I came into the program seeking a way to change my addict and never for a minute imagined that the program could be about changing me.  As an introduction to my past, I’ll refer to ”The Countdown To The Twelve Steps”, something I found that represented everything that was my life with my addict before Nar-Anon.

The countdown to me entering the program –
12.    I assumed control over the addict and began to arrange his life.
11.    Came to believe that the addict was insane and only I could restore him to sanity.
10.    Made a decision that my will, come hell or high water, be done.
9.      Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of the addict. …
8.      Admitted to anyone who would listen that the addict was insane.
7.      Was entirely ready to have God remove the addict.
6.      Arrogantly pointed out the shortcomings of the addict.
5.      Made a list of all persons he had harmed and lived in dread of ever seeing them again.
4.      Went out of my way to make amends for the addict.
3.      Continued to take his inventory and when he was wrong promptly berated him for it.
2.      Sought through denial and manipulation to increase my control over his life; praying only that God would fix things my way.
1.      Having had a nervous breakdown as a result of these steps,

… I admitted I was powerless over the addict and that my life had become unmanageable.
When I finally arrived at the doors of my first Nar-Anon meeting, the unmanageable part was starting to sink in.  I was a complete mess and desperately needed to find the answers to save my addict from his addictive self.  Sitting through the first meeting was frustrating as I got no closer to any of the answers I was seeking; how to stop my addict from using.  Having been a control freak all my life, I wasn’t ready to give up that easily either. The second, third and fourth meetings were no better, but I began to realise that the answers might not be as expected.

In the rooms, hearing so many admitting to their powerlessness made this idea of giving up control easier.  Supported with the knowledge that all my earlier interventions were of no benefit anyway, I lost the will to fight on and finally just gave up.  I continued attending meetings only because my wife desperately wanted to continue and I was duty bound to take her.  Now, I can say ‘thankfully take her’.

2.    Came to believe that a Power greater than myself could restore me to sanity.
Thinking back, coming from a spiritual background should have made this step pretty easy, but I was caught up in a cycle of self pity. Why is this happening? What have I done to deserve this? Why me? How can this happen to us? Surely we were good parents?  The master of control found acknowledgment of hopelessness a difficult pill to swallow.  And although I continued to pray, it was not with much conviction.  Thankfully, everyone, even one as thick as me must admit defeat … sometime.

“Let go and let God” made more sense the longer I stayed.  The thought of God taking over where I could not exercise any influence would be a relief.  I was never permanently unhappy, but neither was I happy and desperately needed to find some respite to the frequent stress.

One evening I attended a meeting where a sharer was relating his experience, strength and hope. One thing he said was “Most people prefer to be right, rather than to be happy”.  Wow, simple, effective and in my life, “my will be done” … true.  I spent some time contemplating ‘right vs happy’ and knew that things had to change.  No, I had to change.

3.    Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.
After struggling with the acceptance of the concept of Letting go and letting God, for me the final acknowledgment also required as an outcome letting go of controlling everything and everyone, and was a life changing action. This acknowledgment of Step Two naturally flowed into Step Three.

4.    Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
For the first two years in Nar-Anon, the steps were those readings we did to start off meetings before we get to the topic, the meat of the evening.  One day the meeting took a group conscience and my wife became chair and I later accepted the secretarial portfolio for the meeting.  Naturally we started spending more time reading and exploring the Steps.  I discussed the steps with different people and quickly went through all of them, without too much soul searching.  Although I completed the steps, I still felt I did not work them.  And then I linked up with a long term member who agreed to ‘work’ The Steps with me.

We quickly went through one, two, three and I suppose could be forgiven for thinking “this is easy” … then we got to Step Four.  He suggested I buy the “Blueprint to Progress” a Fourth Step inventory, and my work began. For the first time, I was challenged to split my life into segments; I was confronted with having to explore who I was – facing the good and the not so good. Real stressful stuff.

It challenged me to explore my feelings around honesty, self worth, fear, anger, shame, control, gratitude, commitment, even sex and not only think, but reflect AND answer specific questions on every area, preferably penning my thoughts.  Needless to say I have been busy with this for months, working away slowly, in my own time, my own pace. What’s beneficial about this process was the realization that it not only uncovers the shortcomings, but also many positives. I continue to grow through this ‘work in progress’.

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

6.    Were entirely ready to ask God to remove all these defects of character.

7.   Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8.    Made a list of persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9.    Made direct amends to such people wherever possible except when to do so would injure them or others.

10.    Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Although I list “incomplete” to the previous steps, it is more ‘tongue in cheek’. I have never been as aware of my actions and their consequences as I am now.  What the Fourth Step has done and continue to do is make me sensitive to myself, my strengths, my weaknesses and especially my interpersonal relationships.

I continuously talk to my Higher Power, share with Him my weaknesses and concerns, not forgetting to thank Him for these as well as my strengths and successes.  Truthfully, I know I do not grow as much in the good times than when challenged.  I can only ask my Higher Power not to test me more than I can bear.

I’ve leant to say sorry and more importantly learnt to reduce the incidences in my life where it becomes necessary to say ‘sorry’.

11.    Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
I’ve been blessed with many opportunities to share on different occasions. A recurring question when relating the positive consequences of my experience in Nar-Anon is “Would I change anything in my life if granted the opportunity?”  Would I put my addict through this experience again if I had the choice? The frequency of the question implies the answer has some importance, but I think it is inconsequential.

I especially share this under Step Eleven as I too have questioned His will for me.  Unlike some who claim to have a direct line, unfortunately I am not amongst them.  I ask the questions and hope that the direction I find myself in is “exactly as it should be” i.e. His will be done.  I wouldn’t be at this event today, wouldn’t have met any of you, wouldn’t have had as many friends, wouldn’t have an extended family, wouldn’t have grown as much and many of these lessons, some known to me even before my Nar-Anon life, did not have significance until my real life experience placed it into context. So, would I have changed anything? I’ll leave that with you.

12.    Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry the message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
I dedicate this to the friend I came to know in Nar-Anon, who for me still epitomise service.  We met in the rooms of Nar-Anon the first time I arrived, the dark days when I traveled to every meeting I could find.  “Welcome my friend. Hoe vaa nog?”  His colloquial district six “How are you?” with which he always greeted me.  He had the knack of making any newcomer feel like they were the most important.  He sensed our mood, whether we were up or down, always had the time, the ear to listen and always had an experience in his life he was willing to share through which I found solace, guidance, understanding, comfort, love and so much more.

Even after approximately nine years of clean time, he was still there for us, the newcomers.  He was always the first at the Obs meeting, opening, setting up the seating, managed the tea, coffee and cookies, sometimes spoiling us with his wife’s lovely koeksisters. He performed these tasks selflessly and the place was always ready upon arrival, by whose hand was never questioned.

When he took ill and attended less frequently, we found ourselves having to organise the unlocking of the door, carry the chairs from downstairs, set up the room, boil water, etc. and his unseen service became real.  I’m once again reminded of his caring nature, his deep sense of humility, his wise counseling and the compassion he shared with all who met him. As much as I learnt from his deep wisdom, I leant even more from his great sense of humility.  Tony, I still miss your warm, all white smile. Rest in peace my friend.

Last week, a regular ‘newcomer’ commented about the awareness of relapse as a reality of life and the fact that he attends meetings to continuously grow in strength and get support if ever relapse should strike him.  This resonates with me too.  I strive to improve and become stronger as an individual, but every now and then, I relapse.  I revisited Step One plenty of times.  Another is the knowledge that one receive more by giving then receiving, reminded by the candle never loses any of its flame when lighting another candle.

Nelson Mandela for me represents the impact one person can have on our world. He is a living example of what one can achieve when you live true to your principles and impact positively on those you come into contact with.  Similarly, I believe each one of us can grow our circle of influence, one person at a time and leave a footprint far greater than the individual.

I am reminded of a quotation by Alfred Schweitzer “Example is not the main thing in influencing people, it is the only thing”.  Today this has become my favorite and I try to live it.  I will never know what caused my addict to come into recovery and today he is 3 days (26th Oct) away from celebrating his fourth year clean time.  Did my example have any influence?  Who knows?  I continue to do service, forever grateful for the positive influence the fellowship continue to have on my life into the future.  

With much gratitude to Nar-Anon and all who shared their experience, strength and hope.