Guilt – Grapevine Article March 1973 by C.W.B.

Our misdeeds cannot be changed–our thinking can

I WRITE this because there must be others like me who have had difficulty ridding themselves of the ravages of guilt and, like me, have either misunderstood certain of the Steps or have tried to apply them too quickly and eagerly and have thus added to their feelings of guilt and worthlessness, rather than freeing themselves as the Steps intend.

It seems basically important to remember always that we were not practicing alcoholics by choice–that, once in the grip of this disease, we did not drink because we wanted to or because we enjoyed it. Then it would seem to follow that we also had absolutely no wish to damage other people. Just the same, we did damage others, and herein lies much of our guilt. Many of these people finally reacted rather violently and even vengefully, and to our guilt was thus added the old lurking enemy of resentment.

If we are now sober and wish to remain so, it seems to me we must somehow separate the present us from the insane us of the past, with all its destructive behavior. I need especially to remember that the Fourth Step, according to my personal interpretation, is an inventory of my present character and not a history of my misdeeds. In the Fifth Step, I have a feeling that “the exact nature” of my wrongs was the alcoholic thinking which produced them.

In any case, the Steps certainly must be intended to cleanse us of this horrible past and lead us into loving ourselves properly, so that we may become capable of loving others. At one point, if I had loved my neighbor as myself, I would probably have gone over and burned his house down.

After I became sober, my resentments remained. Naturally, most of these were directed at the very people to whom I was frantically trying to make amends. It is no wonder that the resulting ambivalence heaped more fuel on the fire. Now that I am at least willing to forgive myself, the fire begins to dwindle. It will eventually, I hope, be starved for lack of fuel. I can make a new beginning now, intent on undertaking all these soul-searching and cleansing Steps in our program as they were intended to be taken, and not from a position of crippling hate and guilt.

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