Step Four blues? Double up! A couple posts ago, I wrote about Tony A’s Laundry List. The Laundry List is Tony’s list of characteristics and issues of adult children of alcoholics. Since then, I’ve received my thirty-five dollar used (underlined!) copy of his book. It published in 1991. The book is titled, The Laundry List: The ACoA Experience. It’s by Tony A. with Dan F.
The book is one of the first for us, and unlike others (by doctors) it speaks about us by one of us.
I was curious about the book because I wanted to see the Laundry List itself but also because I’d heard that Tony A’s Step Four was different from the standard Step Four. So, Step Four was the first topic I turned to.
Tony A’s Step Four:
“We Made A Searching And Blameless Inventory of Our Parents Because, In Essence, We Had Become Them.”
Who? Them? This step is quite a bit different from the one we’re familiar with–undertaking a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Us. Just us.
Before agreeing or disagreeing with Tony’s Step Four, I’ll say that what I’ve always been drawn to about ACoA (as opposed to Ala-non) is the encouragemetn to focus more on me and not them, the addict, in an ACoA meeting. I think the most fundamental lesson to be learned by us is the importance of learning to re-focus our attention away from the addict and onto ourselves. It’s fundamental to get to know ourselves, to learn how to stop reacting to others, and to begin to have the courage of our convictions–just plain be who we are, no apologies.
Thanks to a reader of this blog, you can read a scan of Tony A’s book The Laundry List – here.
Getting there is, naturally, a process.
I really appreciate Tony’s approach to Step Four. It is kind to the adult child, it acknowledges that we have inherited behaviors and character traits that we didn’t choose but are, rather, part of a long line of inherited behaviors. I agree that by examining our addict parent and identifying their faults, we can actually unearth and identify our own.
But! My concern is that Tony’s approach to Step Four lets us off the hook too much. It leaves us out of the equation. I feel both inventories should be done: one of our parents as a means for seeing ourselves more clearly and one just of ourselves. This is the best way to take ownership of who we are.
There is value in both approaches. I used to hate how my father would cut-off friends and family for various reasons which only he felt strongly about. Months or years would pass, and he wouldn’t see his friend, or brother. It seemed that when his friends or brothers made decisions in their lives that didn’t reflect my father’s values–it was grounds for cut-off. Eventually I asked myself if I do that. I did do that. Seeing that behavior in my father, and disliking it, was integral to identifying that it also existed in myself. His fault helped me see mine. I began to learn to lean into the intimacy of relationships and be comfortable in the face of difference instead of running from it.
Because there are behaviors that I’ve inherited from my alcoholic mother and also from my alcoholic father, I see great value in taking on Tony’s Step Four. There is no doubt that I can learn from it. And because there are behaviors of my own that I can benefit from examining and inventorying, the standard Step Four is also needed. It’s more work, for sure. But doing both steps is like viewing your Self and your life through not just one informative, illuminating lens, but two.
The adage I’ve always trusted its this: if something about a person bugs you, it’s somewhere in you, too.
Have the will and compassion to see who you really are, and still like yourself.