Perspective: Just you and your pen

by Ben H. (Punanai 2008)

pen-and-paper-240x180My entire life I’ve always fallen short of being the guy that I wanted to be, thought I could be, felt I should be. I lived in a world ruled by compulsive behaviours and negative consequences. This started long before my first drink, in fact it was the major tie that bound all of my childhood together. Drinking simply made all of it worse.

Just like all of my friends in the program, I did things when I drank that I swore I would never do. I hurt the people I loved, I hurt myself, I destroyed my life one action at a time, over and over again. Digging myself deeper and deeper into my alcoholic reality until I found the rooms.

Before I found a sponsor who showed me the steps and took me through the book that introduced me to God, I deeply hurt everyone I came into contact with who cared about me, over and over again. I destroyed a marriage with a woman who loved me very much; lost my home; lost my car and license; burned a promising career to the ground; and last but not least, lost all the feeling in my left leg from the knee down in one of my last alcoholic seizures. During all of that I spent the better part of two years on the streets with nothing to my name except the shame I wore day in and day out.

I came into these rooms filled with nothing but anger and fear. I would lie in bed in the shelters and detoxes at night staring at the ceiling, unable to sleep without liquor and haunted by what I had done to my beautiful life. There was no peace of mind whatsoever without liquor because of everything I’d done drinking so I would drink to ease the pain but do things while drinking that would contribute to the list, making it longer every time I went out.

When I started working the steps with my sponsor it was proposed that we do them exactly like the book suggests and we did. I heard about the 4th step from so many people in the rooms, these epic tales that were pages long. Their dark secrets which were boasted about like adventures, but I didn’t feel that way. I felt dirty, used, sad, useless, dumb, and foolish.

When my time came I took all of that to the mattresses. I wrote it all down. All the fears, all the actions, all the darkness. All the things that made me different that I didn’t want to tell anyone. All the foolishness, all the resentments, all the disgusting sex conduct, I wrote it all down and you know what? As I wrote it down it all came out of me, literally. It all stopped rolling around in my head reminding me of the fool I am and the life I’d lived. It became de-charged and neutralized through that cathartic act of writing.

My sponsor gave me a deadline when I started and I kept it. I strongly suggest this to anyone new to sponsoring; it is what I do with my sponsees now. It gets you to the point and doesn’t let you sit in it. Write everything that comes to mind down. No matter how big or how small, it will all find its place in your story. Go forward without fear because at this stage it is only you and your pen.

Follow the guidelines as set out in the big book; they have served millions before you and I hate to break it to you sweetheart but you ain’t that different. I found this out as soon as I started listening to other people’s 5th steps — the true meaning of “you are no longer alone.”

It is never more true in my experience than when I’m listening to or giving a 5th but the root of that 5th is the 4th, and you are able to do that 4th because you have already turned it over in your 3rd to something that you came to believe in in your 2nd which you were able to do because you admitted you were an alcoholic and your life had become unmanageable in your 1st. Funny, that.

So don’t fear it, embrace it as a part of the puzzle that is designed to open us up to a beautiful world full of friends, family, God, and other people’s 4ths …

About the Authors

Renascent Alumni
Members of Renascent's alumni community carry the message by sharing their experiences and perspectives on addiction and recovery. To contribute your alumni perspective, please email