This question has been on my mind a lot lately – “Why don’t I work the Steps?”
Is working the Steps really that difficult?
Does it take too much of my “precious” time?
If my life were dependent on whether or not I worked the Steps of Recovery, would I work them?
It’s easy to say I would.
But isn’t it true that my life does depend on working the Steps?
After all, I know from sad experience that if I don’t stay sober and practice recovery, I will eventually lose everything that’s most important to me. Isn’t that really what life is about – family, friends, and real relationships?
Why, at the end of every SAL meeting, do I say, with everyone else, “It works when I work it, so work it, you’re worth it?”
What does that really mean?
Do I really believe this statement or am I’m just “going through the motions?”
Why Work the Steps?
Why do the recovery materials encourage us so much to work the Steps?
What do they do for us?
In my experience, working the Steps of Recovery is a way I can choose, in this moment, to put God’s will before my own (Step 3).
Working the Steps is a way I can recognize, one day at a time, that my life is truly unmanageable (Step 1).
Working the Steps can help me connect with God through surrender, prayer, and meditation (Step 11).
Working the Steps can give me insights on things I can share with sponsees that are new to sobriety and recovery (Step 12).
Working the Steps can help me recognize my character defects, surrender them to God and others, and ask for forgiveness when I make mistakes (Step 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10).
Working the Steps, for me, is all about real connection – the same connection I thought I was getting my whole life when looking at pornography and living in my addiction.
Today I recognize the lie I’ve been telling myself and believing for too long…
Another good question and one I don’t know the “right” answer to.
Does working the Steps require that I read recovery literature every day?
Does working the Steps mean that I have to write out how I’m feeling and how what I’ve read applies to me today?
Does it need to be a formal thing I make time for each day, or is doing a check-in with my wife, taking calls, and reaching out to others “working the Steps” as well?
Is going to meetings enough sometimes?
I really don’t know the answer.
But, I do know this: when I feel like I’m getting complacent, when I feel like the addictive behaviors are coming back (easy to anger, impatient, defensive, combative, irritable, lazy, overly tired, fearful, etc.), it’s usually because I’ve started believing that reading and writing aren’t really crucial to working the Steps – I’m good by just doing the minimum (or nothing at all).
For me, reading and writing are an essential part of truly working the Steps, and, without those components, I find myself coasting. And as one brother said in a meeting once, “The only way to coast is downhill…”
I don’t believe that there is a right way to work the Steps, but I believe this statement from the White Book:
“Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path.” (p. 206)
What is that path?
The Big Book says it pretty clearly:
“Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates…They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty.” (p. 58)
“If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it – then you are ready to take certain steps.
“At some of these we balked. We thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not….” (p. 58)
“Half measures availed us nothing.” (p. 59)
“Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery.” (p. 59)
It then lists the 12 Steps.
And this gives me hope as well:
“Many of us exclaimed, ‘What an order! I can’t go through with it.’ Do not be discouraged. No one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles. We are not saints. The point is, that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.” (p. 60, bold added)
It seems pretty straightforward. Progress, not perfection. But doing nothing, to me, isn’t progress…
Some of the Reasons I Might Not Work the Steps
In an effort to try to be honest and clear my mind, I put together a list of potential reasons I may not work the Steps on a consistent basis.
Out of curiosity, I turned it into a survey that I’d love for you to fill out as well. You can remain anonymous, put in an email like firstname.lastname@example.org, but I’d appreciate your honest feedback.
The hope is that, together, we can figure out the barriers we’re not willing to let go of and give them up to our Higher Power.
The hope is that, by doing this, working the Steps will become something we really can’t live without.
I look forward to your feedback and thoughts.
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