Clean-up on Aisle 4! Today’s 12 Step Boogie Lesson

Just celebrated a Sobriety Birthday. Took a chip at my fave Reno meeting; sponsor and friends cheering me on. Feel free to have a drink in my honor.
Will be there in spirit(s).
Join me in a double espresso if you’re stopping by the house.

sober humor rachael TK

Currently working on Step 4:

“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves”

If you’re familiar with 12 step programs you’ll know that this particular portion of  the journey is considered to be the most frightening, emotional and difficult. The point of working The Steps is to bring a person to freedom and happiness.
The freedom of bondage from self. Or self-will run riot as the 12 Steps say.
Or, the freedom that allows you to happily live in your own skin, as I say.
Knowing an ease of living which allows the organic occurrence of self will to spill naturally: the pursuit of helping others, recognizing the joyful incidents in life,  and by being an example to those who seek guidance and help them to recover from the disease of alcoholism.
The book Alcoholics Anonymous states that upon completion of all 12 steps the addict will find a ‘spiritual awakening’.  I’m an atheist so that phrase doesn’t resonate with me.

Freedom from my own past mistakes, guilt, blame, the ability to keep from repeating the same idiotic decisions over and over, and the selflessness resulting will allow me to be of maximum service to others. To stop hating myself.
By helping other people we get out of our own problems. It works both ways. Good deal.

Instead of following the suggestions of this program verbatim  I re-configure the phrase ‘spiritual awakening’ to reflect what we’re all looking for: Replacing the fear and anger which cause selfish acts and self-loathing with acceptance,  gratitude, humility and helpfulness to others. We have to fill the void left by self-medication to dull life and pain. Believe I read somewhere that nature abhors a vacuum. Or cats abhor them. Eh, either way.

I don’t believe Alcoholics Anonymous should be considered a work inscribed in stone.   The flatline in membership over the past few years can surely be traced to the rigidity of many local groups, and the General Services Council. Recently both Toronto and Kansas City threw out the agnostic/atheist meetings previously listed on their schedules.

There are as many specialized meetings available (in larger cities at any rate), as there are diverse groups in society as a whole. If you Google for a local meeting schedule you’ll find fellowship groups geared towards LGBT, Pagans, Doctors, Lawyers, Men Only, Women Only, Teens and many other special or minority interests.

The idea that being an agnostic or atheist precludes a person from finding sobriety, and doesn’t belong in 12 Step literature, meetings and groups is frightening. It’s not just showing prejudice, it is showing ignorance and most importantly it keeps people away who want help.

The ‘Big Book,’ as we alkies refer to the tome Alcoholics Anonymous, explicitly states that we are a fellowship and
The ONLY requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.

Big Book Thumpers (think religious fundamentalists and zealots) make me deranged. You’ll find them all over the world. “By the blood of Jesus Christ and the power of Alcoholics Anonymous I am sober today!”
Holy crap Batman.
Not my style. A huge turn off if you are Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Pagan and particularly non theist or deist. Importantly, being physically sober doesn’t make you happy. It doesn’t cure your woes. Without tools to aid us we’re just dry drunks. You know them. Sober but still all kinds of fuckered up, inherently unhappy and pissed off at the world.
Why bother then?! Unless you dig that whole cross and nails thing.

The salient point of Step 4, and finding peace and sanity, is making an inventory.
In writing.
This is similar to what any business owner must do annually. If you’ve ordered items that don’t sell you’ve got to let them go.  I’m having a fire sale this month.

Step 4 is a literal inventory of character defects as opposed to an inventory of the items in a store. Such as that pallet of board games which turned out to be one of the dumbest purchases you’ve made that season.
Don’t ask me how I can relate to this metaphor so well.

I hear virtually all of you saying “Surely not! Miss R? Character Defects? Blasphemy!” Yes it’s true.

In order to be happy joyous and free (but still cheap nyuk nyuk nyuk) life has to be lived with rigorous honesty. Except with the IRS. I’m not talking about ‘cash register’ honesty. Have always had that.
This rigorous honesty has to be with myself. Which sucks. No more two day pity parties complete withblack balloons, Ben and Jerry’s, fabulous playlists of my favorite depressing music, and of course the number one offender: Not seeing my part in most past bad situations.

As a veteran of the sobriety wars my original 4th Step was completed 17 years ago. Think there must have been at least 140 items on the list. Today that list consists of less than 30 items, probably closer to 25.  Mercifully all of the years I was clean and sober did some good and a lot of information stuck.

Making the inventory list begins with writing down ALL persons, places and things which piss you off. You’ll start out thinking there are just a few. Suddenly your pen will begin flying as if possessed. Weird but true.

Next, you’ll make a second column describing the situation which brings up such commendable memories and thoughts -she said in her best snarky voice-.  The last column lists WHY you feel uncomfortable, agitated or pissed off at the items on your inventory list.

Once again, seventeen years later, it’s apparent that Fear is the basis for my discomfort. Fear translates into anger, self-pity, and blaming others. Including ourselves. There are a lot of items on my 4th Step list which are the result of outside influences. Letting go of unnecessary guilt is part of the process as well.

Going to stop today’s 4th Step dance lesson here. Hope you may have an idea now of what your friend, family member or yourself, is dealing with when talking about the 4th Step. They’re surely losing their friggin minds at this point.

It’s scary to look at our deepest fears. To see on paper every minute, agitating, horrifying detail ranging from cruel verbal outbursts to sexual conduct that has left us feeling like worthless pieces of human crap.

I’ll tell you what I know to be true for me in a brief overview:

Step 1:  We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable. –yeah I got that!

Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity –I’ll try anything at this point. Even AA as a higher power-

Step 3: Turned our will and our lives over to God, as we understand Him. –Wait. Back up. WTF?!

Note the last portion of the above step. It’s in there to ‘help’ us poor misguided agnostics and atheists and pagans to give up their idea of controlling the universe. I got over this hurdle by realizing that if there is no God, then I couldn’t be Her. Replacing the word God with your idea of a Power Greater Than Yourself can be a slippery semantic bitch. So, I use another technique as well; break it down to it’s essence. This is acceptance. We are not in control of life. I don’t mean give up.People have free will. It is refers to material problems. You have no control if your car breaks down, you get cancer or your neighbor pisses on your rose bush during the night. You DO have control over how you handle the situation. Act instead of react. Accept that a rain cloud has decided to storm over your life that day. Don’t take the anger and frustration out on other people. Or yourself.

Step 3 is really about Acceptance, not God. By using critical thinking it is possible to divorce the wording, divine the purpose of the step and learn how to use a new tool. Works wonders in lowering your blood pressure as well.

It’s hellish as a non-Christian to sit in a room full of people who happily recite God this God (with a capital G) that and all you hear is framed in Christian context. The Alano club (a building or room dedicated to hold 12 step meetings) where I hang out has a lot of murals painted on the walls. One shows a bar with people portrayed as ducks. Hell if I get the duck thing but that’s not the point. There’s a newbie pictured -falling off their bar stool. There’s an old-timer pictured -holding his big book and grinning. There are several other characters depicted including a duck labeled atheist. He has horns sprouting from his head.
I shit you not.
First time I noticed this I burst into laughter. Then thought about it and mused over the non-Christian who may have seen this, left the meetings, and died of this disease. All because a fellowship (NOT a program despite what too many members say and believe) cannot or will not accept anything not of their understanding. Particularly if it is not written down in the book.

For a group that bases virtually all of it’s tenets on Acceptance, this is some tough food for thought.

The 12 Steps DO work, if you work them with rigorous honesty.

For more than twelve years I practiced their principles in all of my affairs and led a bountiful, fun, laughter filled and generous life.
Do I have problems with AA as a whole? Clearly. Are their answers? Yes. Can people find sobriety if they truly want it and work these steps in order? Yes. If you are willing to go to any lengths to stop the pain, and find serenity.

Never said it was easy. It’s also not the Only way to get sober and find peace. It is the only way that has proven that sobriety and happiness can be mine. Hundreds of thousands of other 12 Steppers will also attest to this. Hundreds of thousands have shown that they achieved sobriety and happiness using other means. Statistically, AA seems to be the choice with a lower recidivism rate.

On that note go out and enjoy a great day, bring merriment to the masses, and set a steel-spring trap under the roses.
Currently, your intrepid writer is convalescing at mom’s house in northern California. Came for a four day visit. On the final evening my gallbladder decided to attack, caused itself and the rest of my body to be rushed to the hospital ER, and was then removed.

A CLASSIC! Can't believe this is out of print

A CLASSIC! Can’t believe this is out of print

Three hours of surgery, lots of IV Fentanyl and Morphine and two days later I’m back at mom’s house recovering. I’ll share my Norco with that espresso I got going on the stove.
Back to Reno on Friday after having stitches removed.

If you’re going to become ill, suffer pain so horrible and intense that you wished a large rock was in reach -to bash yourself into unconsciousness-  while on vacation, then make sure to do so at mom’s house. Especially when she is an RN. Especially specially when she knows your favorite childhood dishes. If you’re an addict or alcoholic it also provides plenty of time to finish writing out that pesky 4th Step.

Pack your Xanax though. There’s a reason we leave our parents to begin with.

~Miss R

31 thoughts on “Clean-up on Aisle 4! Today’s 12 Step Boogie Lesson

  1. Pingback: Clean-up on Aisle 4! Today’s 12 Step Boogie Lesson |

    • Oh you feel my pain! I’ve always felt that if you work the 10th step that there should never be a need to re-do the 4th.
      Here in Reno (I got sober in Southern California) it seems people re-do their 4th every few years, and benefit by doing so.
      Well, we must never be organized hahahaha


  2. Is it funny that a site called “Christian Book Barn” reblogged your post? … Good luck on your path up the 12 steps again. When I visited my b-mom in 2011, I went to the meeting when she got a 20-year chip. I was a little put off by the religious aspect of it. Then again I am a godless heathen, so I may or may not burn for that.


    • Isn’t that trippy?! Saw the pingback and went to the site. It’s literally a listing of Christian book recommendations. Hmmm wonder if I’m being set up for a hate mail marathon?
      Let’s face it, That would be a blast.
      Hopefully the author was truly attempting to present another view to their audience.

      As for being a godless heathen? Hell, that’s one of your most endearing qualities 😉


  3. Wow, you always seem to have so much fun! It’s amazing what our bodies can put us through sometimes. Maybe it was a sign from. . . oh well, never mind.


    • It was a sign from Peter, Divine Ruler of Wombania.
      He knows I’m a party animal. Also hears my prayers for wine gums, cool cartoons and chocolate.

      No more foods with a lot of fat now that the gall bladder is gone. Combined with the disappearance of alcohol I am a totalchocolate addict! Geez hope there’s no 12 step group for that!
      I don’t want a cure.


      • And luckily there’s no fat in chocolate! I know some people who didn’t have much of a problem with fat after having their gallbladder removed. Or maybe they just didn’t let it stop them from enjoying as much fat as they wanted. Well at least wine gums are fat free. I think maybe you’re going to have to move to Canada.


        • Binky, there is fat in solid chocolate 😦
          Luckily, the good stuff is free of palm oil and corn syrup though so the lack of refined sugars is good enough for me!
          p,s. know almost all the words to Oh Canada. Been practicing. Despite lacking my tutorials due to the earlier hockey strike.


    • Be careful Binky there’s a trap hiding
      near to an undisclosed rose bush, it could
      get rather nasty but I know that Wombies
      don’t widdle on roses so you are safe 🙂

      Have a great Tuesday Binky 🙂


    • Loon, you got that right. Probably why so many priests imbibe in the consecrated wine. Helps that there are a lot of Irish in the Church as well heh.
      Thanks so much for your comment, you’re a doll.


  4. How about we ditch step four and move onto five, or better still fifteen, oh I forgot there are only twelve steps for this exploration, of course step four can be even worse if one happens to be the guy peeing on the rose bushes especially with that gruesome steel sprung trap waiting to spring into action, obviously with sharpened spikes and foreskin wrenching characteristics for such an evil but immensely satisfying contraption, well unless one is on the receiving end, erm receiving bit I mean 😦 Yowl

    You have definitely had a rough time with the gallbladder operation and now it gets harder with having to contend with step four of the AA book of doing this for that and that for this, the other, and so on, now I know that God is in there too and a lot of other different for instances but step four is yours to conquer for the now so keep that in mind when setting the rose bush trap, or ambush as they say on lollipop sticks 🙂 How do you mean what am I talking about? Well just picture a crude drawing of a bush with the words HAM written on the branches, get it? Ham Bush… Ambush, oh forget it it’s a crap joke anyway 😉 lol

    You always come across as super-optimistic to me as whatever is happening in your life at any given moment you are always there to pick up the pieces, shake yourself down and build upon the strength of will and power that is within your character, I see a fine determination and commitment, indeed you are a strong and wonderful lady with lashings of enthusiasm and lots more just waiting to be unleashed, oh yes and I don’t just mean when the bottoms are bared 😉 lmao Hey Miss. R that was a joke 🙂 Well in theory anyway 🙂 No seriously, just carry on doing what you are doing right now and when you reach step twelve as I know that you will, the whole journey will have been worthwhile and incredibly valuable, so here have some of my freshly made pancakes and a bag of wine gums, you deserve every mouthful my great friend 🙂 🙂 Now chomp through those and enjoy your day and evening, oh yes and don’t let the Zombies out of the traps or else anything could happen 😉 lol

    Andro xxxx


    • ooooooooooh Pancakes!! Andro you are so sweet, yet so naughty. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I shall set the Hambush tonight at sundown. Oh dear god I’ll never be able to think or say ambush again without switching it to the pork version hahahaha.
      Shall watch out for the damned zombies so I don’t trip on the Steps. Maybe there’s a Zombie Warning System that Fraz could engineer.
      We could all dine on pancakes, wine gums and chocolate coffee while waiting for the trap to be sprung!\


      • Yes that sounds exactly how I would have planned it and another thing, you are so naughty adding that alternative photograph at the onset of your post, be careful as the Zombies always fall into the traps when there is some delicious bait tempting them in 🙂 🙂 Oh how wicked of you Miss. R but guess what I like your photograph and that wonderful smile so how about that for being cheeky? 🙂 Enjoy your Thursday Rachael and don’t be good either, that outfit demands naughtiness so you know what happens next 😉 lol

        Oh yes and the collar adds to the Zombie slurps so watch out for those 🙂 lol

        Andro xxxx


        • Hahahaha you noticed the photo change. Should have known you would Andro. Am placing a detection device on that collar -Bad Zombie! Not for you!
          Pic is from a New Year’s outing with a dear friend. Dressed to kill… and be each other’s wing-person 😉
          Am so happy you like my naughty outfit. It’s my favorite night-time attire.


          • Of course I like it and the style is
            sooooooooo definitely you my great friend 😉 🙂

            Right I will just grab some of those pancakes
            and stuff my face with them, oh how I enjoy it,
            and that too 😉 lmao Hey… Be good 🙂

            Andro xxxx


  5. I am so impressed with how you have broken this down. My ex had a similar issue with this step, ultimately he fell off and ultimately he died of the disease. I wish for the sake of his children and him he had found a different path.

    Congratulations and be well.


    • Val, a nod from you means a lot. m so sorry to hear that your ex could not find a way back to life. There are many more who die than make it. Anyone who has lived with, or is living wit,h an alcoholic or addict also needs to be good to themselves and work on their pain
      It’s truly a disease that affects everyone.around the sick person.
      Hell, I was raised in an alcoholic home, and sit in meetings with a bunch of drunks. Based on this my sponsor suggested I go to Al-anon. First I laughed my ass off . Then I checked for a meeting in the area ha.
      AA’s joke that Al-Anons are the Enemy. How dare they tell us we have to work out our own problems and then ignore our drama?! LMFAO

      Thank you again Val. Your words always mean so much because you have truly lived through hell, yet come out with so many positive answers 🙂


    • Thank you Gray Andro! Sitting here in the guest bedroom at mom’s house has given me some time to accomplish a bit of much needed work. Procrastination is my middle name. It used to be Christine.


      • I like both but I think that Naughty is more fitting, being that you are so wicked 🙂 😉 Just Andro works for me Miss. R but Gray is okay too should you wish to use it 🙂 Enjoy yourself at your mom’s house and I will look forward to more of your excellent postings 🙂

        Andro xxxx


  6. I really want to congratulate you properly about how hard you’ve obviously been working at this… but I feel like no matter what I say it’s just going to sound… silly… because it’s nearly impossible to imagine just how difficult it all must be. I feel like a human version of one of those ‘Hang In There’ kitten posters. Only with… less… kitten.
    Also, the Gall Bladder thing doesn’t sound like much of a picnic, either. The only upside I can think of is that now that it’s gone it cant ‘splode’ again. Something tells me that didn’t really make the whole experience seem worth while, though. Gooo! Makes me all hypochondriac just thinking about it. Does this look ‘normal’ to you?! 🙂


    • Bob, much better to ask ‘Does this look normal to you?’ than ‘Does this straitjacket make me look fat?’
      Can’t imagine you as a kitten but know the hang in there thing.
      Now, off to see what wondrous art you’ve designed for we stick figure folk.


  7. Yeah, as an agnostic, a ‘spiritual awakening’ is pretty much shambling to the bathroom at 2:48am to eat Tums because Mexican Food. Keep up the good work Rach.


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