For those who do not have experience with a twelve step program, it can seem like more work than necessary. Many may wonder, “Why so many steps, isn’t it enough just to stop drinking or using drugs.” For those of us who have struggled with the disease of addiction, we understand that merely putting down the drink and/or drugs is only the beginning. Typically, this understanding only comes after we have attempted sobriety without the 12 steps and usually crash and burn in the process. Here we will break down each of the steps and discuss the importance of each.
Step 1. Admit that you are powerless & your life is unmanageable.
This is often the hardest step for users, but nevertheless it is the most important. If you cannot admit that there is a problem and that you need help, you will never put in the work in attaining sobriety. You will hear quite often in the rooms of AA & NA, the only step you have to work perfectly is the first. Meaning, if you do not pick up the first drink or drug, you have a better chance of dealing with whatever life throws at you.
Step 2. Come to Believe in a higher power.
This can be viewed as a controversial step, especially to those who are not religious, however, people are encouraged to define “higher power” for themselves. While some may mistake a 12 step program as a religious one, it is instead a spiritual program. All this step really asks is that the person become open-minded to concept of a power greater than themselves…and the most beautiful piece; it is a power of your own conception!
“When, therefore, we speak to you of God, we mean your own conception of God. This applies, too, to other spiritual expressions which you find in this book. Do not let any prejudice you may have against spiritual terms deter you from honestly asking yourself what they mean to you.” –A.A Big Book, page 47
Step 3. Make a decision to turn your will over to that Higher Power.
Turning our will over to God or a Higher Power can seem overwhelming and even confusing for the newcomer. Please do not be discouraged. In simple terms, this step asks that we, at the very least, become willing to turn our thoughts and actions over to a Higher Power. Meaning, we give up control, find acceptance in what is, and ultimately, we STOP playing God!!
Step 4. Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of one’s self.
This is where the vigorous action begins to take place. Step 4 focuses on taking a look at what is blocking us from our Higher Power, the causes and conditions to our alcoholism and/or drug addiction; the substance of choice is merely a symptom of a greater condition. During this step, we look at our resentments, what areas in our life in which they affect, but most importantly, we take a hard look at OUR PART in those resentments. This part is crucial to survival, because for an alcoholic to hold onto anger is equivalent to them drinking poison.
Step 5. Admit to God, yourself, and another the nature of your wrongs.
Some addicts make an art form of deceiving themselves, and others, into thinking things are OK. Admitting wrongs to another person can be a humbling experience. In Step 5, the individual discloses their truths of Step 4 with their Higher Power and another human being because in order to live happily, we must be entirely honest with someone. The book of Alcoholics Anonymous stresses the importance of this vital step, which many have failed to realize over time, “Time after time newcomers have tried to keep to themselves certain facts about their lives. Trying to avoid this humbling experience, they have turned to easier methods. Almost invariably they got drunk.” –A.A. Big Book, page 72-73
Step 6. Become ready.
In Step 6, we review the work we have done so far with the first 5 steps. We review our defects and become willing to have our Higher Power remove them. Once again, please do not be discouraged. If you struggle to let go of something, like many of us have, that is when you turn back to your Higher Power for guidance. At this point, we ask for the willingness to let go.
Step 7. Humbly ask your higher power to remove your defects.
When we are ready, we then humbly ask our Higher Power to have all of us, both the good and the bad. We pray that he remove every defect that blocks us from continuing to practice His will.
In Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions it says, “The Seventh Step is where we make the change in our attitude which permits us, with humility as our guide, to move out from ourselves toward others and toward God.”
Step 8. Make a list of all persons harmed.
During this step, we again review the work we have done. Taking a look at those we have harmed, we make a list and become willing to make amends. Once again, if we are at all unwilling, we pray to our Higher Power until we are. Steps 8 and 9 are crucial to sobriety, because without recognizing and acknowledging our wrongs, it is nearly impossible for us to change our future behaviors and attitudes.
Step 9. Make amends.
Admitting our wrongdoings can help to heal emotional wounds, however, this should only be done in instances where it will not further injure someone. “After we have made a list of people we have harmed, have reflected carefully upon each instance, and have tried to possess ourselves of the right attitude in which to proceed, we will see that the making of direct amends divides those we should approach into several classes. There will be those who ought to be dealt with just as soon as we become reasonably confident that we can maintain our sobriety. There will be those to whom we can make only partial restitution, lest complete disclosures do them or others more harm than good. There will be other cases where action ought to be deferred, and still others in which by the very nature of the situation we shall never be able to make direct personal contact at all.” -Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
Furthermore, apologies alone are not enough, only a change in behavior and personality will prove evident of how we are now different. “The spiritual life is not a theory. We have to live it.” –A.A. Big Book, page 83.
Step 10. Continue to take personal inventory and set right any new wrongs.
Recovery is a lifelong undertaking. Step 10 asks us to continue taking a daily inventory, and if we have made any new mistakes, to make them right. We aren’t required to be perfect in sobriety. As we are only human, we may slip and fall, and that’s OK. Rely on your higher power to help you maintain the correct course.
Step 11. Pray and meditate.
Daily prayer and meditation helps to keep us grounded and serves as a way to develop a deep relationship with not only our higher power but ourselves. It is important to reflect on our daily activities and feelings, examining if we have harmed anyone, if we were resentful, fearful, self-seeking or dishonest. Were we thinking only of ourselves? “Or were we thinking of what we could do for others, of what we could pack into the stream of life?” –A.A. Big Book, page 86. When we look into the next 24 hours, we again ask our Higher Power to help us do his will. Many times throughout the day we may pray, “Thy will be done.”
Step 12. Help others.
We only keep what we have (sobriety) by giving it away. Meaning, we stay sober and continue on a spiritual journey by helping the next alcoholic or addict. “Life will take on new meaning. To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends – this is an experience you must not miss. We know you will not want to miss it. Frequent contact with newcomers and with each other is the bright spot of our lives.” -A.A. Big Book, page 89
Sobriety is really about trying to be the best version of yourself as possible, and when you fall, to try again tomorrow. When we walk hand in hand with a Higher Power, having faith that things are exactly how they are supposed to be for that moment, we will be okay. Sobriety isn’t about putting down the drink or drug. That is merely the beginning of our spiritual journey. Maintaining lasting sobriety and enjoying a life in recovery depends on the effort you are willing to put forth. Sobriety isn’t for those who want it, or need it…It is for those that are willing to do the work!
Contact Clearbrook Today
Are you or someone you love suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction? Clearbrook Treatment Centers can help. For over 4 decades, we have been providing effective treatment to those afflicted with alcoholism and chemical dependency. Please do not wait any longer to get the treatment you need, contact our Admissions Specialists today and see what sobriety has to offer.