By: Marilyn L. Davis
Mine was a Light and Dark Life History
“To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life history, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means.”~ Brennan Manning
I don’t know that I realized when I wrote my 4th Step or life history, that there would be so much darkness, followed by so much light, when I finally found the courage to share it. But that was my experience. Just as the Big Book’s writers did, I would encourage you to be thorough and find your courage and write your life story.
Why Should I Write a Long Life History?
Many people think that creating a grudge list is enough; fortunately, the writers of Alcoholics Anonymous did not believe that was sufficient for a fearless and thorough moral inventory or fourth Step.
As they stated on pages 72-73 of the third edition of Alcoholics Anonymous, there are precise directions for what we disclose in a 5th Step after writing our fourth Step or Life History. “Time after Time, newcomers have tried to keep to themselves certain facts about their lives. Trying to avoid this humbling experience, they have turned to easier methods. Almost invariable they got drunk. Having persevered with the rest of the program, they wondered why they fell. We think the reason is that they never completed their housecleaning… But they had not learned enough of humility, fearlessness and honestly, in the sense we find it necessary until they told someone else all their life story.” (The emphasis is by the writers of the “Big Book,” reinforcing the necessity for our entire life story.)
Writing Your Life History Moves the Pain to Paper
Writing down your life history is good for you. Why? Putting your life history on paper benefits you by:
- Moving the pain, hurt, sadness, and resentment from inside your mind, to outside, on a piece of paper.
- Reminding you of the good things about your actions in the past that you might want to have again.
- Letting you look at your life objectively.
- Releasing guilt, shame, and allowing you to heal.
Moving those feelings, perceptions, and beliefs out of your mind frees up space in your mind and your heart. You can fill this space with positive attitudes and strategies for a life in recovery. When you look at your life on paper, you can start shifting your point of view.
When the time is right, you can share this with others as in a 5th Step. You can also use your Life History findings to help someone experiencing the same kinds of feelings by sharing your experience, strength, and hope in a supportive group or in other recovery support meetings. Either way, you will help yourself and others with this written account of your life.
Before You Get Started – Issues in Your Past
There are some things to think about before you start your Life History. Bad things happen, maybe to you. Perhaps you have thought that keeping them locked up inside of you would protect you. That has not happened.
These memories have affected you, perhaps the reasons you gave yourself to drink and use, or they continue to influence your decisions, relationships, reactions, and emotions even today.
Writing about past events and feelings can have a healing outcome for you. However, it might bring up painful memories and feelings that you need to process with a professional. People you trusted may have hurt you.
Before writing your Life History, tell your treatment facilitator or counselor of any physical or emotional abuse, childhood neglect, abandonment, or sexual abuse in your past. Rape and domestic violence may be part of your later life experience, which may require additional help and counseling, and you should inquire about providers in your area.
Don’t Judge Yourself in Your Life History
Your life events include what happened, who was involved, how you felt, what you thought, and what you did. Events in your past helped create who you are today, how you think, how you feel, how you process situations, and what you believe. Some events may have contributed to your addiction or continue to fuel your use today.
There are probably values, old messages, and old ideas that you may need to change moving forward. Therefore, as you write, you will see what needs to be changed and what you want to keep.
All The Pain, Hurt, and Shame on Paper and Out of You
“Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about un-becoming everything that isn’t really you, so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.” ~Paul Coelho
Now that you’ve got reams of paper, don’t you feel better? And I guarantee that you’ll feel even better-better when you tell someone about your past. Letting go of all the character defects, self-defeating behaviors and thoughts means you can be the person you truly are.
Ready to share your recovery story or suggestions with someone who is struggling? Then consider a guest post today. Your story matters.
Marilyn L. Davis is the Editor-in-Chief at From Addict 2 Advocate and Two Drops of Ink. She is also the author of Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate, available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback.