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Getting rid of guilty pain through corrective measures

It seemed as though my Fourth Step had enough guilty substance to last several lifetimes. I have been told many times that the reason I felt guilty because I was guilty.  Very true! But then, I listened to people around the AA tables who reiterated as how they had forgiven themselves. Well, I had tried that from the first time I was released from a terrifying experience.  I remember the Judge pointing his angry finger at me shouting: “You have disgraced your mother and father… I don’t feel sorry for you at all! Ninety days in the Indiana Penal farm.”  There had been three drunken arrests in a row at age nineteen, yet luck was on my side; in finality I was released to the custody of my father, but wow, did I feel guilty! But for the sake of relief I found reason to believe that I was a victim because the cops were always after me.  It was not my fault! I seemed to forgive myself, but yet that annoying hole in my stomach only grew larger.

As my drunken misadventures continued throughout my twenties and thirties I would seek solace from my bar room buddies, and they would agree with me—I was just an unfortunate victim having bad luck.  I believed that, too! Yet that cavity of the stomach grew evermore annoying and painful. The truth is painful, but so long as I could drink on a lie, I could find some comfort, at least while drunk.  I believe that an alcoholic cannot drink on the truth; an alcoholic can only drink on a lie—and I was an expert at believing lies.

After some time sober—guilt still all knotted up in my stomach—I heard someone say:  “Self cannot remove guilt with self.”  If that was true, then who can?  The answer came to me on page 86 of our Big Book (bottom of 1st full paragraph): “After making our review, we ask God’s forgiveness and inquire what corrective measures should be taken.” [Bold emphasis mine] Of course, here the Big Book is about a nighttime critical analysis of the previous day, but I now use this for my entire past life. I now try to live in the spirit of Steps Ten, Eleven and Twelve, thereby practicing the “corrective measures” mentioned above. Consequently, save for brief moments, that guilty pain has disappeared.  Thank you God!

By Bob S., Richmond, IN

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the AA Cleveland District Office.