We just spent a couple of nights at the coast, in the little town I've been visiting since I was a kid. It's gotten pretty pricey, so these days we tend to go a bit north or south, but this particular spot holds decades of memories, from childhood capers with cousins, to weekend long cocaine & booze binges, to recovery meetings around a bonfire on the beach. This is also the place where we put my dad's ashes in 1980, and my mom's thirty-two years later - one of those places where my whole being exhales with the final curve of the highway and first sight of the sea, one of those places that feels like home.
Being the eighth month, I've been working on Step 8 regarding making amends. Most years, my 8th Step list includes myself (Where have I not been true to my heart? Where have I expected perfection rather than progress?), my spouse (Where could I have been more loving?) with the occasional employment, friendship or family snaggle to work through. This year, however, I'm confronting an old situation that is asking for attention.
Literally 50 years ago, I was involved with a guy who was not good for me on several different levels, but my 15 year old self tried to hold his attention by doing something that went against my values. I've talked with two sponsors about the situation over the years, and both advised that the matter was not mine to amend, other than to myself for the ways I desperately sought affection. Sometimes I've agreed with that, but it keeps coming up. I've gone years without thinking about the incident, only to have it bubble to the surface when I'm focusing on the amends process. I find myself feeling like a fraud, thinking that maybe I didn't give those early sponsors enough information, or maybe it's merely my over developed sense of guilt. I can make myself crazy trying to figure out my part, the wheels in my head turning over and over what might have been or what I should've done, then and in the ensuing years.
I realize that anything that tries to get my attention repeatedly requires action, so made the decision that this is the year I want to take responsibility where responsibility is due. Making the decision did not ease my discomfort, and, in fact, heightened it as I played out various outcome scenarios. Desperate to quiet my rattled brain, I took to the internet there on the deck of our beach front unit, in a desperate effort to DO SOMETHING NOW. I say, "thank you" to the power of the ocean that distracted me just long enough to remember the core principle of Step 9, which is, "Thou shalt not run off half-cocked without talking to your sponsor, lest you end up owing amends for your amends."
I've had that conversation, and now have a Good Orderly Direction on how to proceed. Despite my years of recovery, I don't always know the right thing to do, especially with decades of emotional wrangling to untangle. Talking with a trusted other, who has no attachment to the story, I'm reminded that asking for help can be both the hardest, and the most rewarding aspect of our program. Nowhere in the Steps does it say, "I did it my way!"
Today, I seek the freedom that comes from practicing the principles in all my affairs, not just those that are convenient. If something from long ago bothers me, I need to talk about it, write about it, and meditate on it in order to get to the core of my dis-ease. My sponsor helped me outline a plan of appropriate action, and suggested that I then look to forgive myself. My first sponsor used to say, "If you'd known better, you would've done better." Well, I did know better, so the forgiveness part won't be easy. One day at a time, one right action at a time, I can move in that direction.
Are there any lingering episodes from your history that need attention? How has forgiveness of yourself and others shifted and changed over the years?