12 Step Recovery Slogans – Easy Does It

easy does itYou see the slogan, ‘Easy Does It’ on the wall of almost every 12 Step meeting, no matter what addiction or behavior that meeting addresses.

Like so many things in the history of 12 Step Program, the exact history of the slogans is a bit murky. Affording to the Alcoholics Anonymous website, when Ruth Hock, a non-alcoholic, who was AA’s first secretary was asked this question, she remembered hearing Bill W. and others use it right from the beginning.

However it came about, Easy does it is usually good advice. It’s so easy to get totally caught up in our stinking thinking and with what we think is going on around us. Particularly in the beginning of our recovery, we tend to be intense and to see people, places, and things in a black and white manner.

Remembering to take a breath or two, remembering easy does it helps us put things in proper perspective.

There is, however, another side to the slogan.

Some people take it to mean they can just sit back and if they go to enough meetings sobriety and maybe even serenity will eventually just wash over them. Viewed this way, the slogan can get folks in trouble.

Easy does it but do it

The first time I heard someone add but do it it rang true for me. Like so many, I not only tend to get intense, I can also procrastinate like a champ.

There’s a ton of work we need to do when we first get to the Program. Some of it is fairly easy, like helping set up or take down a meeting room as we begin to learn to be of service. But the Steps, while simple, are far from easy. There’s work to be done in each one.

Exactly what that work will look like depends on lots of things. Step 4, for example, is the only one that requires writing, and even then, people who can’t write have found ways to do a successful fourth.

If, however, we want the promises of the Program, the only way to get there is to work the Program and that means working the Steps, all 12 of them. It’s only through the Steps that we will be given the freedom that let us return fully to life.

With deliberate speed

I remember very early in my sobriety, maybe even in the first 30 days or so, at the suggestion of my sponsor I started my 4th Step.  I went to the grocery store and was delighted to meet a woman I knew from meetings had been sober a number of years. She asked me how I was doing and I muttered something about working on my inventory. She was horrified and suggested that it was far too early for me to begin it.

I called my sponsor when I got home and related my encounter, hoping he would agree it was too soon for me to do a fourth step. He snorted and pointed out that a careful reading of Dr. Bob’s story seems to indicate he did all six steps (which were split into 12 some time later, and contained all the elements we know today) in what must have been a very long, single afternoon and evening.

That doesn’t mean everyone should do their inventory as soon as I did, but as I look back I realize had I postponed it until I started feeling better I might not have done it at all.

Like so many things in Program we’re looking for balance, which is somewhere between easy does it and but do it.

What’s your take on this slogan? Are there times when it’s helped? Other times when it’s gotten in the way? It’s your turn, in comments.

Love, blessings and abundance,

Anne W. Powerfully Recovered


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Trevor April 17, 2013 at 6:56 am

On page 135 in the Basic Text of AA ( Big Book) the explanation is very clear. Easy Does It refers to the Wive’s of early AA’s in particular Earl Treat. The read talks of 3 little mottoes. First Things First – Live and Let Live & Easy Does It.
Earls wife was nagging him about other issues like drinking coffee and smoking. It became so relentless that Earl;s ego got the better of him and he basically stopped the practice of Step !0 and he relapsed. The First Things First was about Earl’s Recovery. The Live and Let Live were acceptance of Earl’s ‘lesser” habits. ( I know smoking is seen in a different light today, but we are talking over 70 years ago here). Finally the Easy Does It was in direct reference of his wife’s expectations that once he stopped drinking all his other ‘ defects’ would be cured. Earl in fact never messed around with the Steps and formally went through then in a few hours with Dr Bob as told in his story He Sold Himself Short. Third Ed page 292. Earl describes his relapse as not continuing to do Inventory as with the problems he was having at home. After his brief relapse Earl started AA in Chicago and later was a catalyst in Bill putting together the 12 Traditions. Easy Does It is not a reference to taking your time with the steps as many in contemporary AA believe.

annew April 21, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Trevor, thanks for this. I read that years ago and it had slipped my mind entirely. Glad to have the specific references.

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