The Miracle of The Twelve Step Recovery Process: The First Three Steps



Growing up in dysfunctional societies, we learned to relate to ourselves and life in a way that is dysfunctional. That is what codependence is: a dysfunctional emotional and behavioral defense system. As I state in the quote from my book above, I spent most of my life doing the serenity prayer backwards: trying to control things and people I am not in control of, and not taking responsibility for what I can have some control over - my own internal process.

Trying to control that which I do not have ultimate control over does not work to help me relax and enjoy life. It does not work to help me find some happiness and fulfillment in life. It does not work to help me achieve some inner peace and serenity. Relating to life in the ways we learned in childhood is dysfunctional because it does not work to help us dance the dance of life in a way which really serves us.

Basically, the reason that life as it is experienced by humans is so messed up, is because we have been dancing to the wrong music. We have had our dance of life defined by fear and shame, by lack, scarcity, and separation. The Twelve Step process helps us to change our relationship with life and self - it helps us learn to dance with music that is aligned with Love and Joy and Truth. That is what is so miraculous and awesome about the twelve step recovery process - it helps us to enjoy our dance.

The True meaning and purpose of life is Spiritual in my opinion. I know that when I started living life from that perspective - the perspective I learned from working a 12 step program - was the first time that life made any sense to me. The twelve steps work to help us align with what I believe is Metaphysical Truth. The basic steps of that dance are 1, 2, 3, - and once we start to get into the rhythm of that Spiritual dance we start to live life in alignment with the Metaphysical Truth contained in the Serenity Prayer. It is the begining of transformation. It is the path home to Love.

"The first three steps of the twelve step program basically involve: 1. getting honest enough to recognize that what we have been doing is not working; 2. getting willing to open up to some help from outside; 3. asking for help."

Attack on America Chapter 2



1, 2, 3,


  1. Quit trying to control, to force an outcome - let go, surrender, accept.
  2. Remember that I can't do it alone
  3. Ask for help - from my Higher Power, from another person, look up something on the internet, whatever. Have the humility to remember I am not in control, I am not writing the script.


and a 1, 2, 3,

I can't control life: The Force is with me: I can decide to trust that Force

and a 1, 2, 3,
 
 
 
I can not control other people or life events.
There is a Universal Force / God / Goddess / Great Spirit who is in control.
I guess I will surrender to the Power of that Universal Force

1, 2, 3, and a 1, 2, 3, and a 1, 2, 3, . . . . . This is the recovery 3 step.


Another way of saying it is:

I can't, there is a God/Goddess that can, I guess I will let go and let the Great Spirit handle things.



And a 1,

The first step is about recognizing that I am powerless to control life and other people.


I can not stop someone else from drinking or eating or smoking or killing themselves. I can not make someone else love me or hear me or see themselves clearly if they don't want to do those things. I can not change the past or control the future. In the case of addictions, it also means that I am powerless to control my addiction by myself, out of my own will power. The second part of the first step is about recognizing that my life is a mess because I have been doing the same things over and over again expecting different results.


and a 2,

The second step says while I am not in control of this life process there is a Power, a Force, that is - and that Force is on my side.


and a 3,

The third step says that if we surrender thinking we have to be in control - and open up to receiving guidance from a Higher Power we will get help and guidance.


Step 1

 

 

The first step is about recognizing that I am powerless to control life and other people.

 

Step 1 - Alcoholics Anonymous We admitted we were powerless over alcohol --- that our lives had become unmanageable.
Step 1 - Co-Dependents Anonymous We admitted we were powerless over others --- that our lives had become unmanageable.
Step 1 - 12 Steps for Kids I am powerless over alcohol, drugs, and other people's behavior and my life got real messed up because of it.
Step 1 - Intellectual level (my version) I acknowledge and accept that I am powerless out of ego-self to control my human life experience, and that the delusion that I should be in control has caused pain and suffering in my life.



 

 

 

 

When I first came to 12 step recovery I was appalled to think that I had to admit that I was powerless. Then when they told me that I had a disease I was relieved to think that all those years of insane behavior were not my fault. I still had problems with powerlessness and surrender however. To surrender meant to be a loser in my mind. What helped me was when someone told me that surrender didn't mean I was a loser, it just meant that I was smart enough to join the winning side.

One thing I sometimes say in AA meetings is that I was a 'Frank Sinatra' type of alcoholic. I used to sit in bars and get teary eyed when they played My Way - because I was doing it 'my way,' I thought. One of the first things I had to surrender to, was realizing that my way wasn't working very good. One of the next things I had to surrender was my subconscious belief that it was not possible to live life without drugs and alcohol.

Recovery is a process of learning to accept reality. Empowerment is about accepting reality as it is and making the best of it. In order to accept reality, it is necessary for me to be honest enough with myself to realize that I am not in charge of this process. I cannot make life do what I want it to - so I need to continuously surrender to the plan of The Great Spirit rather than try to force my plan on the Universe (and feel sorry for myself, or blame others, when that doesn't work.) It is not bad or shameful for me to try to make things happen the way I want - it is just human, dysfunctional, and painful. The sooner I catch myself not accepting reality as it is, the sooner I can let go of my picture of how I think things need to be, the more serenity I have in my life.

Melody Beattie says "Learn the art of acceptance - it is a lot of grief." She is right. Many times the reason I am not accepting reality is because I do not want to own the feelings involved. The grief and anger over a loved one self-destructing. The grief over having to let go of something or someone that means a lot to me. The grief over accepting that life - from my perspective - is not fair or just. One of the reasons that I try to control life is to protect myself from having to see someone I Love in pain. I cannot protect others from the reality of life, or from themselves, - and if I think that I am trying to control someone else just for their sake I am lying to myself.

The principle behind the first step, and the foundation of the twelve step, or any Spiritual program, is self-honesty. If we are not being honest with ourselves, then we are not capable of being honest with anyone. It is vital to start stripping away the layers of denial, self-delusion, disassociation, magical thinking, victim thinking, blame, resentment, and dishonesty that we learned to protect ourselves with in childhood. Again, it is not shameful or bad that we have used these behavioral and emotional defenses to protect our self - it is because we were wounded in a variety of ways in childhood. Some of those ways include being: abandoned, betrayed, rejected, invalidated, shamed, discounted, deprived, degraded, abused, violated, damaged, put down, spiritually broken, emotionally raped, intellectually dishonored, hurt, humiliated, diminished, heart broken, molested, etc.

It is only by stripping away the defenses and false definitions of self that we had to adapt to survive that we can start getting in touch with our True Self. There is absolutely nothing wrong with who we are - it is our relationship with ourselves that got so screwed up in childhood. By learning how to be honest with ourselves we can change our relationship with ourselves.

One of the most important levels of honesty for us to strive for is emotional honesty. It is vital to owning our self that we learn to own our feelings.

Step 1 - Emotional level (my version) Admitted that I am powerless to substantially change the learned behavioral defenses and dysfunctional attitudes from childhood until I deal with the emotional wounds of my childhood experience.



 
 
 
Step 2


The second step says while I am not in control of this life process there is a Power, a Force, that is - and that Force is on my side.
 
 
Step 2 - Alcoholics Anonymous Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Step 2 - Discovery and Empowerment We come to believe that God /the Goddess /Universe /Great Spirit /Higher Power awakens the healing wisdom within us when we open ourselves to that power.
Step 2 - 12 Steps for Kids I need help. I can't do it alone anymore.
Step 2 - My version Came to remember that I am a Spiritual Being who is part of the ONENESS that is the Unconditionally Loving, ALL-Powerful Universal Force, and that believing in that Force can help to bring balance, harmony, and sanity to my life.



 

 

 

 

The thing that made it possible for me to start getting honest with myself and to start being willing to surrender was the possibility that there might be a Loving Higher Power. When I first came to the program I would not even use the word God - and thought that these people must be a bunch of religious fanatics. I wanted nothing to do with God because I had been Spiritually, emotionally, and mentally abused in childhood with a concept of God that was vengeful and punishing. I had my sexuality abused by a shame based religion that taught me that God would send me to burn in hell forever for even thinking about sex.

Is it any wonder that I didn't want to surrender to God as I understood 'him.'

I could however relate to "The Force is with you." That resonated in my being. So I started to try to find a concept of a Higher Power that could possibly love me and be on my side. I started 'acting as if' there might be a Loving Force in charge, and pretending that I believed that everything was going to work out. It was a great relief to start opening up to the possibility that maybe I was Lovable and worthy - but it was also terrifying and took many years to really start trusting.

The principle behind the second step is trust or faith. When I hear people say that faith is the absence of fear, I say bull. If I am not afraid then I don't need to have faith. It is because I am so afraid that trusting is such a powerful act of faith. There is always going to be fear in life - that is why it is so important to have faith.

The second step says that we come to believe. The way we come to believe is to make a choice to start opening up to the possibility that maybe there is a Loving Higher Power. In the first step we recognize that what we have been doing is not working - the second step tells us that there is another way to do things. The third step is about taking the risk of trying that new way.


Step 3


The third step says that if we surrender thinking we have to be in control - and open up to receiving guidance from a Higher Power we will get help and guidance.
 
 
Step 3 - Co-Dependents Anonymous Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.
Step 3 - Discovery and Empowerment We make a decision to become our authentic Selves and trust in the healing power of Truth.
Step 3 - 12 Steps for Kids I've made a decision to reach out for a Power greater than me to help out.
Step 3 - My version Made a decision to ask the Force to help me align my will, my actions, and my life with the Universal Power.



 

 

 

When I was in treatment getting sober I was in a city I hadn't lived in for 20 years. I had no car and was going to be living with my brother who lived on the outskirts of the city when I got out of treatment. I was scared that I wasn't going to be able to make it to meetings and went in to talk to my counselor about it. He said, "You ask for rides." "Oh no," I said. "You don't understand I never ask anybody for anything." "Well," he said, "that is what working the third step is all about." "Asking for rides?!?!" I said incredulously.

I thought he was crazy. How can asking for a ride be working the third step?

Well, it is. I needed to learn to ask not only a God I didn't trust for help - but also to ask other people to help me. That was horrible for me. It seemed like such a huge risk. If I asked people for help that would give them a chance to reject me - and I had had enough rejection in my life, thank you very much!

There was a story that I heard around that time. It was about 2 guys who were arguing about rather there was a God or not.

The first one said, "Of course, there is a God. How can you say there is no God."

The second said, "I not only can say it - I can prove it."

"You can prove it?"

"Yes. Years ago I was in a small plane crash in the wilds of Alaska. I was the only survivor and I had a broken leg. There was nothing around for hundreds of miles, so it was only a question of rather I would freeze to death before something ate me. I prayed to God and said 'If there is a God please save me.' And God didn't do anything."

"What do you mean," the first man exclaimed. "You're here and alive aren't you."

"Oh, well some Eskimo came along and saved me. God didn't do anything."

The point: God works through people. We all have had Eskimos in our lives, angels disguised as people. We are not alone in this process - we can't do it alone.

So, I learned to ask for rides. What I know now is that the Universe always responds - just not very often in the way, or at the time I think it is necessary. I need to ask for help and then let go of rather the person I am asking can in fact help me. I need to take the risk and let go of the outcome. What I need will come from someplace. There is a verse in the bible that says: (paraphrased??)

Ask and ye shall receive.
Seek and ye shall find.
Knock and the door shall be opened.

ASK. By asking - either God or another person - I am setting energy in motion in the Universe. Once the energy is in motion it comes back to me at some time from some place. I have to put it out before it will come back. What I sow I reap. The Universes works on the principle of cause and effect. It is very important for me to get proactive in my own life by taking the risk of asking for help - and it is much easier when I can let go of my picture of how, and when, that help is going to manifest.

Of course, it was very important for me to start practicing some discernment in who I was asking. What I told the counselor that day about never asking for help wasn't true. I wouldn't ask for help until I was in very dire straights and then I would ask people who would shame and abuse me for asking. It was very important to start asking safe people when I needed help. People who wouldn't shame and judge me.

A turning point in my recovery came when I realized that the third step is a step of action.

The third step (CoDA version) says: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God. What I learned is that making a decision is not a passive process. I need to make the decision and then take action based on the decision. Turning my will and life over to God does not mean saying "You got it God. I'll hang out here and wait for you to tell me what to do." What it does mean is that I turn that "problem/question" over to The Goddess - and then I let go of focusing time and energy on that one. I keep letting go of the outcome of that situation, and take some positive action on some other things in my life - like taking a walk or cleaning house or whatever.

Working the third step is about taking action. Once I decide to try this new way of life in which I believe there is a Higher Power that Loves me - then I need to start taking action based on that belief. I need to align my will with the will of a Loving Universal Force. There is nothing wrong with will power, or self-will. It is self-will pointed in the wrong direction that is destructive. Once we admit powerlessness out of ego-self then we start accessing power out of Spiritual Self. Spiritual Self is the part of us that knows we are connected to everyone and everything.

I have to use my will power to get myself to meetings, to pray, to take inventory and be honest with myself, to ask for help, to not pick up the next drink, etc., etc. It takes an act of will on my part to get me in motion. Once energy is placed in motion then the Universe responds.

One of the principles behind the third step is taking action. I need to take action that is positive and Loving for myself. That can mean making my bed in the morning or washing the dishes - as well as going to meetings or Spiritual gatherings. Any action that I take that is Loving towards myself is working the third step and aligning my will with the will of a Higher Power, a God-Force, Goddess Energy, Great Spirit that Loves me Unconditionally and always has.

Another principle involved in the first three steps is acceptance. Accepting reality as it is and then surrendering to aligning myself with taking action based on trusting that there is a Universal Force that is in charge of this life business. Any time I take action aligned with recovery - rather that be saying the Serenity Prayer, going to a meeting, looking up a web page about healing, reading a Spiritual book, whatever - I am working the first three steps.

I am not in control of this process and need some help. I choose to believe there is a Spiritual Force at work that is going to support me in learning to Love myself. I am going to take some action that shows that I have faith that I am worthy and Loved by that Force. 1, 2, 3

We work the first three steps anytime we pray / talk to our Higher Power, meditate / listen for messages, or take any action that supports our healing and recovery. Sometimes the action we need to take is to not judge ourselves for eating the cookies because we need some nurturing. We are unconditionally Loved - no matter what we do. Working the steps is about learning to own that in the way we treat our self. That includes accepting that we are human and can not do it perfect.

The Spirit does not come from judgment and shame. By working the steps we are learning how to align ourselves with / become allies with a God/Goddess that is Love and to quit being partners / allies with the disease with it's fear, negativity, and shame.

 

***

 

The article on powerlessness and unmanageability keeps growing so it will come later. The next article is: The Miracle of The Twelve Step Process: Step 4 inventory

Below are some versions of the Twelve Steps from different sources.


The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous


1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol --- that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for His will for us and the power to carry that our.

12. Having had a Spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other co-dependents, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.



The 12 Steps to Recovery for Codependents
From Choicemaking by Sharon Wegscheider Cruse


1. We acknowledge and accept that we are powerless in controlling the lives of others, and that trying to control others makes our lives unmanageable.

2. We have come to believe that a power greater than ourselves can restore enough order and hope in our lives to move us to a growth framework.

3. We make a decision to turn our lives over to this power to the best of our ability, and honestly accept that taking responsibility for ourselves is the only way growth is possible.

4. We make an inventory of ourselves, looking for our mental, emotional, spiritual, physical, volitional, and social assets and liabilities. We look at what we have, how we use it, and how we can acquire what we need.

5. Using this inventory as a guide, we admit to ourselves, to God as we understood him, and to other caring persons, the exact nature of what is within that is causing ourselves pain.

6. We give to God as we know him all former pain, hurt, and mistakes, resentments and bitterness, anger, and guilt. We trust that we can let go of the hurt that we cause and receive.

7. We can ask for help, support, and guidance and be willing to take responsibility for ourselves and to others.

8. We begin a program of living responsibly for ourselves, for our own feelings, mistakes, and successes. We become responsible for our part in relationship to others.

9. We make a list of persons to whom we want to make amends and commence to do so, except where doing so would cause further pain for others.

10. We continue to work our program, each day checking out our progress and asking for feedback from others in our attempt to recover and grow. We do this through support groups.

11. We seek through our own power and a Higher Power, awareness of our inner selves. We do this through reading, listening, meditation, sharing, and other ways of centering and getting in touch with our inner selves.

12. Having experienced the power of growing toward wholeness, we find our bodies, minds, and spirits awakened to a new sense of physical and emotional relief which leaves us open to a new awareness of Spirituality. We seek to explore our meaning in life by honest sharing with others, remember that BECOMING WHO WE ARE is a lifetime task which must be done one day at a time.



12 Steps for Kids
author unkown


1. I am powerless over alcohol, drugs, and other people's behavior and my life got real messed up because of it.

2. I need help. I can't do it alone anymore.

3. I've made a decision to reach out for a Power greater than me to help out.

4. I wrote down all of the things that bother me about myself and others, and the things that I like too.

5. I shared these with someone I trust because I don't have to keep them a secret anymore.

6. My Higher Power helps me with this, too.

7. The more I trust myself and my Higher Power, the more I learn to trust others.

8. I made a list of the people I hurt and the ways I hurt myself. I can now forgive myself and others.

9. I talked to these people even if I was scared to because I knew that it would help me feel better about myself.

10. I keep on discovering more things about myself each day and if I hurt someone, I apologize.

11. When I am patient and pray, I get closer to my Higher Power, and that helps me know myself better.

12. By using these steps, I've become a new person. I don't have to feel alone anymore, and I can help others.



16 Steps for Discovery and Empowerment
author unkown


1. We affirm we have the power to take charge of our lives and stop being dependent on substances or other people for our self-esteem and security.

2. We come to believe that God / the Goddess / Universe / Great Spirit / Higher Power awakens the healing wisdom within us when we open ourselves to that power.

3. We make a decision to become our authentic Selves and trust in the healing power of Truth.

4. We examine our beliefs, addictions, and dependent behavior in the context of living in a hierarchal, patriarchal culture.

5. We share with another person and the Universe all those things inside of us for which we feel shame and guilt.

6. We affirm and enjoy our strengths, talents, and creativity, striving not to hide these qualities to protect other's egos.

7. We become willing to let go of shame, guilt, and any behavior that keeps us from loving ourSelves and others.

8. We make a list of people we have harmed and people who have harmed us, and take steps to clear out negative energy by making amends and sharing our grievances in a respectful way.

9. We express love and gratitude to others, and increasingly appreciate, the wonder of life and the blessings we do have.

10. We continue to trust our reality and daily affirm that we see what we see, we know what we know, and we feel what we feel.
11. We promptly acknowledge our mistakes and make amends when appropriate, but we do not say we are sorry for things we have not done and we do not cover up, analyze, or take responsibility for the shortcomings of others.

12. We seek out situations, jobs, and people that affirm our intelligence, perceptions, and self-worth and avoid situations or people who are hurtful, harmful, or demeaning to us.

13. We take steps to heal our physical bodies, organize our lives, reduce stress, and have fun.

14. We seek to find our inward calling, and develop the will and wisdom to follow it.

15. We accept the ups and downs of life as natural events that can be used as lessons for growth.

16. We grow in awareness that we are interrelated with all living things, and we contribute to restoring peace and balance on the planet.

The Death of an Alcoholic

"As long as we look outside of Self - with a capital S - to find out who we are, to define ourselves and give us self-worth, we are setting ourselves up to be victims.

We were taught to look outside of ourselves - to people, places, and things; to money, property, and prestige - for fulfillment and happiness. It does not work, it is dysfunctional. We cannot fill the hole within with anything outside of Self.

You can get all the money, property, and prestige in the world, have everyone in the world adore you, but if you are not at peace within, if you don't Love and accept yourself, none of it will work to make you Truly happy."
Quote from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls


My friend Robert died the other day. He died alone in a hotel room and his body wasn't found for two days. He weighed 125 pounds when he died.

Robert was an alcoholic who couldn't stay sober. He had been through full thirty day (and longer) treatment programs at least 15 times. He had been in detox fifty times easily. Drinking had destroyed his body. Robert should have been dead years ago. In the past 3 or 4 years almost every time he drank he ended up in intensive care. I did much of my grieving for my friend three years ago, the last time I rescued him from his cabin on Taos Mountain and took him to the emergency room.

Robert went to lots of meetings and tried real hard to work the program but on one critical point he didn't have enough humility. He did not have enough humility to accept that he was lovable.

My friend had made and lost fortunes in his life. He had been with lots of women and had lots of possessions. He still had lots of possessions when he died. He still had the cabin in Taos Ski Valley but he didn't have the strength to walk up the fifty steps to the front door.

Robert used money to try to buy friendship and love. And then he felt betrayed because he believed that people only wanted to be around him for his money. If you were friendly to him for no apparent reason, then he would talk about giving you money because that gave you an excuse to care about him. He just could not believe that he was worthy of love just for who he was.

Robert was full of shame. He was full of shame because he was raised in a dysfunctional family in a shame-based society. His Father was a verbally/emotionally abusive perfectionist for whom nothing was ever good enough. His mother was too terrified and shame-based to protect her son.

As a young child Robert got the message that he wasn't lovable but that if he was successful enough and made enough money he might earn the right to be loved. He was successful and made lots of money but it did not work to convince him that he was good enough.

My friend had no permission from himself to receive love. When I published my book I listed him among people who had touched my life on the Acknowledgements Page. When he saw his name listed there he cursed me (his generation, and mine, were taught to relate to other men that way, to say 'I love you' by calling each other names) and cried briefly (which he felt was very shameful) and then he drank. In his relationship with himself Robert was too shame-based to believe that he was lovable.

I believe that the great majority of Alcoholics are born with a genetic, hereditary predisposition that is physiological. Environment does not cause Alcoholism. Robert was not an Alcoholic because he was shame-based - it was because of his shame that he could not stay sober. He had a blustery, 'hail-fellow-well-met', in your face kind of ego-strength that was very fragile. As soon as he got sober his ego defenses would fracture and the shame underneath would cause him to sabotage his sobriety.

That doesn't mean that people who can stay sober don't have shame. Some of us just have more ego defenses that buries the shame deeper. That is good news in early sobriety because it helps one to stay sober. It can be bad news later on because it can cause us to resist growth and to not have the humility to be teachable. The reason that I am alive today is because I was able to go to treatment for Codependence in my fifth year of recovery while working as a therapist in a treatment center. I had sworn that I would kill myself before I drank again and the feelings which were surfacing had me close to it when I went to Sierra Tucson. That was where I met Robert.

What killed my friend were the grave emotional and mental disorders caused by growing up with parents who did not love themselves in a dysfunctional family in an emotionally-dishonest, Spiritually-hostile, shame-based society. What killed Robert was his Codependence. His relationship with himself was full of self-hatred and shame and he couldn't stay sober long enough to get to the point where he could deal with his childhood issues.

Robert was born with a genetic predisposition to have a fatal disease, Alcoholism. His childhood inflicted a second fatal disease on him. My friend Robert was one more of the many Alcoholics to die of Codependence. {Play}

The Miracle of The Twelve Step Process:


4 thru 9 "The Clean Up Steps." - Step 4 inventory



"Recovery involves bringing to consciousness those beliefs and attitudes in our subconscious that are causing our dysfunctional reactions so that we can reprogram our ego defenses to allow us to live a healthy, fulfilling life instead of just surviving. So that we can own our power to make choices for ourselves about our beliefs and values instead of unconsciously reacting to the old tapes. Recovery is consciousness raising. It is en-light-en-ment - bringing the dysfunctional attitudes and beliefs out of the darkness of our subconscious into the Light of consciousness.

On an emotional level the dance of Recovery is owning and honoring the emotional wounds so that we can release the grief energy - the pain, rage, terror, and shame that is driving us.

That shame is toxic and is not ours - it never was! We did nothing to be ashamed of - we were just little kids. Just as our parents were little kids when they were wounded and shamed, and their parents before them, etc., etc. This is shame about being human that has been passed down from generation to generation.

There is no blame here, there are no bad guys, onlywoundedsouls and broken hearts and scrambled minds."

Quote from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls


"I date my codependence recovery as starting on June 3 1986. As with any milestone, there was recovery that occurred before that - I had been clean and sober for exactly 2 years and 5 months at the point (the story of my early recovery is for another issue) - but this particular day marked a breakthrough in consciousness to a whole new level that changed the direction and focus of my life." {Play}

The Story of Joy to You & Me - Joy2MeU Journal Issue 1


Step 4 - inventory


On July 11, 1986 I had a significant breakthrough in my codependence recovery. As I explained in the Story of Joy to You & Me in the first issue of this Journal, I date my recovery from codependency as starting on June 3, 1986. On that day, I began to work through the 12 steps in order again, focusing on my childhood issues. On July 11th I was writing a new 4th step. As part of writing that 4th step, I wrote a letter to my father.

Writing has been a very important part of my recovery. I have found that it is vital for me to write about my process. Just thinking about issues does not move emotional energy - in order to get honest with myself emotionally I learned that I needed to take some action. Writing, talking, doing certain kinds of art projects, are some of the action steps that I found helped me to get in touch with the emotional energy.

Writing can sometimes be a magical process for me. I used to say that there is a Truth mechanism in my elbow some place that will cause my hand to write something other than what my mind has told it to write. That Truth mechanism was operating on July 11th when I wrote the letter to my father. I wrote a sentence that I thought was going to say "Why was nothing I ever did good enough for you." When I looked at the page what it said was, "Why was nothing I ever did good enough for me."

That was a shock - and a moment of enlightenment. I realized immediately that what I had written was the bottom line Truth. For though my father certainly has given me the message that I wasn't good enough all of my life, I had not been living in my fathers proximity for 20 years by that time. My father was not the one who was judging and beating me up on a daily basis - I was doing that to myself.

"What is so damaging about being raised by wounded parents is that we incorporate the messages we got from their behavior and role modeling into our relationship with ourselves. At the core of our being is a little child who feels unworthy and unlovable because our parents were wounded."

Column: "Fathers" on web page Wounded Parents

On that day I started peeling off another layer of denial - started getting honest with myself on a new level. It was time to start taking responsibility for how much I was my own worst enemy - for how I was being the victim of myself. At that point in time, it was very difficult for me to look at my part in things because I was still giving so much power to the shame. I did not know how to take responsibility in a healthy way - what I knew, and was comfortable with, was blaming and shaming myself. {Play}

4 thru 9 the "house cleaning" steps



"As long as we are judging and shaming ourselves we are giving power to the disease. We are feeding the monster that is devouring us.

We need to take responsibility without taking the blame. We need to own and honor the feelings without being a victim of them."

"One of most important steps to empowerment is integrating Spiritual Truth into our experience of the process. In order to do that it is necessary to practice discernment in our relationship with the emotional and mental components of our being.

We learned to relate to our inner process from a reversed perspective. We were trained to be emotionally dishonest (that is, to not feel the feelings or to go to the other extreme by allowing the feelings to totally run our lives) and to give power to, to buy into, the reversed attitudes (it is shameful to be human, it is bad to make mistakes, God is punishing and judgmental, etc.) To find balance within we have to change our relationship with our inner process ."

Quote from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls


Steps 4 through 9 are the "house cleaning" steps. They are the steps that help us to start seeing the past more clearly so that we can identify our patterns, uncover our denial, and learn how to take responsibility for our lives. These are the steps that help us to clean up our relationship with our self, with our Higher Power, and with life. Seeing ourselves more clearly - in the Light of the Spiritual Truth of a Loving Higher Power - is how we change our relationship with our inner process into one that is more Loving.

This page is an introduction to working step 4. {Play}


"The Twelve Step program of AA provides a practical program for accessing Spiritual power in dealing with day-to-day human life. A formula for integrating the Spiritual into the physical. Even though some of the steps, as originally written, contain shaming and abusive wording, the Twelve Step process and the ancient Spiritual principles underlining it are invaluable tools in helping the individual being start down, and stay on, a path aligned with Truth."
Quote from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls


Working the Fourth Step


4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Even though this page is about step 4, I included step 5 and 6 above because I want to first address the shaming language in which the twelve steps - as used in AA and adapted by CoDA - are written. Step 6 actually refers to the negative side of the inventory done in step 4, so is a part of the fourth step process. (As is step 8, which is list of people we have harmed. I am going to deal with steps 4 through 9 in the next article because they are all part of the 4th step process.)

I hate the term "defects of character." There could be no better term to describe toxic shame. That is what I felt most of my life - that I was somehow defective, that something was wrong with who I am.

I prefer to refer to these "defects" as codependent behavior patterns and dysfunctional attitudes. They are part of the emotional defense system which we adapted to protect ourselves as children. They are not signs that we are defective, nor are they "wrongs" as step 5 states - they are dysfunctional because they do not work to help us have a Loving, fulfilling relationship with ourselves. They are a part of the disease of codependence that we were powerless over as long as we were unconscious to them. By starting to get conscious of these behavior patterns and attitudes we start to access the power to change them. That is what step 4 is Truly about - becoming conscious.

The first time I worked a 4th and 5th step was in the 30 day treatment program where I got sober. What I heard emphasized about the 4th step was the negative side of the "searching and fearless moral inventory." The 4th step was for cleaning up the "wreckage of our past." And since I had a lot of wreckage that I was ashamed of, I thought of the 4th step as being focused on what I had done "wrong," of how screwed up and sick I was.

[Part of the reason that I saw the 4th step as a very negative self inventory was because of the shame that I was carrying. But there was also an aspect of this negativity that was due to how the 4th step was approached in Alcoholics Anonymous. Old timers in AA tended very much in those days (and many still do today), to a black and white / right and wrong outlook on the steps because of their codependence. All alcoholics are also codependent according to my definition of codependence. The term in AA that refers to codependence is "grave emotional and mental disorders." Recovering alcoholics tend to believe that some of them have those disorders and some don't - I believe that everyone does, due to the dysfunctional nature of society. A big part of why I still attend AA meetings is to carry the message of codependence recovery to the many suffering codependents in AA.

This black and white perspective can actually be an asset in early recovery - in relationship to quitting drinking - because the issue of drinking is a black and white issue. One either drinks or doesn't drink. It can actually be very helpful in alcoholism recovery to apply the black and white thinking of codependence to the issue of drinking. "I am a success today because I haven't had a drink today," is a very True statement for any alcoholic - but it is also True that drinking is a symptom of of the grave emotional and mental disorders caused by childhood trauma. As with certain other addictive/compulsive behaviors - anorexia and bulimia, sex addiction, etc. - it is necessary with alcoholism/drug addiction to get the symptoms under control before the underlying causes can be addressed. There is an old AA saying that "AA doesn't open up the gates of heaven and let us in - it opens up the gates of hell and lets us out." What quitting drinking lets an alcoholic out into is life - and in order to significantly change one's relationship with life it is necessary to deal with the childhood wounds - in my opinion.]

I was very good at doing a negative inventory - I had been doing that all of my life, judging and shaming myself. For me in early recovery, the fearless and searching moral inventory was a way to beat myself up for being defective.

But that first time that I did a 4th step, I was also assigned to do a positive inventory of sorts. I was given an assignment to write up a list of positive characteristics that I possessed. I approached this assignment, as I approached much of life in those days, out of a bravado based on the false self image of myself that I had worn as a mask to hide my shameful being. I made up a list of 30 some positive characteristics that I would present in a humorous, charming way - or so I thought. When I was asked to read this list in my therapy group, I pulled out my piece of paper and made some comment that betrayed the bravado I was approaching the assignment with - and my counselor promptly snatched the paper out of my hands. He then asked me to state 3 good things about myself. I could not. I cried. I could not think of a single positive, good thing about me. I just sat there crying out of the core shame that I felt. Crying because of the pain of knowing that I was defective.

When I worked through the 12 steps in order again after my awakening to codependence on June 3, 1986, I wrote another fourth step. I had been telling myself that the 4th step I did in treatment, when I was less than 30 days sober, was good enough for two and a half years. My awakening caused me to get honest enough with myself to write another 4th step.

I don't remember any of that 4th step now, 13 years later - except for the part about the letter to my father. Whatever I did in that July writing in 1986 opened me up to becoming more conscious of my patterns - helped me to peel away some more of my denial. Writing that fourth step changed my life for the better and opened me up to a new, deeper level of self-honesty. It was a very vital step in leading me to become willing to do my emotional healing - to getting emotionally honest with myself. Writing that fourth step was a very huge milestone in my journey home to Love.

There are a variety of ways to do a 4th step. There are many books/workbooks now available that can help someone who wants to work the steps in order - including working a 4th step. I highly recommend Melody Beattie's book on the steps (see recommended books page) - but there are many others available. Any of them would be valuable to someone new to recovery - or to someone who has been involved in the healing process but has never worked the steps per se.

As I mentioned in my article on working the first three steps, we work the steps and practice the principles behind the steps anytime we are taking some action that is aligned with healing, with Spiritual awakening, with recovery. Reading self help books, going to therapy, attending workshops, going to 12 step meetings, attending Spiritual or healing gatherings, etc. - are all ways to be actively involved in the uncover, discover, recover process.

It is extremely useful however, and can begin a great acceleration in our healing process, to actually work through the 12 steps in order, in writing. I am going to describe a way in which I would now approach the 4th step, which will include working the 6th through 9th steps, in the next article in this series - but I just want to emphasis here that I believe it can be a very valuable experience for anyone to actually work the steps in writing, no matter which workbook or guidelines one follows.

I want to end this page with another example of how the Truth mechanism in my elbow has worked at certain times. These types of Truth interventions, of "Freudian slips" as it were, either writing or talking have been a very important thing for me to pay attention to in recovery. They have pointed out areas where my focus was off, where my perspective was causing me to see things from a victim perspective instead of seeing the higher truth. They have been invaluable messages telling me where to concentrate my energy and attention.

There is a Latin term used in law that means something to the effect of "The thing speaks for itself." I don't remember the term right now but this example is an illustration is such a "thing." It came while I was doing some more work on that 4th step in July of 1986. I was doing some writing that had been suggested on the seven deadly sins (something I wouldn't use today) and was writing a sentence about each of those so-called deadly sins. Here is a sentence as I thought it in my head and commanded my hand to write it:

I feel envious when I see all of the affection other people are getting.

What I actually wrote was:

I feel envious when I see all of the affection other people are giving.

And the giving, of course, has to start with giving Love to self. {Play}

Go to Step 4 thru 9

The Miracle of The Twelve Step Process:


4 thru 9 "The Clean Up Steps."


I am going to start off this article with a quotes from my last article in this series:

"Steps 4 through 9 are the "house cleaning" steps. They are the steps that help us to start seeing the past more clearly so that we can identify our patterns, uncover our denial, and learn how to take responsibility for our lives. These are the steps that help us to clean up our relationship with our self, with our Higher Power, and with life. Seeing ourselves more clearly - in the Light of the Spiritual Truth of a Loving Higher Power - is how we change our relationship with our inner process into one that is more Loving.

. . . . . . Even though this page is about step 4, I included step 5 and 6 above because I want to first address the shaming language in which the twelve steps - as used in AA and adapted by CoDA - are written. Step 6 actually refers to the negative side of the inventory done in step 4, so is a part of the 4th step process. (As is step 8 which is list of people we have harmed. I am going to deal with steps 4 through 9 in the next article because they are all part of the 4th step process.)" {Play}

Here are steps 4 through 9 as described in various versions of the 12 steps:


The 12 Steps of Co-Dependents Anonymous

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
(The only difference between AA & CoDa versions is AA uses Him in the 7th step instead of God.)

12 Steps for Kids
author unknown

4. I wrote down all of the things that bother me about myself and others, and the things that I like too.
5. I shared these with someone I trust because I don't have to keep them a secret anymore.
6. My Higher Power helps me with this, too.
7. The more I trust myself and my Higher Power, the more I learn to trust others.
8. I made a list of the people I hurt and the ways I hurt myself. I can now forgive myself and others.
9. I talked to these people even if I was scared to because I knew that it would help me feel better about myself.

The 12 Steps to Recovery for Codependents
From Choicemaking by Sharon Wegscheider Cruse

4. We make an inventory of ourselves, looking for our mental, emotional, spiritual, physical, volitional, and social assets and liabilities. We look at what we have, how we use it, and how we can acquire what we need.
5. Using this inventory as a guide, we admit to ourselves, to God as we understood him, and to other caring persons, the exact nature of what is within that is causing ourselves pain.
6. We give to God as we know him all former pain, hurt, and mistakes, resentments and bitterness, anger, and guilt. We trust that we can let go of the hurt that we cause and receive.
7. We can ask for help, support, and guidance and be willing to take responsibility for ourselves and to others.
8. We begin a program of living responsibly for ourselves, for our own feelings, mistakes, and successes. We become responsible for our part in relationship to others.
9. We make a list of persons to whom we want to make amends and commence to do so, except where doing so would cause further pain for others.

16 Steps for Discovery and Empowerment
author unknown

4. We examine our beliefs, addictions, and dependent behavior in the context of living in a hierarchal, patriarchal culture.
5. We share with another person and the Universe all those things inside of us for which we feel shame and guilt.
6. We affirm and enjoy our strengths, talents, and creativity, striving not to hide these qualities to protect other's egos.
7. We become willing to let go of shame, guilt, and any behavior that keeps us from loving our Selves and others.
8. We make a list of people we have harmed and people who have harmed us, and take steps to clear out negative energy by making amends and sharing our grievances in a respectful way.
9. We express love and gratitude to others, and increasingly appreciate, the wonder of life and the blessings we do have. {Play}

Working steps 4 through 9


Step 4

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. (AA & CoDA)
4. We examine our beliefs, addictions, and dependent behavior in the context of living in a hierarchal, patriarchal culture. (Discovery and Empowerment)
4. I wrote down all of the things that bother me about myself and others, and the things that I like too. (Kids)

Step 4 is an inventory that is vitally important in helping us to become more conscious and began the process of taking responsibility for our lives. There are various ways to do the inventory - all of which involve writing. Doing a chronological inventory can be very helpful. Starting with our earliest memories and working our way up through our life writing about any memories of things which we did that we feel some guilt or shame about. Any memories that we feel some emotional charge around - including those which are painful, that we feel angry about, that we would be scared to tell someone else about.

This can also be done by writing an inventory around major issues - instead of, or in addition to a chronological inventory. Major issues like - family, relationships, school, work, money, sex, etc. Many 12 step workbooks outline different formats for doing the inventory.

It is very important to uncover our secrets. The old adage "that you are as sick as your secrets" has a great deal of Truth in it. The reason it is so important to bring our secrets to the Light is because they are hurting us. Anything that we are giving power to, that has enough energy for us to put an effort into keeping it secret (consciously or unconsciously), is hurting us. Any secrets that we are keeping that we feel shame and guilt around, are issues that need to be healed so that we can forgive ourselves and change our relationship with self into a more Loving relationship.

That doesn't mean we have to broadcast them to everyone. What is important is to get honest with ourselves about them. The first step to doing that is to bring them to the Light enough to write them into our inventory.

It is important to do an inventory of the negative things from our past that we feel guilt and shame about. It is also important not to just do a negative inventory. As I said in my last article:

I was very good at doing a negative inventory - I had been doing that all of my life, judging and shaming myself. For me in early recovery, the fearless and searching moral inventory was a way to beat myself up for being defective.

On the positive side of the inventory, here are some actions I would suggest to help you start changing your relationship with self.

1. Make a list of positive characteristics/traits that you possess. (i.e. loving, kind, patient, etc.)

2. Make a list of gifts that you came into this life with. (i.e. musical talent, good looks, athletic ability, etc.)

3. Make a list of actions you have taken that were loving and positive for yourself. That is, things that you have done that protected or nurtured or helped you in some way - even if at the time you were not aware that you were doing them, on some level, out of self love - that is, you might have thought you had no other choice. (i.e. getting into recovery, going to meetings, leaving an abusive situation, graduating from school, etc.)

4. After making your own lists, ask three friends to tell you some positive characteristics, talents, and actions that they see in you/are aware of.

Some assignments that I would give to someone working on a fourth step (or just in support of their recovery in general) would be:

Do at least 3 positive affirmations as least 3 times a day. (We learned to negatively affirm ourselves several hundred times a day so there is no such thing as doing too many positive affirmations.)

Work on being conscious of/observing the negative messages and judgments the critical parent voice within you is giving you every day - and start catching them and changing the negative affirmations to positive as often as you can. (Or softening them, i.e. change stupid to silly or sweetheart, etc.)

Any compliment you get just say Thank you. - do not minimize, explain away, turn back on the other person, or make a joke out of them. (Humility includes the humility to receive - one of the hardest things for many of us. It is important to start opening to receive.)

At least once a day, look in the mirror and say "I Love you" to your self. {Play}