Today, I feel as if I am beginning to put the pieces of my life back together. I’ve been going back through my blog, noticing all the loose ends I’ve left in the wake of this latest wave from the past. I didn’t finish the telling about the CoDA retreat. While the details have begun to fade, there are a few parts of that weekend that I still want to share.
For this post, I’m going to concentrate on one important piece of my personal CoDA puzzle, which I found during the second half of that weekend.
My friend, Rev, is in the same place as I am, in her step work. We are both trying to find our way through the ninth step. I finished my eighth step in May and then I started avoiding my sponsor. I believe Rev has been stalling on this for about as long as I have.
The ninth step of CoDA is:
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.I must have read that a hundred times, over the summer. I read about it in every CoDA book I have, in AA literature, on line, but still I could not get myself to move forward. I couldn't even write an amends, much less make one.
I didn’t really understand why I felt so stuck. If I hadn’t gone to the retreat, I likely still would not understand.
Lucky for me, Rev was diligent in her search for answers. I was with her quite a bit, and several times she took advantage of the wonderful group of people who attended the retreat with us to ask program veterans how they had worked their ninth step. I listened in on these discussions with great interest, each time wishing I’d thought to ask. I think I commandeered the conversations a few times with questions of my own.
Late Saturday night, Rev asked an older couple who seemed to have a lot of wisdom and experience to share. The man admitted he hadn’t worked a formal ninth step. The woman began to talk about her ninth step, years earlier.
She had that calm sense about her that one sees in people who have worked hard to get their lives in order. I wanted that. I wanted to be able to have that serenity. That knowing, composed ability to speak about such things can only come from a deep understanding of what is true in one's self. Hearing her speak spotlighted how stuck I felt in my own inability to work step nine.
I felt a need to rationalize my feelings. I said, "I’m having a hard time doing my ninth step because there are people on my list that hurt me very much. It’s hard for me to imagine making any kind of an amends to them."
She said, "If they hurt you, you probably need to be making an amends to yourself before you do anything else."
In that moment I realized that I’ve been doing something kind of stupid. I had decided that I didn’t want to talk to my sponsor about making amends because I was sure she was going to tell me I had to make amends to people who had hurt me and I didn’t want to do that. The things is, I’d never discussed it with her! I was putting words in her mouth without even asking her what she thought about it. When this woman spoke of making an amends to myself, I realized that my sponsor might have told me the same thing, months ago, if I’d given her the chance.
A few days after I returned from the retreat, I called my sponsor to set up a meeting time. She seemed overjoyed that I had finally called her. When we met, I explained the entire thing to her much as I have in this post. Then, I made an amends to her for putting words in her mouth, and I asked her what I should do next.
Guess what... she did not tell me I had to make amends to people who had hurt me. I walked out of that meeting feeling a thousand pounds lighter. I had let fear keep me from moving forward, and that brought with it an all too familiar sense of hopelessness. It is wonderful to be back on track. I feel as if I am in charge of my future, once again.
So, despite my frame of mind at the retreat, even with the dark and ugly cloud hanging over my head and obscuring so much of the healing I could have found there, I learned something invaluable.
It’s said at meetings that co-dependent people have a tendency to think they can read minds. This real-life lesson demonstrated exactly how that might look. There is no way I could know what my sponsor would say in any situation unless I asked her, but I had defeated myself and stalled my step work for four months because I thought I knew what she would say and I didn’t want to hear it.
In retrospect, I realize that asking could have brought two possible outcomes. I could have heard exactly what I thought I would - that she wanted me to do things I did not feel I could do. In that case I would have had to make some tough choices, one of which might have been to find a new sponsor. Asking did not mean that I was going to be forced to do things I didn’t want to do – that was another false assumption. The choice of how I live my life is still always mine, regardless of what my sponsor or anyone else tells me.
The other possible outcome is that she would have answered in a way that helped me understand what I needed to do so I could make an informed choice about which amends I should make first and which I should never make at all. That is the place I now find myself, in my step work. It's a positive place to be; a place of hope.