Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys
Can you believe it??? The first full week of July is behind us! This summer has been fabulous here in Michigan and if you are from here, I'm sure you would agree. We had a great holiday weekend with family and friends. It was a mix of fun and relaxation. I hope you had a good one as well.
I know I say this a lot, but I’m going to say it again. I am still amazed (AND I MEAN AMAZED) at what my life looks like without alcohol. A holiday weekend in the summer is better than I ever could have comprehended. I thought I would be settling for a different way of life and it would eventually be ok. No way. I don’t have to settle for anything. Every day is full of blessings and yes, there’s still some hard stuff. It just seems to be a lot easier to work through those hard things when I keep my mind in a place of peace.
Just had to throw that verse out there. What looks impossible is so very possible!
So, back to the steps and we are on number 4 already!
First a quick review of the first 3:
Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over our problems-that our lives had become unmanageable.
Step 2: Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Step 3: We made a decision to turn our wills and our lives over to the care of God.
Step 4: We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Just like all the other steps there is a scary word or two in this step. You know those words like unmanageable, powerless, and sanity? Well, now we have fearless and searching! How do those two words relate to taking a moral inventory? I'm pretty sure it means we are supposed to be very thorough when we tackle this step.
As I have said before, I did not “officially” do the steps when I quit drinking, but I did read and hear them often. I had a workbook and some guidelines I used, but I'm more of a journal girl. I did a lot to change the way I was acting and thinking that related to these steps.
When I read this step I recall ticking off in my head all the things I I was so angry about and how none of it was really my fault. This happened while I was newly sober, actually quite depressed, and still thinking about drinking all the time. At the time, this did not seem like a very helpful thing to do. Nor did it feel “healing” in any way. That really wasn’t the purpose here.
This step doesn't work until you are willing to be totally honest with yourself and take God along with you as you do it. Taking God along allows you to do the step without fear from the past. I read somewhere that the fourth step is never complete and never perfect.
So what is the purpose of the fourth step? To beat yourself up and anyone else you can think of? To focus on any and every fault about yourself you can possibly come up with? Sign me up! I can do that, the list is long!
Nooooo, the fourth step is an action step; a cleansing of the mind and body. It is a step to freedom. My arrogance and fear caused me to rationalize every possible destructive thought and behavior in my drinking days. It was easier to blame everyone and everything else on my drinking. Oh, and let's not forget the fact that I had lost my mind (ok, my sanity) according to the first step.
In AA there is a great template on how to do a moral inventory. They have really good questions that would be beneficial for anyone that is trying to overcome something. I like to keep it a little simpler here for anyone thinking about taking a moral inventory.
When I looked at what this step was really supposed to look like, I thought this was all about everyone, everything, and every place I have ever blamed my drinking on. For all those times I took no responsibility for my feelings and actions. So, when I was newly sober, I wrote down something and someone I was angry at and I got on quite the tirade! Yeah!!! Venting at its best. Pages and pages of venting!!!!
Throughout the years I had been fixated on something that made me furious and was so unfair! Not to mention, I was pretty angry at God right along with it. I used a few choice words to express how I felt in my journals throughout the years.
That is NOT the purpose of this step. When it says searching it means dig deep. In other words, be completely honest with yourself. Most of the things you walk around pissed off about are things you only have yourself to blame. Ouch. In this situation I was raging about, I had to look at what my part in it was.
I have noticed a few things in the past few years of sobriety concerning this issue. I am healing, my anger is receding, and in fact I am owning my part in this about 80% (not to 100 yet.) Remember how I said the fourth step is never complete or perfect??? That’s what I mean: we heal, time helps, God works in us. Every day that I am sober brings me more clarity to just about everything, and not just what I was mad about. The good things too. Like when I can walk away from a situation that I might have exploded over before. Blame and Anger, it’s up to me to give it over to God and walk away. Every. Single. Day.
Remember Step 4 is not a confession, that is not the purpose. The purpose is to free ourselves of living in old useless patterns. To look at what things about us need changing, not others. It is important to remember where we came from so that we don’t return to it. What we had to go through to get where we are now. I write down my fears, resentments, and guilt I have over anything. I look closely at my relationships and sometimes find I am looking for other people to stop being who they are to accommodate me. In other words, I am actually taking someone else's moral inventory. Something I have no business doing. Everyone will have a turn to have their moral inventory taken when they stand before God.
One of my favorite sayings is, “What you don’t get over will get all over you.” Isn't that so true! I like to follow that up with, “Not my circus, not my monkeys!” We have a choice every day to let other people work out their own stuff. We need to be careful not to let ourselves think we are the only ones who can fix them. Recognize your part in every situation and look for what God wants from you in it. Own what you need to and be done. Simple. Ok, it SOUNDS simple, but it is hard to do. However, the more you practice this, the easier it gets.
It's tough work this moral inventory stuff! I'm asking you to take a quick moral inventory every day. Especially if you have an issue that seems to be consuming you on a daily basis. Take it to God in prayer whether it is an addiction, a teenager,or a co-worker. Those are just a few examples and only you know what that looks like for you.
You can be honest with God, talk to him and ask him to stay close in your mess. I send up one-liners all day long especially in those moments when I think a glass of wine would really be awesome right now! I did that for a long time and I have lost that privilege now. Besides, like all things we use to cope, my drinking had an expiration date. The one privilege I will never lose though is my time with God. No expiration date. He loves me enough to bring me this far and I still have a long way to go.
My moral inventory always starts with this, “God loves me and I am His.” If I keep that at the top of my inventory, the rest is always easier to handle.