How many fellowship members have been diagnosed with what are called attention deficit disorders? I may discover that a substantial number of people recovering from trauma have been labeled among those who either cannot stay focused or, conversely, are hypervigilant, too constantly watchful. This is an outsider’s view of me, no matter how well intended.
What I do in Step Four is work from within myself to describe my own views and experiences. That is a major feature of what 12-Step recovery aims to provide: I learn, using the Steps as my guide, to speak for and to listen to my authentic self. When I share my experience, strength, and hope (ESH)—anonymously (without the add-ons or detractors of age, status or titles predefining us)—how I view my own experiences is what counts.
Did I discover—as an infant, as a child, as a person in a community—that I wasn’t able to get seen, heard, welcomed, and appreciated by those in my circles? Were my care givers, teachers, peers, or authorities too busy, preoccupied with other activities, to respond to me and my attempts to connect? Did they project who they wanted me to be at me instead of building understanding, taking time to get to know one another? Were they drunk? Were they too sick, or were others too important to be bothered with me?
Whose attention deficits were these? The effects of adverse childhood, adult, or societal experiences I am saddled with include these experiences. If I had to cope with not being seen, not being heard, with being misunderstood or having my outreaches twisted into somebody else’s framework of meaning, I—my authentic self—suffered abandonment. I cannot endure being abandoned as a baby or as a little child. Human beings do not survive if they cannot connect and get what they need from the people around them.
I had to guess how to get at least some of the attention I had to have, so I did what I did. If, later, I was labeled as disordered because my coping mechanisms turn out to be pretty dysfunctional, yes, I do need to see these behaviors as my problem now, mine to fix. But I am not to blame for the dysfunctional situations that marked me with the many effects I discover when I fearlessly explore in Step Four.
Blamelessness isn’t a copout. I can see it is a fact. This is the truth about my authentic self:
When I empower my inner voices to speak for themselves—even inner voices who didn’t have words, they had feelings, they had needs. I can hear them and comfort these tiny hurt parts of myself. I can respond.
Lost, abandoned, inner kids in me want to live and grow up to be whole and authentic. In Step Four, if I am willing to be fearless, I find the unconditional understanding and acceptance that I needed; that was missed.