The slogan “Easy Does It” is commonly seen on the walls of 12-step program meetings, irrespective of the addiction or behavior being addressed. The origins of this phrase within the context of 12 Step programs are not entirely clear. According to the Alcoholics Anonymous website, Ruth Hock, the first secretary of AA and a non-alcoholic, recalled that the slogan was used by Bill W. and others since the program’s early days.
The advice “Easy Does It” is generally considered beneficial. It is common for individuals, especially those in the early stages of recovery, to become overwhelmed by their thoughts and perceptions. This may result in a tendency to view situations and individuals in extreme terms. The slogan “Easy Does It” serves as a reminder to take a moment, breathe, and gain a more balanced perspective.
However, the phrase has another interpretation that can be problematic. Some individuals might interpret “Easy Does It” as an excuse to take a passive approach to recovery, assuming that simply attending meetings will eventually lead to sobriety and peace of mind. Such a misinterpretation can be detrimental to their recovery process.
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, but 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 lets 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 who had been sober for several 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 sometime 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.
Step 1 – Admitting the Truth
Step 1 might seem simple on the surface, but it carries immense significance. This is the stage where one comes to grips with the reality of their situation. The person grappling with addiction must confront the harsh truth: they are powerless over their addiction and their life has become unmanageable because of it. It’s a challenging realization for many, but it is essential.
In this initial stage, one’s sponsor may pose questions to encourage introspection: “Do you realize the magnitude of your addiction?” or “Can you see how your life has spiraled out of control?” The answers to these questions can evoke strong emotions, and denial is a common initial reaction. However, acknowledging one’s helplessness against their addiction is the critical first step toward recovery.
In essence, Step 1 is about gaining self-awareness and acknowledging the problem. It’s a formidable hurdle, but without overcoming it, progress toward recovery is impossible. Admitting the truth is the first step to recovery, a raw, honest confession that paves the way to change.
Step 2 – Finding Hope in Belief
As the individual navigates from the tumultuous waters of Step 1, they arrive at Step 2, a stage that introduces a sense of hope. This is the stage where the person acknowledges that a power greater than themselves could restore them to sanity. It’s not necessarily about a religious belief, but more about understanding that they alone can’t conquer their addiction.
One’s sponsor might inquire, “Do you believe that something or someone other than yourself could help you overcome your addiction?” This question could be daunting for some, who might fear the perceived relinquishment of control. However, it is here that the individual learns that their addiction is a foe too formidable to combat alone.
This step can be considered a decision to open up to the possibility of help from external sources. It doesn’t mandate any specific belief but encourages openness to the idea that a higher power, whatever it may be, could provide the strength they’re unable to summon on their own.
Step 2 is about finding hope, a glimmer of light in the overwhelming darkness of addiction. It introduces the prospect of a guiding force that can help them navigate the treacherous journey to recovery. It’s a decision to not just fight but to believe they can win.
Step 3 – It’s Just A Decision!
Step 3 is scary for many, even those who have some sort of belief in a higher power. For me, the issue was one of control. It felt like I was asking a total unknown to take over my life and run it. I was afraid I’d never get to do anything I wanted to do. I was sure, that I’d end up celibate running a rehab house.
Because I didn’t want to drink again and because my sponsor assured me Step 3 only required I make a decision, I did state that I had decided to turn my will and my life over to whatever. It was the only course I could see after having accepted my insanity in Step 2.
Decide to be willing
My sponsor asked me a series of questions more or less like this:
“Do you,” he asked, and yes, I had a male sponsor which is another story, “have any doubts you’re powerless over alcohol and drugs?”
“No,” I answered know I really had taken Step 1.
“Do you have any evidence you’re any good at managing your own life?”
“No,” I answered well aware that the evidence showed I didn’t.”
“Do you believe in God?”
“Well,” I stammered, “something got me here, but… ”
He stopped me as I started to waffle. “So you do believe in something, even if you don’t know what it is or what it means to you at the moment.”
I nodded, which was apparently enough.
“And you have a sense that that ‘something’ is what got you to AA, right?”
“Yes, in fact I’m sure of it,” glad we had moved away from any definition of a high power.
“Do you think, perhaps, that something might help you not drink, at least one day at a time? And maybe help you with some other issues?”
Tears of relief started and it was the first time I had some hope that this 12 Step program might work for me as I’d seen it work for others. I nodded and sniffled.
In a gentler tone, he asked, “are you willing to give it a try?”
I was and I still am.
This is what Step 3 is really about – being and staying willing. Willing to trust that there’s more going on in this universe than we can see and that there is something, an energy, a spirit, a source, a higher power, that we can open to and that will help guide us in truly self-supportive ways.
It’s really about deciding to become willing. I found I wasn’t able to do much turning over until Step 7; all I could do in Step 3 was decide to become willing. Not so hard to do after all.
Oh, and all those worst fears? They didn’t even come close to coming true.
Step 4 – Taking A Look
Today I chuckle at the word ‘fearless’ in Step 4. I don’t know a single person who has ever started an inventory with feeling at least some trepidation, and sometimes those feelings come close to downright panic. Given that fear and the 4th Step pretty much go hand-in-hand at least in the beginning, it’s not surprising that many try to avoid this step.
Most, however, find if they don’t do an inventory they are at risk of returning to their addiction. Many who skip the inventory do slip.
So the most obvious reason to do the 4th Step is that it’s part of how we stay sober or clean or learn to change our addictive behaviors. But there’s more to it than just that, although that’s quite a bit.
Coming to terms with our past
Somehow we’ve got to come to terms with the actions we took while we were in the grip of our addiction. It’s not enough just to admit we were nuts; we need to see, in some detail, how our actions and our thinking affected others and ourselves. We need to take responsibility for what we have done.
Looking squarely at where we’ve been wrong is a crucial part of being able to let go of our central problem, our addiction, and moving on to a life that’s happy, joyous, and free – one of the promises that’s made in the Big Book.
And looking at where and how we’ve been wrong is exactly what’s meant by ‘moral’ The word is defined in part as “the distinction between right and wrong.” (1) It’s that simple really.
7 Deadly Sins oh my
Oh sure, the book, Twelve Steps, and Twelve Traditions suggest using the Seven Deadly Sins as a guideline. That sounds pretty awful, but when you look at them you may see that they make sense to you – they are pretty universal. They are:
- Sloth or procrastination
If those make sense to you by all means use them. Or keep it simple and use the guide in the Big Book. Or simply make a list of the things you remember today that you’ve done wrong in the past. Add the how-to information about the inventory in the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions which some find easier to understand and do.
Some people just start with the things that are bothering them most. Others make an attempt to do it year-by-year, or grade in school, or relationship by relationship. Sure you can use the various workbooks that are around, or you can stick to the basics in the Big Book and the 12 and 12.
It’s about our part
It’s so tempting to write about what they did wrong to us! And an entirely human impulse I think, but just the opposite of what’s intended in Step 4. We are to look for our part in the issue or incident.
Sometimes our part can seem pretty obscure and hard to find. It may boil down to the idea that while we certainly weren’t at fault when the incident occurred, we’ve hung on to the anger or fear, or blame much too long. That may be what we have to acknowledge for no matter what happened in the past, it’s our feelings about it now that count, and it is those current feelings that are getting in our way, acting as an excuse, today.
It can seem tricky at first. We’re so stuck in our story of what went wrong. That story is familiar and peculiarly, comfortable. It may be worth noting that Dr. Bob, one of AA’s co-founders, apparently completed all 6 Steps – the ones that evolved into the 12 we have today, in what must have been a very long afternoon and evening.
Now the step does ask us to be thorough, but like all things in Program, there is no such thing as perfection – at least none we can recognize. I like what a mentor of mine said about this step:
“Anne, doing a fourth step is like weeding a garden. The day you weed you’ll work really hard and the garden will look weed-free. Come back a day or two later and there will be more weeds. That’s life, and those new weeds can be handled with step ten.”
In other words, write your inventory, and yes writing seems to have some magic to it. Do it well but do it. Don’t get caught up in a way that keeps you writing your 4th Step for a year or more, or even more than a week or two. Step 10, which is where we continue to take inventory, will help us with new issues and when old issues resurface.
Step 5 – We Stop Hiding
Has there ever been an addict, to a substance or a behavior, that didn’t try to hide their actions? Hiding is one of the characteristics of an addict and Step 5 is where we begin to move out of the place of keeping shameful secrets and into healing and freedom.
That new openness starts with letting someone else know all of what we uncovered in Step 4.
But first, it’s you and your higher power
Okay, you admitted a whole bunch about yourself as you wrote your inventory. As part of your preparation for Step 5, take a few moments and re-read your inventory in a thoughtful, even prayerful way. Acknowledge your current conception of high power as you do so. Notice how you feel as you read it to yourself.
You may find yourself tempted to strike out a portion or add an explanation that moves the blame from you to someone else. Don’t. The inventory is about you, period.
If you discover you left something out that needs to be included, by all means, do so, but you may not find anything. You may be ready for your 5th Step.
Finding the person for Step 5
You want to find someone you can read your 4th Step to out loud. Your sponsor may be an ideal choice. After all, they’ve already gotten to know you a bit, and they will understand exactly what you’re trying to do. If that feels right, pick up the phone and make an appointment to do just that. There’s nothing to be gained by putting it off, and a whole lot of good reasons to get it done.
Sometimes, however, you may want to do your 5th step with someone else. You want someone you know who will keep your inventory in confidence. A priest, pastor, or therapist might be ideal. Be sure they understand what you’re doing and are willing to hear what you have to tell them.
Don’t lay your 5th Step on a spouse or significant other, your parents, or any other relative. There’s no point in burdening them with this kind of detail about you. Find someone else – and there are lots of people at meetings that would be happy to hear you.
A 5th Step story I hope is true
Early on someone told this story:
A man I’ll call Sam understood he needed to do his 5th Step but was too frightened to give it to anyone he knew, even his sponsor. So he got on a bus and went all the way across town. Sam then got on another bus that was going in a whole different direction, and walked clear to the back where he sat next to a total stranger. Sam quickly told the guy what he was doing and read his inventory to this stranger just as quick as he could, then without ever looking the guy in the eye, exited the bus.
It took several bus rides for Sam to get home in time for his regular meeting. Feeling relived and rather proud of himself he made his way to the front row and sat down… only to realize the fellow he sat next to was the stranger he’d given his 5th Step to.
I have no idea at all if this story is true or not. I sure hope it is.
The 5th Step does feel frightening, at least until you do it. I suspect you will be pleasantly surprised and much relieved as you take this step toward becoming Powerfully Recovered!
Balance it with a positive inventory
It can help if you balance your 4th Step with at least a short positive inventory after you’ve done your 5th Step. This isn’t spelled out quite this way in the Big Book, but the 12 and 12 do say in the 10th step that “…inventory-taking is not always done in red ink. ” (p. 92)
And finding some good things about you may not be easy right now. When my sponsor sent me home to write a list of what was okay about me all I could write at the top of the page was “I tried to be good.” Not much, but enough to keep me from feeling I was just awful. A little bit of self-worth is better than none at all I think.
Step 6 – Getting Ready to Let Go
I felt some relief once I’d completed my 5th Step. I thought I was pretty smart. Little did I realize that, at least for me, Step 6 was going to be the toughest step for me, both in the beginning and subsequently. As I recall, I read the step in the 12 and 12, said a brief prayer like ‘God please remove my defects of character,’ and went on my merry way.
It wasn’t long before life felt like my life was going straight downhill. I wasn’t tempted to drink or use it, but I got more and more miserable. I didn’t have a clue why and eventually went crying to my sponsor.
Look closely at Step 6
“Take a closer look at the 6th Step,” he suggested. Which wasn’t what I wanted to hear. A few days later I was unhappy enough to follow his suggestion.
Towel and 12 and 12 in hand I headed for the beach. I began to read, fairly sure I wouldn’t find my answer, but I did!
I didn’t want to let go
What I discovered is that I wasn’t ready to let go and let God. Oh, I was delighted not to be drinking, but I thought that should be enough or mostly.
I’d written a 4th Step and a whole lot of it was about my relationships – my sexual relationships as well as non-sexual ones. I’d confessed I wasn’t wrapped too tightly in that area. Although I didn’t understand it then, I expected falling in love with someone who said they loved me back would solve all my problems.
At that point all I could see was I was going to have to get rid of lust. I didn’t want to. I was sure if I asked God to remove my lust I’d end up celibate in a rehab house – you’ll hear this more than once from me.
I couldn’t sit still so I began to pace in the sand, unwilling, arguing with God. I had some sense that if I let go of everything I’d disappear – kind of like being transported to a planet in the old Star Trek series – but there wouldn’t be any planet for me to re-materialize on.
Eventually, I walked home feeling like I was staggering.
Willing to be willing
The way I recall it I decided I’d rather be celibate in that rehab than drink. So I asked God to remove my lust.
You know, I look back at that and wonder at my drama – but that’s how it was them.
That willingness, however, was enough. Things began to turn around – not quickly, and not smoothly. Sometimes I had to ask for the willingness to be willing to let go. Sometimes I had to back up and ask for the willingness to be willing to be willing… you may recognize that.
And no, I didn’t end up celibate in that rehab house – not even close. I’ve discovered life is rarely that dramatic.
So much of this Program is about the willingness that we started in Step 3 and it’s perfectly okay if we’re not willing to begin with – we just have to somehow get willing to be willing.
It is about progress and getting willing is definite progress.
Step 7 – Letting Go Requires Humility & Acceptance
Step 7 is one of those Steps that has two parts. The first part is about humility; the second is about acceptance.
The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions defines humility as “the desire to seek and do God’s will.” (p. 72)
We tend, however, to confuse this simple statement about humility with notions about humiliation and shame. Dictionary.com agrees that the synonyms of humiliation are: “degradation, dishonor. See shame.” Getting stuck in humiliation and shame can be considered the antithesis of humility – the simple desire to seek and do our Higher Power’s will for us.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that shame and humiliation are considered by many, including me, to be shortcomings we need to let go of because they keep us from using the gifts we’ve been given. For example, if I were to deny I’m a good writer and that I’ve been a pretty fair steward of the talent that was given me I’d be denying the gift I’ve been given by Spirit. It would be a false humility.
The “desire to seek and do God’s will” is, after all quite simple, and again, it’s about our willingness. We don’t have to have all the answers, we don’t have to act in some ideal way or have only certain kinds of thoughts. All we have to do is be willing, right here and right now to let go of our shortcomings.
Back when I was first getting sober an old timer used to bang on the table every Saturday saying something like “You’ve got to accept it just as it is!” He’d continue expressing his experience that acceptance was the key to this business of letting go and letting God. He’d point out that if you had truly accepted whatever it was you were trying to let go of it would be gone in an instant, and if it hadn’t disappeared you hadn’t fully accepted it, saying “Of its action it will change.”
I thought he’d drive me mad! Week after week I had no clue what he was talking about, until around a year later, I got it. It goes back to Step 6. Implicit in being entirely ready is the acceptance we need.
Steps 6 and 7 in many ways mirror Step 1. Until I’d accepted I was an alcoholic, with no reservations whatsoever, I continued to get drunk. It wasn’t until that acceptance, that hitting bottom, that sobriety was even possible for me. Apparently, this is also true for the less dramatic character defects we have. At least I’ve found it so.
Step 8 – It Is Just A List… At First
Like so many Steps, Step 8 comes in two parts. The first is easy. Easy, that is if you’ve done your 4th Step. As you looked at your shortcomings certain people came to mind; you’ll probably need to make amends to most of those.
It’s just a list
And that’s what you’re doing in the first part – making a list.
Write down those names. Some people write the list in the same notebook they did in the 4th Step. Some make a list on their computer using either a word processing program like Word® or a spreadsheet. The form doesn’t matter as long as you do get it written down in some place you won’t lose it.
You might even want to write a one or two-word description of what you owe amends for next to each name, but the chances are that won’t be necessary.
I found it helpful to put people in categories, like Financial, Romance, Friends, Business, Family, etc., but that isn’t necessary if you don’t want to do it that way. A simple list is just fine. It turned out that the categories just showed me more of what my inventory had taught me.
Be thorough, but don’t drive yourself crazy. Don’t leave anyone out on purpose, but if you miss someone know you can add them to the list any time.
The second part of Step 8 is becoming willing to make amends to every single person on the list. Yes, the same will we’ve been talking about all along.
I found I was willing to make amends to some of the people on my list without any problem. Others were a bit more difficult. My sponsor suggested I move on to Step 9 and begin the process of making amends to those I was willing to contact. But he didn’t let me skip the rest.
There were, for example, my parents, particularly my dad. I was furious with him and for a while I could only see the problems he’d caused and not my part in any of it. Yet our 4th Step suggests we take responsibility for our part in every transaction.
So I prayed for the willingness. I prayed for the willingness to be willing, and gradually, grudgingly it came. I’ll tell you exactly how that worked out in Step 9.
Step 8 is really about accepting responsibility for the wrong we’ve done through our addiction. We may have apologized many times before, but never while working a Program and staying abstinent.
When we were practicing our addiction to whatever behavior or substance we were addicted to we avoided responsibility like the plague, always either ignoring the issues entirely or placing the blame on others. Or we’d wallow in self-pity still feeling like it was the world that was against us. We never could make the connection between acting out our addiction and the stuff that kept happening to us.
Now we’re beginning to heal, and Step 8 is a significant part of moving toward healing.
Step 9 – It’s Time To Apologize
Here the goal is to take real responsibility for our actions by sincerely apologizing to those we’ve hurt – every one of them! We’re to go further and work to make the situation right. You already know who you need to make amends to because you put the list together in Step 8.
It’s a scary step to be sure. Rarely are we looking forward to facing a friend, a boss, an ex-spouse, a child, a parent, or a person we’ve hurt with our actions and inactions, let alone paying the debt owed, whether it’s money or something else. But if we’re to stay free of our addiction this step, like the others, is a must.
Possible excuses to avoid Step 9
The first place people are apt to try to skip this step is because of the “wherever possible” phrase. While there may be instances where an apology in person may not be possible. We might, for example, owe amends to someone who is dead, or to someone who now lives far away. A letter to the deceased, even though not deliverable in any usual sense, can go a long way toward helping you accept your actions and move on. A phone call to those you’re not able to see in person can work wonders, if and when you pick up the phone.
If they would be harmed
The other phrase that may seem like an escape cause is “… except when to do so would injure them or others.” Notice first that this isn’t about any injury you might suffer as a result of standing up and admitting what you’ve done. This truly is a no-excuses program!
And yes, there are a few situations where making amends might cause harm to the person involved or to others. In the first instance, the Big Book uses the example of a straying spouse and suggests that if they don’t know about the infidelity amends might cause them great pain. (p. 81) The problem is that spouses often know more than we suspect – be sure of your ground.
On page 81, the Big Book tells the story of a man who, if he made amends, risked going to jail. He was advised to consult with his family first since going to prison would make life difficult for the family. In other words, his family would be harmed. As it turns out, his wife encouraged him to do what he needed to do, and although he made the amends he didn’t go to jail, but by inviting his family into the decision he was within the guidelines of Step 9.
If you’re one of the few that are in such a situation, approach your amends with caution. Consult with people in the Program who have had similar experiences. But get your amends done.
Get it done
It’s so tempting to postpone this step, perhaps forever. After all, the Big Book doesn’t spell out a timeline for the steps. Old-timers, however, urge that we get the steps done as quickly as we can, including Step 9.
Sure it’s scary. The idea of actually facing someone you’ve hurt and apologizing is frightening, especially since there’s no guarantee our apology will be accepted. But there’s no real reason to postpone Step 9 either. Get it done and move on – there’s so much more to life, and working on Step 9 is a major part of it.
Step 10 – Staying Honest With Yourself
Steps 10, 11, and 12 are often referred to as the “maintenance steps.” The thinking is by the time you work the first 9 your recovery has a solid start. You’ve begun to feel the power of becoming recovered through the Program. Our work then becomes maintaining and growing the gift of recovery we’ve been given. It starts with self-honesty.
Cultivating the self-honesty habit
Step 10 is about staying honest with ourselves, daily. The idea is that if we handle problems when they happen and they’re small they won’t have a chance to get big. If I make a mistake with someone and apologize right away neither person will have a chance to let the incident build to resentment or worse.
Some people write out a brief inventory every evening. I’ve done this off and on and it works, but I’ve yet to sustain it for any length of time. Instead, I work to stay present. Being in the moment seems to let me either avoid problems or notice them quickly. Once I’m aware of something I’ve done wrong I can work to rectify it right away.
What’s been working?
One good way to do a quick inventory I’ve found is to notice what’s working and what’s not. When I find something that’s working well I do more of it, or be sure I make space for it. On the other hand, when I notice something isn’t working I stop it! It can be that simple.
Of course, sometimes I have to dig more deeply. This is particularly true when I find myself resenting someone. Resentments seem to last over time unless I take action to let them go.
For example, there’s a gal in one of my meetings that seems to want to control everything. She used to drive me to distraction and I resented her. Kind of weird when you think about it. I don’t like some of her behavior so I let myself get into a dangerous place. That’s not her fault.
A little bit of self-honesty showed me that I too like to control! I have learned to control that in many ways. What’s going on with this woman is I see a part of myself I don’t like. Once I understood that I was able to realize that when I want to control it’s because I’m afraid instead of trusting. Now I have some genuine compassion for her. That’s the 10th Step in action.
It’s not only resentment that may need some concentrated attention. I find it’s worthwhile working a 10th on any recurring problem.
Not all in red ink
The 12 and 12 tell us on page 93 that “…inventory-taking is not always done in red ink.” I’ve found it helpful to balance any negative with a positive.
Most of us do way more good than we tend to notice. As we said in Step 7 real humility is “…the desire to seek and do God’s will.” (p. 72) We’re good at our jobs or we keep a neat home or we act responsibly with our children, or we donate money to worthy causes, or we help set up 12 Step meetings – the list goes on and on.
It only makes sense to pay attention to what we do right as well as what we do wrong. When we pay attention to what we want more of we often get it.
Step 11 – The Contact That’s Always There
The second of the maintenance Steps, 10, 11, and 12, is our invitation to deepen our connection with our Higher Power whatever that may be for us.
When we read the step closely it becomes obvious that It is always somehow in contact with us. Our job is simply to become more aware of that contact.
Both prayer and meditation are age-old methods of improving our awareness. Both are found in all spiritual traditions, although some emphasize one more than the others.
Prayer is asking
One way to define prayer is as “a devout petition to God or an object of worship.”
The Step spells out exactly what we are to ask for when we pray – an understanding of what our Higher Power might want for us, that’s all. We’re not to beg or plead or ask for specifics, just to know what God’s will is for us.
I can remember complaining to my sponsor, “…but how will I know? How am I supposed to know what answer I’m getting to that prayer?”
He took a few moments and explained that when we’re in alignment we feel a “hum.” I had no idea then what he was talking about; today I figure if things are going well I’m probably doing what the Universe wants me to do. I recognize that “hum” he was talking about although I experience it more as serenity and calm than anything else.
Meditation might be called getting present
Dictionary.com defines meditation as:
“continued or extended thought; reflection; contemplation.”
That works. So does the comment Rev. Guy Williams once made to a group I was in. ‘If you know how to worry, you know how to meditate.”
There have been untold words written about meditation and how to do it. I spent a lot of years trying this and that. Finally, in yet another class, Rev. Kevin Bucy simply invited me (and the class) to set aside a few minutes every morning to read something spiritual. We were to read until something struck us as interesting or important or worth thinking about and then sit for a few more minutes thinking about or contemplating that.
That worked reasonably well, but my mind kept drifting. What I didn’t understand until I began to study Buddhism at the Sweetwater Zen Center came to understand. I was taught and experienced that my mind would drift – that’s what minds do. All that’s required when I notice my mind has run off to pay bills or wonder about the future or the past or whatever is to simply come back to breathe. The breath, in this case, is the “object” of my meditation.
Now I know that many things, including love, happiness, anger, my gratitude, etc., etc., etc. can be an object of meditation. I also know that although the Buddhists certainly know a great deal about meditation they aren’t the only ones who do.
For example, the Sufis, the mystical arm of Islam, talk about remembrance which I learned from Mark Silver who runs Heart of Business. Two mp3 files at http://www.heartofbusiness.com/2009/guided-remembrance/ will give you a direct experience of this wonderful practice.
Christianity of course also has a long tradition of meditation that has gotten a bit lost to many these days. An overview of some of the Christian meditation traditions can be found in The Voice in the Stillness. There are many other sites.
American Indians have a meditation tradition as do the Hindus. In fact like all faiths, Hindus have a wide variety of meditation traditions.
The point is you can, if you’re willing, find a meditation technique or tradition that works for you. Dare to do some exploring and find what fits.
The power to carry that out
We begin in Step 1 admitting we are powerless; in Step 11 we ask for power to carry out our Higher Power’s will for us. Although we are not cured of our addiction we no longer practice it. We have been restored to sanity and begin once again to move in the world we were unable to move in while we were practicing. Now we practice abstaining and living life.
In a very real way, we have come full circle.
Of course, there’s more. There always is.
Step 12 – Putting It All Together
In most 12-Step Programs when people talk about 12 Stepping they refer to carrying the 12-Step message to others who suffer from addiction. Certainly reaching out to help others is an important part of this Step, but it’s only a part.
There are four parts to Step 12:
- A spiritual awakening.
- Working all 12 Steps.
- Carrying the message.
- Practicing the principles.
A spiritual awakening
The exact nature of a spiritual awakening means something different to almost everyone in the Program. According to Bill’s Story (p,1 in the Big Book, one of our founders had the kind of experience that some refer to as the “room lights up” happening.
Mine has been more of the” educational variety” spoken of in the chapter, Spiritual Experience on page 567. I’ve gradually become more and more aware of what I call Spirit and found much of it, not all, inside myself.
I’ve explored various churches and systems and gained from each one.
As near as I can tell our real job is to stay open to that still small voice, however it appears for us.
Working all 12 Steps
The opening phrase, “having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps…” makes it crystal clear our solution is in working all the Steps. Which, not so by the way, come in order. And, if Dr. Bob’s story which begins on p. 171, is to be believed, they can all be worked in a long afternoon and evening.
I’ve been part of Step Studies that complete all 12 in as little as six weeks. I’ve dropped out of one that had me working Step 4 for weeks – I found myself mired down in negativity that felt more self-indulgent than helpful.
In other words, in my experience, there is no reason to delay. Or to take a great deal of time to work on each step. They become part of a lifetime practice.
Carrying the message
This is where we reach out to help others who suffer from the same addiction we’ve suffered from. Because we have so much in common with them it’s much more likely they will be able to hear what we have to say.
Although carrying the message is part of Step 12, I went along with others on 12 Step calls within the first few weeks of my sobriety. I don’t remember if we convinced the drunks in question to try an AA meeting, but it sure helped keep me on track.
In my other programs, I’ve put my name down as being willing to be called pretty quickly. I’ve always been careful not to do 12 Step work alone, even now, unless it’s just answering a phone call. But service continues to be an integral part of my recovery.
Practicing the principles
Neither the Big Book nor the 12 and 12 have a list of principles, not as such. But we have 12 Steppers love lists!
If you google something like What are the principles of the 12-step program you’ll get many pages listing 12 principles, each of which corresponds to one of the steps. The history of this list is unclear. And I’ve never been sure such a list is particularly useful.
What is clear is that if we’re working the Steps, if we let our lives be guided by the Steps, we will be practicing the principles embodied in them.
There’s a lot of material to think about in Step 12. In many ways, it sums up both the promises and the Steps of our Program.
With Deliberate Speed
With Deliberate Speed