Steps 4 & 5: I Can Breathe

A photo by Andrej Chudy.


Steps 4 & 5: We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves & admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.


My therapist wanted me to make a list of all my secrets.  Maybe I scribbled through the three that were sending me to hell, maybe not.

“I don’t need to see them,” she reminded me.  “Then we will say a little prayer and shred them.”

No biggie, my pretty parts thought.   I’m an open book.  Vulnerable?  Check!  Genuine?  Check!  I’m real—always have been.  The problem was that I had not always been.

It’s a nice thing to tell oneself, that people really, truly know you.  But pre-rehab Claire practiced a distracted type of genuine.  Like when you’re trying to write a blog post while Yo Gaba Gaba blares in the background; not quite all the way at the keyboard and not quite all the way with the kiddos.

I stood between the belief that full transparency alone would save me and the fear that God’s love, my friend’s love, David’s love would tire after the emotional terrain my secrets would drag them through.

That night, holding my breath, I wrote my pretty-enough secrets: I wasn’t a virgin when I got married.  I stole more than five pills from David.  The Wonderful World of Roses (which I cited for my sixth grade science fair) was not, in fact, a real book.

After confessing and shredding and praying I though, wow, what a great exercise, what a brilliant starting point to begin my journey toward healing and reconciliation.  It was, too. We saw themes and threads on my page that gave us real insight into where most of my shame was burrowed.

But three stains remained and I just couldn’t get them clean.  The fourth & fifth steps are the hardest for many addicts, for many humans.

No amount of charm or beauty, no amount of church-appropriate vulnerability, no amount of service work or prayer or bad religion or working out or starving or sparkly house-cleaning or good child-rearing or altering reality was working.

So one day, while journalling about the discord inside me and how confusing it felt, the three little hernias popped out of my pen onto the page.  I gasped.

How could I keep ignoring the deep wounds begging for some attention?  My humanity was ready to stop suffocating.  I texted David.

“Can we talk?  I have three secrets, and I am flipping out…”

I wrote this poem right after that exchange.


Three secrets.

I had three.

But after


of applying layer

after layer after layer of cement on top of them


I ran out of cement

and I couldn’t keep up with the labor costs

and I’m pretty sure others could smell

the corpses



And I Love myself.


“I need to tell you three secrets” I said.

“Give ‘em to me” he said.





Now, instead of  avoiding the deep chasms in the pavement

instead of fearing what the uneven surface would do to my wobbly ankles

I get to dance

with freedom

with him

with them


And I am fully known


“I love you still!”


Then I exhaled for the first time in my life.


Some of us, like David, might not hold secrets like mine —- felony secrets.  His were smaller, daily shames about small daily comparisons and failures.  They still defined his worth, just like mine did; and to him they weren’t small.

Or maybe you’re like me, and you feel like there’s just no way someone would still love you or choose you if they knew.

Your ugly part, your stains that won’t wash out, your shame? Jesus has been dying (and actually died) for you to let Him run it through that holy washing machine.  I never understood why the song “Amazing Grace” captivated the ages until that poem poured out of me.

Grace, Love, they are the deepest needs we have.  Freedom is ours, there is no condemnation in Christ, you guys.  Perfect Love makes you perfect.

Perfect Love delights in loving us, paying no mind to the caliber of fuckitude we cause.  Until you finally complete steps four and five you can’t fully access the boundless Love that creates New Life.

And our secrets?  God loves those, too.  If God loves all of us then surely others can, too.  Surely we can learn to love ourselves.  Surely, this would change the world.



PS- Here is a link to the AA Inventory prompt; this tool has changed my life and created a deep, lasting peace.  If you’re a human, and you want freedom, DO THIS.

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Steps 6 & 7: Light It Up



You know in middle and high school when you begged God to make you less proud, less shallow, less fat, and less horny?  I’ve been asking God to make me better for as long as I’ve been applying mascara.

The sixth and seventh steps give us permission to accept the gift of our humanity.  And guys, God adores humans.

6. We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. We humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.

So the three hernias popped out, the lights flipped on, I confessed, and could breathe again.

Now what?

Only the raddest transformation ever.  When my darkest corners and inside bits detected Light, the little curled-up Claire decided to unfurl for the first time in decades.  Rubbing her sensitive eyes she stepped into the warmth, into the Love that only a Higher Power can provide.

Good lighting perks up even the dullest complexion, and I felt beautiful despite my mistakes and my mortality.  I began to trust the God of cancer, the God of death, the God of addiction and chronic pain, the God of weary mamas and politics, and even the Middle East.   Because who could reject the Love that takes you no matter what?  Who could resist such a persistent and wild holiness?

My eyes adjusted to the blaring brightness, and at last I stood—mouth gaping— before a God I pray I never define.  No more checking identification at the doors of Heaven, no more defending a God who never asks for my defense.  Just surrender, humble surrender.

Extending outrageous grace and love to people I thought I disagreed with became easy and necessary.  I could see their Light, too: LGBTQ, Black Lives Matter, Evangelicals, felons, my husband and kids, ISIS, my mom.  It had wrapped me up and held me close, so that’s what I’ll do to everyone else.

My prayers shifted direction as abruptly as my car does when a kid demands a potty break.  Since there is no condemnation in Christ, asking for forgiveness and help was simple— I was free and careless just like the murderous David or the yucky debt collectors.

The hard part?  Recalling that, in Eden, God called the Clay that became Claire Good.  I’ve found that all my problems arise from memory loss.  A forgotten whisper from the Higher Power: you are a beloved child of mine.  Shhhh.  Remember.

I don’t think “sin” is our defect, because we are human, and God expects humans to fuck up.  The defects aren’t pride, rage, lust, or addiction–those are the humanity.

The shortcoming is believing we are anything other than Good.  When we forget that God so loved the World, we forget that God so loves us, and everyone else.

Instead of: Lord, give me more self control, forgive me for eating the entire apple pie and disrespecting my body temple.  Try: Lord, forgive me for my memory loss, help me remember I’m a divine child of a Good, Hard, Wild, and Loving God.  

Where are your dark corners?  What part of God and the Bible and yourself do you defend, even if sometimes it feels too hard and sort of untrue and makes you sweat a little?  How big (or little) is the box in which you keep the Highest Power?  What if I told you everyone has God’s Light and Love pulsing through them?  Right now.  Yes, even him/her/them.

What if I told you that perfection is your name and goodness is your game?

Your defect isn’t your skin color, your income, your religious affiliation or voter registration.  Your shortcoming isn’t that you love someone the same gender as you or that you’re divorced or had an abortion.

We fall short when we forget to turn on the Lights.  God, take my humanity and hold it close.  Help me remember.

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Steps 8 & 9: Have A Drink




In college I loved a man who was fun and abusive.  I started packing the day he shoved me into a wrought iron fence for walking the dog the wrong way.

Making amends (steps 8 and 9) is about offering a cool glass of water to someone you didn’t Love as well as you could have.  Here, I prepared this for you.  I know I hurt you, and I see your thirst for redemption.  Will you forgive me?

For years following our separation I blamed him for the chaos of our relationship.  He was, after all, the one who I walked in on with another woman.  He playfully referred to me as “retard.”  How much more tan, fit, curly-headed, and available could I be?  All for him!

But when I completed my inventory of douchebag3000 I got a little sweaty, because—and this blew my brains apart—it wasn’t all his fault.

My tenacious hold on “us” was born out of my own fearful, dishonest, selfish, and inconsiderate behavior.  And no matter how valid my disgust (he abused, he cheated and shoved and name called), the stale resentments grew dry & discontent.

I’m afraid he will leave and I’ll be alone.  If I tell him how his behavior makes me feel then he will leave, I have to keep lying—to both of us.  I need a man, I want a man, how can I make him fit into the hole in my heart?  I don’t care about his needs and about how my neediness is affecting him, it’s all Claire all the time.

After months of apologizing to my family members and friends, months of rebuilding what addiction tore down, I still sensed a thirst from someone in the crowds of my past.  I believed I had to apologize for every offense I committed.  But I forgot to apologize for the action I never took.

I explained the role I played, as I released him from a union and an image my itchy ideals forced onto him.  When we forget our God-given worth we stay suspended, like a Christmas ornament or a crystal hanging in a window, waiting for someone to come admire us so we can smile.  I hung there for years, a choice I made over and over again.

Today I am two years sober.  I spent October 20th, 2014 shuffling around the house, shaky and sweating.  How will I leave my newborn baby boy who just came home from the NICU? What about the girls? Will my body still hurt? Am I brave enough to stop?  To cry?  To feel? Oxy has dehydrated my mouth and my spirit.  Do I really want to ask for a sip of water?

Two years ago ago today I stopped and swallowed the first drops of redemption Jesus offered us all during that last supper.   By continuing to quench our thirst for Kingdom Come with communion and Jesus we are agreeing to seek unity and peace with all people, constantly amending, and forever building bridges.

Here babe, have a drink…

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