This synopsis of the Twelve Steps is, I believe, attributed to Dr. Bob. The first three steps involve trusting God, four through eleven show me how to get my “house,” my mind, my life, in order and keep it that way, and Step Twelve tells me to help other people do the same.
I think catchy summaries like this are helpful when, sometimes, the Twelve Steps can seem like lots of complicated words and not-very-precise instructions. They are precise, and I’m very grateful, but there are a lot of words involved.
When I read some AA history (which I love to do) it seems to me that in early AA, a belief in a higher power was a kind of prerequisite. On the other hand, I’ve heard Bill W say in recordings of talks he gave that we can pray to a higher power as, if we need to, only an experiment. Belief was not a prerequisite.
I needed to believe that the collective wisdom of the sober people of AA was a power greater than me. That made sense and to me, it was obviously true. I can personally right here, right now, on my back porch on this summer morning, testify to the fact that I was an alcoholic of the hopeless variety. I was.
Now it has been twenty-six summers since I took my baby daughter to the gazebo pictured here. I brought her there when she couldn’t walk or talk or protect herself from anything, including her alcoholic mother. She didn’t need protection from me and I helped bring her to the place where she wants to travel back there and she can navigate it on her own. This is a “miracle.”
I was talking to someone yesterday who believes in the “meant to be” kind of universe where what is meant to happen, happens, and what isn’t, doesn’t. My own understanding of “a” or “the” higher power doesn’t work that way, and it doesn’t need to. My friend and I can have radically different beliefs and we can both stay sober in Alcoholics Anonymous.
Another young woman I know has started on her Ninth Step. She’s cleaned her house as far as making and sharing her list, considering her defects and asking to have them removed. I’m so excited for her to experience all of the Ninth Step and to walk away from it having finished it. Like when they read the “promises,” it is a phase of development and there will be a different phase after it. The maintenance of the new way of life comes with instructions that, for me, have prevented it from becoming old or boring or finished or dull. I will never completely understand and know how to do daily inventory and prayer and meditation.
Helping others. One of the awesome, unique (I think) aspects of this program of recovery. I’m sure it serves different functions for different people and the same functions for all of us. For this introvert, it keeps me out there. Sometimes (oldtimer confession) I feel like it’s a great service I do, just showing up in my third decade of recovery to say with my presence that it works. Most of the time I understand that it’s important for me to do that, but it’s truly not all that’s required of me.
Helping others makes sure we all continue to learn as we seek to teach and explain. The social aspect of this program of recovery is one of the reasons I believe that it succeeds when all else fails. A paid professional cannot, I don’t think, impart the understanding and experience that I need to enable me to stay sober one day at a time.
Trust God, clean house, help others.