The Twelve Steps - A program designed to replace the addiction by attaining a spiritual (not a religious) awakening brought on by:
- Admitting powerlessness, believing there is help and accepting it (Steps 1,2,3)
- Becoming aware of one’s inventory and sharing it (Steps 4&5)
- Becoming aware of and developing one’s character (Steps 6&7)
- Becoming aware of one’s harms and rectifying them (Steps 8&9)
- Maintaining the spiritual awakening by personal inventory, prayer and service (Steps 10, 11,12,)
Note: These are the steps we do in my home group.
Do written 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th steps. Why? Because this is a program for people who want it, not people who need it.
Click here to download a Word doc of the 12 steps: /media/AA/AQ/esoberbuddy-com/downloads/148623/Steps.doc
A great study guide and cross reference for all steps is provided by Herb K: https://dk-media.s3.amazonaws.com/AA/AQ/esoberbuddy-com/downloads/285237/AABigBookStepStudyAssignment.pdf (For the other two books mentioned in the cross reference see: http://www.herbk.com/)
Step 1 - I admit I am powerless over my compulsive behavior and that my life has become unmanageable.
I buy a new notebook. At the top of the first page I write the first question from the list of First Step questions below. I then write two or three of the first things that enter my head, and then let it go. On the second page, I do the same thing with the second question. Anything at all from my subconscious mind will work. I do all 13 questions in one sitting: I leave it alone for a day or so and make a second pass through all 13 questions. A day or so later, I make a third pass and I am done.
Probably the most important thing I do here is to Keep It Simple. It also doesn’t hurt to pray before I start and ask my Higher Power to help me. It’s only a suggestion of course and as you know “ You can tell an addict, but you can’t tell her much.” I then read what I’ve written to my sponsor or to my 12-step group if they are open to hearing first steps.
POWERLESSNESS - What does it look like in my life?
How many times and in how many ways have I tried to stop or control my behavior?
How have I been dishonest with others and myself and how have I tried to hide these behaviors?
How have I tried to justify, rationalize or explain my behaviors to others and myself?
UNMANAGEABILITY - What does it look like in my life?
How has my compulsive behavior affected the following aspects of my life?
My physical health?
My mental health?
My relationship with myself?
My integrity, self-respect and self-esteem?
My relationships with family and friends?
My financial situation?
HITTING BOTTOM - What specific event in my life has convinced me that I’ve hit bottom and that I cannot continue to live as I have been living?
Step 2 - Came to believe that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity.
If God is really who God claims to be and can do what God claims She can do, then what I want to do is imagine what it would be like in my wildest imagination if I were actually restored to sanity. How would my life look? I’m very specific and I make use of the 1st step questions to guide me, and once again, I make several passes through all the 13 questions, yet trying not to write War and Peace. I do stretch here, give God the benefit of the doubt, and let myself be creative with my hope. That’s appropriate here.
Step 3 - Made a decision to turn my will and life over to the care of God, as I understood God.
Having become honest with my powerlessness and hopeful about my sanity, I then need to look at
What I am willing to surrender in order to be restored to sanity?
What I am willing to accept in order to be restored to sanity?
So I look back at my 2nd step listings and ask myself:
What’s holding me back from being this way and am I willing to surrender this?
What is it that I cannot change and am I willing to accept this?
The prayers (See Prayers chapter) become very useful now. I begin to love myself here. For me, it took many people a lot of years loving me before I could effectively love myself. My many sponsors, friends, and anonymous people in meetings being positive, gentle, accepting me exactly like I was...day in and day out. As we say, “You loved me until I could love myself.” Two tools I’ve found especially useful to me are:
Giving myself full credit for my successes.
It’s amazing what some courage and a little hope will do for me. And I’m thankful to all those people who taught me how to do this.
Back to the list: If you tell me, as an addict, that the simple act of putting pen to paper can change my whole, I’ll stubbornly refuse. However, once I’m willing and start, I can’t stop - I’m an addict! So I tell my sponsorees to make a list of six things they’re willing to surrender and six things they’re willing to accept. Then let go.
Step 3 1/2 - I do God’s will.
I made this Step up and have found it useful. After I’ve turned my life and will over to the care of God I then decide I will do God’s will. God’s will for me is most clearly manifest in what feels like the feminine part of the program to me: the Slogans. And they are:
One Day At A Time
To Thine Own Self Be True
Keep It Simple
First Things First
This Too Shall Pass
Easy Does It
Let Go and Let God
Be Gentle With Yourself
Live and Let Live
There But For The Grace of God Go I
How Important Is It?
H.A.L.T (Don’t get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired)
Act As lf
If It Is To Be, It’s Up to Me
Take Care of Yourself
This is God’s universal will which (until I get to the constant use of the 11th Step) is about all I can handle at this point.
Step 4 - Made a fearless and searching moral inventory of myself.
I’ve done this Step in many ways, but of all the programs and the methods I’ve ever used, the Big Book’s suggestions are still the most effective method in my experience. There’s something about listing my fears on one page and my resentments on another that, if I’m thorough, will get me into the moment. When I did my 5th Step in Al-Anon, I did it with a woman who knew and had pictures of herself with Bill and Lois Wilson (pretty impressive, huh?). As I shared my fears (the future) and my resentments (the past), I suddenly felt, for the first time, being in the moment and I knew what eternal life was. Pretty cool stuff. Keep It Simple. Write fears on one page and resentments on another.
I also need to inventory my sexual behavior. I always feel annoyed at how this section is so shyly underused. You know, Sigmund Freud was not a complete idiot. My sex life is the most sensitive barometer I have about what’s going on with me, with others, and me and with God and me. In my sexual inventory, I “subject each relation to this test--is it selfish or not?” That’ll pretty much hammer the truth down for me. I then “ask God to mold my ideals and help me live up to them”. I then “must be willing to grow toward it” (Big Book, p. 69). That’s a tall order. The area that gets the least inventoried in my experience is masturbation. But “half measure availed us nothing” You either want this program or you don’t. I DO!
Step 5 - Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
This is not written. I share the Fourth Step with someone who loves me and who I can trust. I bring to the light every ugly dark secret I have and every shiny diamond about my character, too (just to make sure I’m not delusional about my wonderfulness). There’s a lot of relief and love in this step.
Step 6 - Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
For years I would just simply pray this Step, interjecting whatever character defect might be working on at the time, followed by the 7th Step. For example, a prayer could run something like this: “I am entirely ready to have You remove my defect of character of selfishness and I humbly ask you to remove this shortcoming.” This and the 7th step are sometimes called the “forgotten steps” in part, I believe, because the Big Book only deals with them for a paragraph each. One useful suggestion I’ve found is to announce in meetings that I’m asking God to remove this or that defect of character. I feel my shame lifted and I feel loved when I do this.
However, the best way to do Step Six is to make two lists on a single page. On the first list, I write my Character Assets and on the adjacent list I write my Character Defects. I list one row at a time only. That is, I don’t list another character defect until I’ve listed another character asset. This is harder to do than it first appears. I have been negative for so long that for many years I believed I was being honest when I was being negative and I thought that being positive was some candy-assed self-delusion that was useless and time consuming. Now I know that I’m practicing the principle of courage when I’m honest about my assets.
Step 7 - Humbly asked God to remove all these shortcomings.
After I’ve listed my assets and defects, I create short prayers, which are antidotal to my defects. For example, if I have the defect of cowardice (feeling fear and acting on that feeling), then I pray, “God is giving me a courageous heart.” If my character defect is lust, I pray, “God is giving me a satisfied heart.” The prayers are individual, but I must do my part. This is not magic. I usually do this step on two or three defects of character for about three or four months at a time.
Note: removal of character defects is similar to stopping an addiction in that there is pain involved. The pain of withdrawal from an addiction is real...so is the removal of character defects. There will be pain. Here is where “a measure of humility, which we discovered to be a healer of pain.” (Twelve and Twelve, p. 75) is useful. I love what the Twelve and Twelve (p.149) describes as “the very acme of humility”: being able to laugh at myself. It does good like a medicine... Frankly, if you haven’t got joy, you haven’t got anything I want.
Step 8 - Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends of them all.
I’m astonished whenever I Step sponsor someone that the list of harmed people can fill a hard disk but never does the addict have her name on the list. I’m always astonished. So I insist that the addict’s name appear first on the list. Then, I get my sponsorees to make a separate list of the ways they have hurt themselves. I ask for thoroughness and care.
A couple of useful ways for me to determine if I’ve harmed others are:
Do I feel guilty about how I behaved around that person; and
If that person did that to me, would I feel injured?
I make a list of anyone this might apply to: family members, co-workers, friends, God, institutions. I’ve even seen pets appear on this list.
Step 9 - Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
To love myself as I love others is God’s will, but how I implement it is my will, which I use fully, passionately, and creatively now that I am in rhythm with God’s will. To make direct amends to myself, I take simple antidotal actions of love myself (after I see on my list what I’ve done to myself in Step 8). The antidotes can range from committing to work the Steps, calling more people on the phone, seeking professional help, encouraging myself, giving myself full credit, having a positive attitude, forgiving myself, having an attitude of gratitude to buying myself new clothes. I am creative. I am loving. Here’s the place to use it.
To make direct amends to another, I call the person I’ve harmed, after I’ve gotten clearance from my sponsor, request to meet with that person, and say, “I was doing the wrong thing, I admit it, and I make direct amends.” I ask the person if they will look me in the eye and forgive me. I keep it simple.
When it is not possible to make direct amends, sometimes I write letters to the persons I’ve harmed which I do not send. Sometimes I pray for people and say to the Universe what I would if I were there with that person. I keep it simple, honest, and I let it go. The best amends I can make to another is a “living amends” which means I simply stop doing that behavior to anyone.
Step 10 - Continued to take personal inventory and when I was wrong, promptly admitted it.
There are several ways I practice this step. Every night I journal what I’ve done that day, what I’m feeling, prayers to H.P., prayers to myself--anything that I do, feel, or think. If I’m disturbed, I look back and try to find where I was wrong, what my part in it was, and I change my behavior.
I also do a “spot check” inventory by simply asking myself how do I feel. I can usually list at least half a dozen ways I’m feeling. Then if necessary, I ask myself why I’m feeling that way. That’s how I stay intimate with myself. Once again, if I’ve done something wrong, I change my behavior.
Another way I practice this step is if I perceive that I have hurt someone (whether I was right or wrong), I make immediate amends to him or her. I say, “When I did that I was doing the wrong thing and I make amends to you...” and I ask them to look me in the eye and forgive me. That’s news for me because I used to believe that if I were “right” I didn’t need to ask for forgiveness. Now I understand that if I love someone and I hurt him or her, it doesn’t matter whether or not I’m right or wrong.
The last way I practice this step is by taking three objects (stuffed animals work nicely, but so do three fingers) and “enroll,” that is, say that one object represents the child part of me, one object represents the adolescent part of me, and one object represents the adult part of me. I then allow full freedom from the various parts (actually the various stages of my personal development) to converse freely. I’m stunned at how quickly and effectively I can inventory what’s going on with me in an honest way. Once again, if I’ve hurt myself or someone else, I make amends and change my behavior.
Step 11 - Sought through prayer and meditation to improve my conscious contact with God, as I understood God, praying only for the knowledge of God’s will for me and the power to carry that out.
I love this Step and practice it without ceasing.
For prayer, I have sixteen set prayers I use (see chapter on Prayers) and I improvise a lot. My Higher Power and I have an understanding: I can say absolutely anything I want or need to say in prayer. My Higher Power loves me and is delighted, joyous and grateful simply to hear from me as any good, genuine, and healthy mother or father would be. So, I have complete freedom for any words, and any feelings, at any time. And I never stop.
I like the set prayers because when I’m in a self-destructive mental place, I can literally change my mind with prayer. I also like praying corporately. My experience is that there is nothing in the world more intimate that praying with someone. So I generally say set prayers with friends and then we improvise. I also chant. The Twelve and Twelve refers to this in the 11th step. I chant the slogans, or an affirming prayer like the short 7th Step prayers mentioned earlier; but my personal favorite is the 2nd Step. I’ll chant that for 45 minutes while I’m jogging and when I’m done, I feel in harmony with my mind and body. It’s wonderful.
About meditation: I do formal meditation for about 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes at night. I’ve been doing that for about a year now, and it helps me to go to sleep at night. I simply pay attention to my breathing and then surrender my thoughts or feelings that come up for me. I also meditate in meetings. I close my eyes and just listen to what’s going on. When I connect with something someone is sharing, I know I’m in the presence of God.
I’ve also tried directed meditation guided by a therapist or group leader, meditation audiotapes, and creative visualizations. While I enjoy them, I find the simpler methods more useful to me. I also read the literature a lot and can find things that are inspiring to me, and that is potent for me as meditation.
Step 12 - Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other compulsive people and practice these principles in all our affairs.
The 12th Step says, “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps. That’s what I’m looking for, a spiritual awakening. How do I get it? Meetings, being sponsored, sponsoring others, reading the literature, praying, meditating, feeling feelings, and singing (for me!). The Sexaholics call this Step Zero. All these are part of it, but the spiritual awakening comes from working the steps. That’s what it says. And it’s true. Once I’ve had that spiritual awakening, I carry that message to others. Not the message or the Big message; but simply that I have had a spiritual awakening as a result of working the Steps.
Now I believe in sharing experience, strength, and hope, but that’s not 12-Stepping and I believe in loving and accepting people as they are; but that, too, is not 12-Stepping. I carry a simple message: I’ve had a spiritual awakening. How did I get it? “As a result of these Steps.” Period. My grandiosity wants it to be more, but it’s not. It’s only the most unimaginable life and power that are available and it’s available to anyone who works the Steps.
Practicing these principles in all my affairs....Whew! What an order! The principles are:
Awareness of God
I practice Honesty by telling the truth to God, others, and myself. To make sure I’m not in D.E.N.I.A.L. (Don’t Even kNow I Am Lying), I check in with other safe people as to the exact nature of what’s going on with me and then when appropriate, ask for feedback.
I practice the principle of Hope every time I go to a meeting. Another way I practice this principle is to actually make a list about the things in my life that I feel hopeful about.
Faith is usually a principle I consciously need only when things are bad. I do my part, let go of the results, and then pray quietly to myself, “This Too Shall Pass” or “Trust God and Live One Day At A Time.” It gets me through the pain.
Courage for me comes in the form of confrontation. When I must set a boundary with someone else, the feeling I have is anger and then the fear of being abandoned if I am honest with that person. Sometimes I just have to Act As If and set the boundary. It’s funny, when I act with courage, I always feel more welcomed in the world.
Integrity is not just doing what I say and saying what I mean--that’s minimal. I need harmony among my mind, feelings, body, and spirit. How I achieve that is by taking care of myself.
Willingness is something I feel pretty blessed with. I have a marine-like quality to me that will just grab the bit with my teeth and just pull. On the other hand, like most addicts, in many things I become willing only when there is sufficient pain in my life. I have faith in that about me. When the pain gets too bad, I get willing and I get help.
Humility is something I misunderstood for along time. I associated it with humiliation, groveling, inability to take care of myself, unwillingness to express anger, hang dog, depressive, down in the mouth passive-aggressive, not worth the time of-day-ness that was really just the same low self-esteem. Being able to laugh at myself is the very acme of humility (Twelve and Twelve, p.149). That’s hard to do a lot of times. I always know when I’m in my disease because I’m over-serious. I often pray for God to “anoint me with the oil of joy.” I still can’t get over that God is funnier than me. It just doesn’t seem appropriately pious for God to be that way.
I feel embarrassed when I think of the principle of Brotherly Love. I practice this when I forgive, which I am not gifted at. I practice this when I confront my sponsorees who are in denial. I practice this when I pray for others.
Discipline is when I go to a meeting and I don’t feel like it, or bring things to the light that I feel fear and shame about or do written Step work which I personally never feel like doing.
Perseverance is when I’m doing my part when the whole world is falling apart and I don’t understand and I keep doing my part anyway.
Awareness of God. This I find particularly useful in opposite sex relationships (I’m heterosexual). My background is to objectify women, so I make a conscious effort to see the God in them. Generally, I notice that they take care of themselves. That’s godly in their part. And I always feel surprised when I notice the God in women because I was always taught that God was a man. Not true! Not true!
Service. This is the freedom principle. Not codependent caretaking, which is a disease all its own. Service to others, especially (but not exclusively) to other addicts is the most freeing act I can take for myself. Nothing keeps me sober better than working with others. This is the message that Bill carried to Dr. Bob. Service gives me the feeling that I always wanted but didn’t get when I was doing something addictive. I somehow get to be fully, creatively, passionately, freely, and joyously me when I serve others and I think God is pleased, too.