Friday, August 26, 2011



 Chris Newcomb, M. Div. 

Lists.  “Type A people love them.  Type B people can’t stand them.  I am somewhere in the middle.  When I make them, they are very effective.  I remember to make them about .2% of the time! 
Do you make lists?  If so, why?  If not, why not?  I’m going to make the case that list-making is a very fruitful and productive use of your time in life and in recovery.  Step 8 instructs recovering individuals to make a list.  Let’s see why…

As recovering people move through the Twelve Steps, one thing becomes apparent to them:  most of their time has been spent living for just themselves via their drug and alcohol abuse.  The result has been selfish and self-destructive behavior that has also wreaked havoc on those most close to them and even random strangers. 

If you think back to when you were a kid, you probably grew up singing the words to this familiar holiday classic “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”: “He's making a list, and checking it twice; gonna find out who’s naughty and nice, Santa Claus is coming to town.”  I remember hearing those words and thinking I was a well-behaved boy that year.  I knew for certain that I would be given the ‘nice’ stamp of approval.  Of course, my young mind stopped remembering anything I did wrong before December so I was usually incorrect about my lack of bad deeds!  The one feeling I remember was a sense of guilt and shame wondering if I had, in fact, fallen into the “naughty” category!

Thankfully, there is hope!  Step 8 says, “we made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.”  This type of list has a different purpose than the supposed list St. Nick keeps on boys and girls across the world.  This list is not about bad and good.  It is about right and wrong.  Where was I wrong to someone in my behavior?  When did I act selfishly at the expense of someone else?  How have my selfish actions hurt other people? 

These are tough questions to ask but they are necessary.  In order to free ourselves from the guilt and shame of our past, we must be brutally honest with ourselves.  Second, we must be willing to be brutally honest about how our behavior hurt other people.  In doing so, we remove the veil of secrecy, denial, rationalization, and justification that will keep us acting in similar destructive ways. 

So, get out your pen and paper.  Make a list.  Check it twice or more.  Go easy on yourself but also be honest and write it all down.  The door to freedom is swinging wide open…will you take the list and walk through…?

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