From one who is Recovering from one in Recovery

Ever been Step Nined? That's when some 12-stepper wakes up to the realization he caused some harm to you and he needs you to know he knows what you know. Which is to say you know he's a callous, self-centered jerk. Or she. It is a self-centered moment in a long series of self-centered moments that says to the receiver of Step Four tidings (in person or in writing) that your perception of himself, the recovering drunkard, is very important to the drunkard. It's not about the relationship but about how the drunkard believes he is perceived by others. It's the ego trip to beat all ego trips. It is also a power game that leaves the recipient of said message from the wounded narcissist with no place to go.

We say, "Good for you; you're not doing any more damage," because we are decent people. What we feel is, "Go away, you mean, mean bastard."

I find all this objectionable and therefore poured myself a glass of very sweet red wine before I started typing this post. I have been Step Nined via the Post Office. The letter came months ago, but I continue to hope the person who sent it--whatever she is recovering from--will relocate or evaporate.

The point of Step Nine in the Recovery from Addiction process is, I believe, to reflect on the effects of one's behavior. So, for example, if I have a little too much to drink while I type this little essay, I might offend 700 people. Perhaps, then, I should refrain from the drink and thereby refrain from causing the pain.

The problem is that so many people in recovery take all these silly step things so literally. They believe they can write a definitive list their faults and correct all of them and realize perfection. They believe they can name all the people they have hurt and correct them. (Letters of apology very often take the shape of "you had that coming and it was too damned bad, but this is a new day and aren't I great for noticing and you could have....." These letters are not apologies but efforts to shift responsibility to the abused party.)

The fact is, you can't be definitive about the harm you do any more than you can be definitive about the good you do. The goal is to reroute the energy into doing good and setting into motion a virtual tsunami of good-heartedness, good-will, good, good, good....

If you are in recovery from something and you have hurt someone, go do something nice for someone else and we'll call it even. On a cosmic level, we wish you well, but we very much need you to go away. Please, in the name of God, go away while we recover from you.


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