Step 4 – Surrender Dorothy

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves

Surrender Dorothy
by Jeffry Z (NYC)

I used to wish that my SCA Fourth Step could be as simple and eloquent as that of Dorothy Parker, famous literary boozer/sex addict from the Algonquin Round Table. It went something like this: "I'd like to have a martini, two at the very most, three I'm under the table, four I'm under the host." Simple, glib, yet gut-wrenchingly honest, a work of Art. It was sad for me to realize that although Dorothy could size up her 
troubled life so effortlessly, she died a lonely drunk. What went wrong?

I was more saddened to learn when I started working my SCA Fourth Step that it wasn't going to be about crystallizing the misery of my life into some witty bon mot. It wasn't going to be about creating Art. It was going to be about being honest with myself (something I hadn't been in a long time as an active sex addict) and then sharing that honesty with others. It was going to be about confronting the past, honoring the hell of it, having it witnessed, and with any luck at all, beginning the process of moving on in my life. It was going to be more like traversing Siberia on my hands and knees. I didn't want to go, but somehow I knew I didn't want to end up like Dorothy.

I first tried to do my SCA Fourth Step alone, mostly because of the tremendous shame I had about my life. I bought a Patrick Carnes workbook and quickly and glibly (and angrily) answered all of the questions. I wanted to get this over with and I did. I didn't share my writing with anyone. That was enough fearless searching for me. And I couldn't stop acting out, just like Dorothy.

Then I attended the SCA Fourth Step workshop at the local Gay & Lesbian Community center, a meeting that I had avoided in the initial stages of my recovery. The meeting's structure was simple: Write your responses to the questions in this outline, write for twenty minutes, and read your answers to the group IF YOU WANT TO. "Were you wanted at birth?" No. Answered that one. "Were you afraid of storms?" Yes. Whew. Another question completed. Wow. That was easy. I read my answers quickly and with embarrassment and the slow, steady pace of the meeting was driving me nuts. I couldn't wait for it to end. Finally, I took a copy of the outline home and quickly and not so angrily (and not so glibly) answered all of the questions. I didn't share my writing with anyone. But I noticed something. For the first time in my adult life I was able, for a few days or even weeks at a time, to stop acting out. Something was happening.

So after two years of what Patrick Carnes calls pre-recovery (and what I can now look upon fondly as "research"), I surrendered to the program. I did a ninety-in-ninety, stopped all of my bottom-line acting out behaviors and attended the Fourth Step meeting religiously. I wrote down EVERYTHING and shared it all. I admit that withdrawal was sheer hell and reconnecting with people continues to be a challenge. But acknowledging and then sharing the pain that I had been trying to numb for so long probably saved my life. I realized that I had been trying to kill the very thing that makes me human: the ability to feel anything, joy, pain, and everything in between and most importantly, learning to let it go. 

I'm still working on my SCA Fourth Step and it's been over two years. I now know that the process of getting sober is an ongoing one of truth and surrender. And I say my prayers for Dorothy, wherever she is.