A little bit about the Tenth Step and COVID-19:
When I was newly sober, I met a man who I’ll call Tony at the York Street Club in Denver who hadn’t had a drink in seven years. He had worked the steps with a sponsor and he sponsored others. Yet, he was suicidal.
I had never experienced suicidal ideation. Here I was, truly alcoholic and newly sober. I didn’t understand how anyone could be sober and suicidal. Why not just drink? Surely, I would drink before I would kill myself.
Tony was so afraid of killing himself he gave his guns to a friend to ensure safety. Alas, Tony hung himself in his garage. At less than ninety days sober, I was befuddled and astounded.
Last week, I learned —if but for a moment—what Tony felt like. I was hiking the Appalachian Trail as COVID-19 spread in the United States. State and local governments invoked staying-at-home directives and closed restaurants. It occurred to me that my income will cease and the bills would continue. My seventy-something friends might/will succumb and die before their time. My mother had recently passed. I had euthanized Sam, my 14 year old schnoodle. Life had become overwhelming.
That’s it. Time to pack it in. I give up. Suicide is now an option. The thought of taking a drink had never entered my mind.
There was a time in my life that that was all I thought about. Protecting my supply and ensuring my next drink were the only two principles I practiced in all my affairs. Now, here I stood near base camp in northern Georgia, not thinking about a drink, but fantasizing about killing myself.
Thank goodness for Step Ten.
Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
The next time you are at a Step Ten meeting, ask yourself this: Is the person sharing talking about cash register honesty or spiritual honesty?
Early in sobriety, the best we can do is face up to cash register honesty. Or, if you will, cash register dishonesty. Lying, cheating, stealing. In the context of Step Ten, we amend our relations due to an outright falsehood or simple overt or inadvertent thievery.
As we mature in active recovery, however, we (most of us anyway) stop lying, cheating, and stealing. But we are not saints. We are on the road to spiritual honesty as Bill W. Outlined in Step 10.
“This (Step 10) is not an overnight matter. Continue to watch selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear….ask God at once to remove them….Then…resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help.”
Watch. Ask. Turn.
We WATCH for those things that appeared in our Fourth Step fourth column: selfishness, self-seeking, fear-and so on. Then we say a little prayer and ASK God to remove our anxiety or discomfort. For me, it is essentially and invariably fear. And, then we TURN our thoughts to those we could help. Watch. Ask. Turn.
There I was last week near base camp. Suicide was on the table. I was afraid. I stood at the turning point.
Everything I had ever learned in active recovery came to fruition. We would intuitively know how to handle situations that used to baffle us, we were told. Or, as Bill wrote in Step Eleven: “…we find that our thinking will, as time passes, be more and more on the plane of inspiration. We come to rely upon it.”
I said a quick prayer and then texted a friend in the fellowship. This too would come to pass. My ideation lasted seconds.
I wrote about my experience for the general public—for those not familiar with any twelve step process:
“Two days ago, I thought about packing it in. I weighed the option of suicide.I haven’t had a suicide ideation since the summer of 1995…I have divine protection in the name of the 10th step, which instructs me to be vigilant about my fears, share them when they crop up, and turn my thoughts to helping others. The suicidal ideation two days ago lasted no more than a few seconds.”
Today, I remain grateful that I can translate my twelve step experience into language that is consistent to practicing the principle of love in all my affairs.