I told my dad about it and it didn't help me feel better, despite him being kind about it... I just feel like there's no way I can forgive myself for it. It's hard to write about. It just occurred to me I may take it to a therapist. I didn't hurt anyone or rape anyone fwiw... but I wasn't nice. And there don't seem to be words that feel right to express how ashamed I am of myself about it.

Thanks to everyone who has responded so far again. I'm really struggling with this this time around in a way I hadn't before. I imagine I didn't really go deep enough last time.
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Re: 4th Step... Guilt... Self-Forgiveness?

Postby cpr123 » Mon Nov 14, 2016 8:25 pm

Ever thought of using a priest. It is suggested in the big book and, for what it is worth, that is what I did. The fellow I talked with had been a priest for a couple of penitentiaries... he didn't even flinch when I thought he would excommunicate me from the church. He was very insightful about human nature and I walked away with the burden I was carrying all those years lifted. I did my 5th with him and it was more like a conversation but he let me get through the entire thing. Good luck
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Re: 4th Step... Guilt... Self-Forgiveness?

Postby PaigeB » Tue Nov 15, 2016 12:25 pm

Being in the middle of the 4th Step is a difficult time. I am certain you have heard that from others. But like an inventory of the garage, it is a real pain to count all the nuts and bolts to decide what to throw out, what to keep and what to buy more of. Then there is the sweeping and all that stuff. BUT I can tell you this, you will feel differently AFTER YOU DO STEP 5. SO - try not to dally with the 4th, even though you are being thorough. It is just nuts & bolts.

Your post made me think of yesterday's Daily Reflection about self love. Please note that it is about Step 11 - 7 Steps beyond where you are, but you can take what you need from it.
14 November
INTUITION AND INSPIRATION
. . . we ask God for inspiration, an intuitive thought or a decision. We relax and take it easy. We don't struggle.
— ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, p. 86
I invest my time in what I truly love. Step Eleven is a discipline that allows me and my Higher Power to be together, reminding me that, with God's help, intuition and inspiration are possible. Practice of the Step brings on selflove. In a consistent attempt to improve my conscious contact with a Higher Power, I am subtly reminded of my unhealthy past, with its patterns of grandiose thinking and false feelings of omnipotence. When I ask for the power to carry out God's will for me, I am made aware of my powerlessness. Humility and a healthy selflove are compatible, a direct result of working Step Eleven.
From the book Daily Reflections
Copyright © 1990 by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.

I encourage you to keep your feet moving. Keep that pen pushing forward and get to a lot of meetings during this difficult time. Then get to Step 5... Keep Trudging.
:mrgreen:
If I'm not able to say how I'm working my program today, then I'm not working my program.
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Re: 4th Step... Guilt... Self-Forgiveness?

Postby Blue Moon » Tue Nov 15, 2016 8:37 pm

David A wrote:I wrote a resentment inventory based on myself and some actions I took in the past which I am having trouble forgiving myself for (I am the one against whom I have the resentment in this case).

Inventory is all the stuff we've been avoiding and soaking with booze all these years. How can anyone expect to feel after unearthing a pile of garbage? Yes, it stinks and looks bad. Nauseating. Anyone who did a 4th Step and said to themselves "wow! isn't all of that wonderful?" did a really bad one because they're not being honest with self.

But the real question is, who do you want to be like when you grow up? You could keep the garbage-ridden cesspit, maybe dig it a big deeper to fit more in. Or you can gradually work to clear it up and build something like a swimming pool out of it, something that others want to hang around with. It's the same pit ... the question is, what do you want to do with it? How much work are you willing to put in? Are you willing to help others to dig their way out of their own pit? Those are the choices we make when we take that 3rd Step, and again when we take the 7th.

Step 4 is guaranteed not to make us feel any better about ourselves. It's not supposed to. If it did, this would be a 4-Step program. The subsequent Steps get us better. With a good Step 4, you're just being honest with yourself about yourself, maybe for the first time in your life. That alone is a Big Step. This is your picture of how your life turned out so far.... it's up to you what your life becomes.

BTW there's more to Step 4 than the resentment inventory. There's also fear, and sex (or, relationships). If you're truly taking stock of your life, maybe also do inventory about the positive aspects of your nature. Doesn't a good business inventory also count what's saleable, not just what's not? Or maybe write a "gratitude list", much the same sort of thing. Of course, it's important not to lose sight of the negative, those unsaleable goods that you need to be rid of. But you're fortunate - you have the wherewithal to recognise the traits you want to change, and the tools with which to change them. Many people have been standing around or kneeling in places like church for years trying to find that, yet here we are in AA almost taking it for granted!
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Re: 4th Step... Guilt... Self-Forgiveness?

Postby ezdzit247 » Wed Nov 16, 2016 3:08 pm

I asked my sponsor if he would be up for it, and he said yes but only after we've gone through the first 3 steps formally.


You have a very good sponsor and are getting excellent guidance from him on this issue. My ESH is that when I finally took the necessary time and effort to really become fully engaged in working the first 3 Steps, the pay off was it set a rock solid foundation for physical, mental, emotional and spiritual recovery. It changes the 4th Step from being a fearful and thoroughly immoral inventory into becoming a fearless and thorough moral inventory. I not only came to believe that God would restore me to sanity in the 2nd Step, I knew that God had my back no matter what when I took the 3rd Step. That experience was a
game changer.

Keep coming back....
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Re: 4th Step... Guilt... Self-Forgiveness?

Postby aaforever » Thu Dec 08, 2016 8:43 am

I have to practice and work with my sponsor because without her that I wont be able to get over my feelings of guilt. I think that it has to take a lot of time especially when I try to work through the steps and traditions as fast as I can and get my sponsees to do the same since I get more from going through all 12 steps and it help me remember more to add on to my next step work and to also have more knowledge of what I am talking about when I have to rework the steps and not be bored.
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Re: 4th Step... Guilt... Self-Forgiveness?

Postby Brock » Thu Dec 08, 2016 10:41 am

I am not sure about what you are saying here aaforever, in another post you mention doing all the steps about another twenty times this year, and since you have sponsees I guess you might encourage them to do the same, and then they will encourage others and on and on it will go, therefore I will say what's on my mind and hope you don't take offense.

The first line in your post says - “I have to practice and work with my sponsor because without her that I wont be able to get over my feelings of guilt.” Doesn’t it ring a bell with your sponsor or others at your meetings, that someone who does the steps twenty times a year has still not gotten over feelings of guilt.

When people say they are working the steps every day, I expect they mean practicing the principles contained in the steps, as outlined in steps 10, 11 & 12, mostly those in 10, and if we do as it asks - “Continue to watch for selfishness etc etc,” in that one checklist of items it touches on each step, so if that's what working the steps means then yes I work them every day. But I believe you are talking about something different, something like actually going through each step as we all do when we are new and not yet recovered, and there is nothing written anywhere which says this is what we do.

People will say if it works for you then do what ever you like, and I agree with this, but apart from possibly teaching others things which are not in the literature, I want you to consider something else. You mention in the other thread - “I have tried to seek help from a lot of the people at my meeting since they generally have 20 plus years of experience and get through tough times pretty easily.” How do they get through these tough times, and I am sure it's not by going to meetings or sponsors and moaning about how tough it is, because there are alcoholics in isolated areas and countries with few or no meetings, and they get through just fine. I want you to be jealous of those who don't depend on meetings or other people to get through problems and live happily, then you might try what the program suggests we should do. And that in my experience is to concentrate on developing a stronger faith in our higher power, it is how we grow in the program, not by how many meetings we attend or how many times we do the steps.

Sorry for the tough talk, and best of luck to you.
"Good morning, this is your Higher Power speaking. I will not be needing your help today."
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Re: 4th Step... Guilt... Self-Forgiveness?

Postby PaigeB » Thu Dec 08, 2016 11:37 am

aaforever wrote:I have to practice and work with my sponsor because without her that I wont be able to get over my feelings of guilt. I think that it has to take a lot of time especially when I try to work through the steps and traditions as fast as I can and get my sponsees to do the same since I get more from going through all 12 steps and it help me remember more to add on to my next step work and to also have more knowledge of what I am talking about when I have to rework the steps and not be bored.

I also get to internalize new things when I works with sponsees!
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