Before we encounter the 9th Step Promises in the process of recovery, there is an important declaration: As God’s children we stand on our feet; we don’t crawl before anyone. I have always believed the Promises begin with this sentence. Why? Because in our sobriety men are vulnerable to hiding the shame of our behavior while active in our addictions in numerous unhealthy ways. In fact, shame seems to be at the heart of many of our worst secrets and our worst behaviors. Shame is a very powerful emotion; it can control our lives long into our recovery. At this point of our recovery we need to hear that we do not have to be servile or fawning in our attempts to right our wrongs. We do not have to accept unacceptable behavior nor walk around with our tails between our legs. We deserve love and happiness as much as those who we are approaching.
My wife, Nancy, and I were talking the other night and she asked me: “Is there anything positive about shame?” I am not sure if there is. Some people say there is a healthy shame that is different from toxic shame. But there is no question that shame destroys men’s lives – piecemeal. We act out of shame, suffer consequences in our relationships, and continue to act out as the shame keeps us isolated, separated and lost in our secrets. And when men’s lives are destroyed women’s and children’s lives are often part of the collateral damage. Every time we share a secret or a part of ourselves we have been hiding, we move further from shame and take one more step into the community.
Stand tall knowing that you have been willing to take responsibility for the pain you have caused in your community. Despite what we have done we belong. There is nothing – absolutely nothing – we can do to lose our divine birthright as God’s children. And so, this prelude to the Promises is what tells us that, despite everything that we have done, we deserve the Promises to come true in our lives as much as anyone. Not only that but they will come true in our lives just as they will come true in anyone’s life. And that is a tough thing for many of us to believe. It is a lot easier to believe that we are irreparably broken as we are hounded by the lies that shame is constantly whispering in our ears – and sometimes even screaming at us underneath the smiling façade we present to the rest of the world. But you belong – and you deserve to be a part of the community. You always have.