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Cleaning Out the Closet

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My first sponsor pointed out that the promises of the program are clear: If we clean up the past (Steps Four through Nine) and continue to take daily inventory (Steps Ten and Eleven), ever relying on God, then we can be free of cravings, restored to sanity and power, and find our will becoming aligned to that of our Higher Power. Today, these promises continue to come true for me, and I’m grateful for thirty years of abstinence, one day at a time.

Important for me was Step Five, the first Step that requires interaction with another human being. I knew I could withhold nothing from my sponsor if I wanted recovery. I wanted abstinence more than I wanted to protect my fantastical image of myself. It was time to let go and trust, time to tell all.

My sponsor and I met for two-hour sessions at the base of a park statue. I followed directions from the Big Book: “We pocket our pride and go to it, illuminating every twist of character, every dark cranny of the past” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., p. 75). Nothing was too small or too big to share. My sponsor used the metaphor of cleaning out a walk-in closet, and my job was to bring everything from that closet (my past) into the light, show it to her, sort it out, and see it honestly.

When it came time to list resentments, all I could see was what horrible things people had done to me. My sponsor walked me through each one, and for the first time I saw how I had let my defects of self-centeredness and dishonesty run my life. I also saw fear as a corroding thread running through everything. I began to see my part in every resentment, and practicing the Big Book’s Step Four Prayer (p. 67) for each person began to free me from the bondage of self. What a relief!

When I finished Step Five, the promises mentioned on page 75 came true for me—I had withheld nothing and was indeed “delighted.” For the first time in my life I knew “perfect peace and ease,” and I stopped hiding. My fears fell from me as I began to “have a spiritual experience.” I often had complete relief from cravings and compulsions. Amazing!

My sponsor did point out two small but important words in those Step Five promises: “We begin.” There were no promises about “always” or “finished” (and here I thought I had arrived at the finish line). Right away there was more work to be done, explicitly described. I did it. I wanted my arch to be strongly built, for I was stepping through into a new life. I’ve never looked back.

—Anonymous

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