Sharing The Pain – Grapevine Articles July 1996 by Caroline B.

The Fourth Step helped open the doorway to the past

When I was in treatment, I set a goal to do a yearly Fourth Step. I became convinced that the only way to stay sober was to do a yearly housecleaning. But looking back over three years of sobriety, I can see that my initial goal may have been a little too ambitious. In fact, I’ve just finished my second Fourth Step after almost two years of procrastination.

I found numerous excuses for putting it off. I was fearful of opening up my dark little closet and once again pulling out all my dirty secrets from the past. I could remember the pain I experienced from the last time I did a Fourth Step, and I didn’t want to face it again. I wanted to say I’d resolved those issues and didn’t need to drag them back into the sunlight.

I’m still sick enough to think that no one else has a story as bad as mine. It is only through my Higher Power putting people in my life–people who’ve had similar experiences to mine–that I’ve finally been able to start sharing and feeling less special and unique.

At meetings, I started to casually throw out the statement that I was working on my Fourth Step. I’d say how I felt the need to do an honest and thorough inventory and that my continued sobriety depended upon me taking this action. I told my sponsor that I was working on a Fourth Step, and she was supportive, encouraging me to do my best. What I wasn’t saying was that when I picked up pen and paper, my hand just wouldn’t write about the darkness and misery of my past. During my few attempts at writing, I’d reach in and pull out a particularly unappetizing aspect from my past and write about it as fast as I could, so that the pain, fear and terror wouldn’t grip my soul again.

People began appearing in my life. One person came to a meeting one night and for some reason, started calling me. I gave her rides to meetings and we talked. One afternoon, I drove downtown and passed her walking on the street. I stopped and asked if she needed a ride home. It turned out she’d been praying for someone to stop because she was exhausted from walking. I believe that the Higher Power was working that day, not only in her life, but in mine. As we were driving, she turned to me and said that she needed to tell me something but didn’t know how.

I turned to her and said, “Just say it”

She told me about a horrible, abusive situation and loss in her life, one that she was still being victimized by. It was such an unexpected and shocking disclosure that I pulled the car over to the curb, stopped, and asked her to repeat what she had said. I’m very grateful for her trust. It gave me the strength and hope I needed to talk about my own experience. There’s something about shared shame and pain that lightens the load of guilt and hopelessness.

I now can comprehend the promise that “we will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.”

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