The essay resulted in too much introspection. It was based on a series of 6 questions which probed into our histories while examining our decision to become helpers. I am drained, so rather than share deeply – or even shallowly – tonight, I’ll post one of the questions I had to respond to. I’m not asking you to share your answer here. It’s really personal, actually. But still, it is potentially a very powerful thing to think about. Because I love you all so much, I’ve included my own response.
Think of a time when you needed help from someone else in your life. What did you want/need most from that person? What did that person do or say that helped or did not help?
I am a recovering alcoholic, and have been sober for 15 years. My husband and I didn’t have the money to send me to a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. Instead, I went to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, got a sponsor, and began working the steps. During the Fourth Step a recovering alcoholic takes a personal inventory, writing down things said and done for which, at some point, amends will need to be made. Making the list is hard, but the Fifth Step is harder: sharing that list with someone else. It is similar to confession. There is this fear that “If this person knew this about me, they wouldn’t like me anymore.” Naturally this means that the person asked to listen to someone’s Fifth Step must be trustworthy.
The woman I chose to share mine with was my sponsor, and I loved her dearly. My only concern was that she was very religious, and I was terrified that she would reject me once she knew my two darkest secrets. I wanted to stay sober though, and for me that meant getting these things off of my chest. With that in mind, I chose to tell her those two awful things first, like ripping off a bandage. I blurted them out so quickly I’m not even sure I took a breath between naming them. Then I sat there, frozen, waiting for her reaction. She blinked, and then said, “That’s it? I did that too.” I cannot describe the relief I felt. With those six words I was accepted, understood, and no longer alone. Since then I have had the honor of listening to other women share their Fifth Step with me, and have been able to pass along the comfort that she gave to me. I’m forever grateful for that gift.