Saturday, May 21, 2022

Darken further into Steps 4 and find it's not entirely dark

Step 4:  Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.  

Step 5:  Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. 

Koan:  In the dark, darken further. 


 Page 82, Roshi Joan Sutherland’s Acequias,

 Miscellaneous Writings on Koans


Just the thought of darkening, I’m compelled to bring my longtime (30+ years) friend Jerry Adamowicz into this posting. For decades we had a bantering commentary on light and dark.  Twice a year we would kid each other about what was about to come. On December 21st, he being the extrovert would say with a big grin, “You know, the days are going to get longer now.” I would go “Arrgghh” and we’d laugh. Come June, I being the introvert would reciprocate, “You know, the days are going to get shorter now,” where he would go “Arrgghh” and we would laugh. At the end of this post is a link to Jerry’s Obituary.

We all have known people, upon reading Steps 4 and 5, immediately say, “I’m not going there.”  They’ve painted these Steps in foreboding darkness. Those who refuse these Steps eventually leave the fellowship and end up drinking, which leads back to the very darkness they were trying to avoid.

I consider myself very fortunate. Willingness came to me early on. In the three-week residential treatment center, I listened and did what was asked of me. When it came to Steps 4 and 5 with my sponsor, I listened and did what he asked of me, through the times of my feeling guilt, shame, and remorse, etc. I had trusted the process through Steps 1-3, and after hearing some of the things he told me about himself, what he had done (and I hadn’t done), I didn’t balk at Step 4 or 5. The proof, my sponsor sitting right in front of me. Angelo had 3 ½ years of sobriety when I asked him to be my sponsor. He was happy with his life, and sober. I wanted that. With his direction, we finished the Steps and I found sobriety and happiness. 

Thank you, Angelo Flores (February 3,1945 - May 13,2022). In the last weeks, he was sleeping almost 24 hours a day. There were times when he seemed to not recognize me, not even a smile. The last time I saw him, three days before he passed, he smiled. i kissed him on the forehead. "Can you give me a kiss," I said, putting my cheek next to his lipsI "Smooch." I know he knows that I love him and will miss him.

Do I find myself in those places where things look their darkest? Of course I do. Is it foreboding, dangerous, threatening and a place to escape from?

Sometimes yes in physical situations. In the darkening in our koan here, instead of trying to escape, it’s asking us to darken further. What is that?

Writing down my 4th Step and acknowledging my part in situations is the way I embraced all of what the darkness had to offer, including mental anguish.  Then Angelo asked me to make a fourth column revealing my role in these matters. It’s progressing through these Steps where light appears; the light of awareness of who I was when drinking; the light of awareness of who I could become in sobriety; and the light to better relate to the alcoholic who still suffers.

Figure 1

I will continue to have dark times and light times – just as our planet spins, keeping half the world dark and half the world light at all times. These natural forces bring us light and dark every day. At any given moment, nearly half the world is dark and nearly have the world is light, and the remaining parts neither entirely dark or entirely light.

The yin-yang symbol, or “taijitu” as it’s often referred to in China, can be helpful here and as you may recall, I used it a few months ago in my commentary about Steps 3 and 4. In this philosophy, the “universe is governed by a cosmic duality, sets of two opposing and complementing principles or cosmic energies that can be observed in nature.” Figure 1. The opposing principles are the black side and the white side. The complementing principles are the dark dot in the white side and the white dot in the dark side.

Figure 2

We Westerners seem to operate under a “taijitu” of only the two opposing principles. Figure 2. We tend to get caught up in the absolute duality of things – something is either good or bad, you’re either with us or against us, I’m either happy or sad. Having this perspective is limiting and not helpful at all when working Steps 4 and 5.  

And something we view as whole right now will change later on. The taijitu represents a realistic view of what wholeness looks like in the moment and how the universe works. Wholeness in the moment, though, is fluid and everchanging. One moment looks like Figure 1 and two seconds later looks like Figure 3.

Figure 3

Step 4 says “we must take a fearless and moral inventory of ourselves.” The goal is to uncover or reveal the dark aspects of our past.  The real darkness is how our culture wants us to keep our emotions like shame and guilt hidden in the darkness.  At the same time, as hard as it may be, we try to remember that we carry along a kernel within us that is light and good…going into the dark parts knowing that it’s not entirely dark. Let Figure 1 be that reminder to bring along the whole you, the dark side and the light side.

Revealed in the Big Book on page 417 is an example of this very taijitu. “A.A. and acceptance taught me that there is a bit of good in the worst of us and a bit of bad in the best of us.”

Perhaps Bill W. had been reading James Truslow Adams? “There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it ill behooves any of us to find fault in the rest of us.  James Truslow Adams (October 18, 1878-May 18, 1949)

Dark side, light side, neither side is autonomous. Together they make a whole. A dynamic whole that moves between yin and yang, ebb and flow, this is the way of the universe. This is the way of Steps 4 and 5, together a whole, a process to be embraced. To Darken further actually takes us to the other side, where there’s more light. On page 324 in big Book, it says the dark past [is the] greatest possession we have. This is how we darken further, and by knowing our wholeness we can better carry the A.A. message to others.

- - - 

A day later, Joanie L. sums it up, " open to the eyes have adjusted to the darkness and now I see clearly."

Bill K.

P.S. Other good dark things? Dark coffee and dark chocolate.

Jerry’s Obituary: