“We Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” (Step #9)
Over the last few days, I have been waking up each morning with a very new and very comforting feeling inside of me. I have been struggling to process it, and to fully take it in and analyze it. It’s kind of just shown up, seemingly out of no where. Today is November 19th, 2020. I am sitting on my couch, my two dogs are snuggled up about five feet away from me, the news is on the TV, but the sound is off, and the only thing that I can hear is the quiet mechanics and hum of our fireplace in the dining room. Every now and then I hear some foot steps and stirring up stairs from my middle son, who is home because we pulled our two youngest from school to do E-Learning. My youngest boy is spending the night with his mother. It’s a very tranquil, very peaceful, quiet morning. My wife is at work. Cars and trucks carrying their owners to their respective destinations pass by once in a while. It is about 50 degrees outside, very mild for this time of year in Northwest Indiana. It’s very strange to me, the things that I am noticing today, and the fact that I am writing about such trivial things. But what is even more interesting, is that in a way, I am noticing them, seeing them, feeling them, and experiencing them in a brand new way; seemingly for the very first time.
It is very interesting to me, the human mind, and more specifically, the heart- the real heart, not the physical heart that does all the pumping of blood, but the heart of hearts, the one that is cosmically connected to our mind and soul. Our “gut”, that place where the butterflies live, and give us a little tickle when we’re nervous, excited, anxious, or sharply afraid. I feel like I am writing this very entry here, with that particular part of my being. I don’t know why, but I do. It is almost as if I was writing although with much emotion before, with my head. I feel a quiet stir inside of me, as though something has, or is in the process of awakening.
“But Herb, You’ve been doing this for a while man, shouldn’t you have done been awakened?” “Shouldn’t you have long since experienced ‘step 12’/ had multiple spiritual experiences and had your spiritual awakening?” as it is outlined in the platform of the 12 step fellowships? And to that I say yes. But I also believe that growing up; spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically is a life long process. As is recovering.
I have always said that we get to our bottoms one compromise at a time. And I used drugs for more than half my life. So let’s briefly think about how many compromises I was capable of making in an 18 year span. Tens of Thousands I am sure. And not knocking any particular Idea, or philosophy, but as I sit here this morning, I believe that it is going to take quite the sacrifice, in a positive sense; and dedication for the long haul, if I am ever to fully “right” the ship. This morning, I think maybe that is what I am experiencing. A glimpse into a peaceful place inside of me. One that is nearly six years in the making…
When I first and honestly started making an attempt to get my life back in order and once and for all recover from a life of trauma, crime, lies, manipulation, distrust, and drug abuse I had absolutely no idea what that even meant, what it would look like, or what it would feel like. I just knew that if I kept on living like I was before, I would surely die or spend the rest of my life in prison. And I didn’t want that. I just wanted what “They” we’re selling. A new life. A renewed sense of hope. And maybe to be able to play some golf once in a while. So I did my best to put my all into everything I did. Every interaction with other humans, I did my best to be genuine and honest, humble and animated. Which felt weird for quite some time, but as time marched on became more and more normal. Every side job, full time job, favor for a friend, I did it the best I could. Every meeting, church service, every bible study, or sponsorship time, I did my best to be open and vulnerable. All of these things were so strange to me. But they were compromises, but, only this time, they were compromises in the exact opposite direction of the way I was headed before.
An old buddy of mine used to always say, “we cannot think our way into better acting, but we must act our way into better thinking.” And that makes a lot of sense to me now. Because it’s true. Do something different, get something different. And everything I was trying to do, everything I was striving to be, was so contradictory to what I had been doing before. But I had never wanted anything more. I have always wanted to just be a good person. As a boy I always fantasized/day dreamed about saving someone. Being a hero. I have always had that affinity for the underdog. I love a comeback story. I love watching people who were once considered “no bodies” come back in triumphant fashion and make it. And what makes that thought all the more interesting, is that alone the way; along this journey of life- I became that no body. I became the very underdog that I have always rooted for. And It became evident to me, that I was the one who needed saving. And so all of these past day dreams, and current circumstances culminated into the me, then. Raw and dying. Desperate to find myself, and be somebody once and for all. So I started to take those steps. No matter how uncomfortable it was. It had to be done. Get busy livin or get busy dyin, kid. Those were my only two choices. So I chose the former. And most of you know, how that has worked out so far. Myself and my wife, my family. We are blessed beyond measure. But the interesting piece to all of this, is what makes this entry here new. Is what makes it current, and relevant…
As I quoted before, at the beginning here, is step 9. Making direct amends. which I have done many times over, during my many attempts at staying clean. But before, I never fully took it in at the depths that this profound heart changing step provides. I believe this morning, that it is much more than merely making amends. It is about atonement. Righting things in such a manner that we are once again able to live in harmony and peace with the very community that we once worked so hard to destroy. But how do we do that? Is it even possible? Well, the answer to that second question here, is absolutely yes. And I think what I have been feeling lately is my spirit telling me just that.
This is not easy. And it does not happen quickly. I am pushing 6 years clean, and am just now starting to experience this phenomenon. But I committed to myself at the beginning and am committed to this day.
At first, it was more about saving face, than saving my spirit. It was more about “paying back” what was owed, than actually repairing anything broken. It was more about apologies, than corrected behavior. But I was still so green and new to it all, that I had no idea the depths of damage that I had done to others, and even more so, to myself. To my own self image, to my own heart, to my own image of humanity. There was such a long stretch when I couldn’t even look myself in the mirror. I couldn’t even look other humans in the eye, because of the shame, guilt, and humiliation that I felt because of the way I had built myself. Because of all of the compromises that I had made along the way to my many bottoms. Everything that I was, everything that I had done along the way to incomprehensible demoralization, went against my deepest core values. They went against my true self, and my true moral compass. And it turned me inside out and into everything that I hated about this world. And it took a long time to get there. And I knew that this process of getting better was going to take a very long time. And as time chugged along, it became more and more clear to me, that this was becoming about making amends with myself as much as it was with others. And once I realized that, it was like my moral compass was starting to point back in the right direction. And That was a very welcomed feeling. And this is when that adage “To thine own self be true” became so important to me.
I think that so many of us give up because there is just so much wreckage for us to clean up when we finally stop using. And so we are faced with such a seemingly insurmountable mountain of shit that it is “easier” for us to just keep getting high than it is to take it one small stone at a time and dedicate ourselves to the end, not the beginning. And, to be honest, they would be right. Getting high, as a way to escape our problems is the core of addiction; and in all honesty is that “easier softer way” that people talk about. Recovering from decades of scumbaggery takes guts. It takes sacrifice, and it takes humility, and it takes dedication. But if we are willing to move those mountains, one small stone at a time, we will actually come to a point where we will stop to let our backs rest, take a long swig of cold water, look around, in honest assessment and realize that we are making genuine progress. That the worst is finally behind us. The worst, is behind us, on a surface and superficial level that is.
The greatest obstacle, the greatest task for me thus far, and up until recently has been the rebuilding of myself. the recreating of my own heart. The atonement within my own spirit. And I believe that we cannot have this without the former listed ideas. We cannot have one without the other. For with the former comes humility and vulnerability. If we were to try to recreate and love ourselves without this key pieces, we would once again be thriving on Ego and Arrogance. And, well, for people like me this is very dangerous.
So, basically what I am getting at here, is that we must be willing to commit to the long haul and begin with the end in mind. There are going to be failures, rejections, hardships and tears along the way. But these ebbs and flows are what shape us, to allow us to enjoy the successes that living clean have to offer. it took me 17.5 years. seventeen and a half years. to get to a point to where I didn’t want to live like that anymore. and I haven’t even been clean half of that yet. But this morning, I am really starting to FEEL, not SEE, the fruit of staying clean. I know what respect feels like. I know what Love feels like. This morning I know what Peace feels like. I am safe and comfortable in my own skin. And I know it may sound absurd to many out there, but you must not be a drug addict; because we really do destroy so much when were using, and it takes a very long time to fully right our wrongs, love ourselves, and live in harmony with the world. BUT, the promises always come true- We will be amazed before we are halfway through.
9: We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
We are NEVER the “others” in this step, we need to put our egos aside, and allow ourselves to feel that sting of amends gone wrong. After all, we earned that and it is quite poetic to know this. AND we also LIVED indirect amends every day to the best of our abilities to follow our moral compass, especially when no one was looking. We strive to be true to ourselves and the deepest wholesome parts of us, to set matters straight inside of our hearts so that we could one day know what true peace feels like.
We strive for atonement. we strive for harmony. We strive to be better human beings, and to leave this world and it’s people better than we found it.