One of the things my first Fourth Step revealed was a powerful self-deception I had been operating under.
I thought I was nice. Upbeat.
But in fact I was only contrary.
It turns out that I wasn't optimistic at all. I was just taking the opposite position from all the pessimistic drunks I was surrounded by. Drop me in among a bunch of sunny dispositions and suddenly I was the one looking for dark clouds.
This was not at all because I was argumentative -- quite the opposite, in fact. At that time in my life I would do almost anything to avoid conflict. No, this was because I was constantly trying to control what people thought of me. And by taking the contradictory viewpoint, I was trying to set myself up as a sort of corrective authority. Even though I was often nice about how I did it, it still came down to the fact that, at heart, I was trying to control things. (When I first read the book "Alcoholics Anonymous," AA's Big Book, I thought it had some good information in it. Now when I read it I see myself all over the place -- on almost every page. In this particular case, I'm all over pg. 61.)
This process wasn't a conscious choice -- it wasn't with malice aforethought that every time you said boo hoo I had to say yee haw. It was more a reaction than a decision. A reaction driven by fear and developed by ego.
And like rocks that lie in a riverbed, unseen from the bank but none the less influencing which way a river flows, this sick alchemy of ego and fear influenced almost every interaction I had. In this way, as the Big Book describes it, the world truly dominated me. I had no ability to express what I thought or felt -- hell I didn't even know how I thought or what I felt -- I was too busy instantly being the opposite of whatever you thought or felt.
For me, the inventory process has revealed difficult, embarrassing things about myself. It's hard to look within, to be "fearless and thorough" in searching our natures for the character defects that both run and define us. But by doing so, and then following through with the rest of the Steps, I have become free of those things. I have changed not in a surface way, but on a deeper level.
And as I am fond of observing, this process, this freedom, is available to anyone who wants it, via the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
It is important for me to add that there are, as the expression goes, "many paths to the top of the same mountain." AA works for me. If you find a different thing that works for you, then by all means, pursue it. Life can be tough enough without each of us undermining whatever works for the other. AA works for me, and if you are an alcoholic or an addict, I know, based on my own experience, that it can work for you too -- but only if you want it.
And maybe the scariest part of being an alcoholic or an addict is that you can really want it one minute, and then, without so much as a backward glance, want to destroy yourself the next -- changing your mind as casually as deciding to wear a blue shirt instead of a white one.
Which is why I certainly encourage anyone to try whatever may work for them, but if you're an alcoholic, you might want to decide to sit tight through the times when you change your mind, and really give AA a chance to help you.
Relax, have a cup of bad coffee, and stay for a while.
You can always rush out and destroy yourself later if you still really want to.