The 12 steps have been able to give me a new way of life. People say that the steps are a design for living and that is exactly what they have given me. Working the 12 steps on a continuous basis has been one of the main reasons that I have been able to stay sober this year. They have given me the ability to take a look inward at myself and find a way to always strive to become a better person.
The way that the steps were broken down to me expresses that Steps 1-3 are all about creating our relationship with God or our higher power, Steps 4-7 are all about building a relationship with ourselves and discovering who we actually are, Steps 8-9 are all about building and repairing our relationships with others, and Steps 10-12 are the Steps that teach us how to continue to live our lives on a daily basis to be the best people that we can.
My experience with the first three steps was pretty simple and straightforward. For me admitting that I was powerless over drugs and alcohol was very easy, however I did find myself struggling quite a bit with admitting that my life had become unmanageable. This is due to the fact that while I was using, my life looked good on paper. I had the 40 hour a week job, I was doing well in college, and on the outside I seemed together. It was broken down to me by my sponsor that the unmanageability doesn’t have anything to do with those things but that it has everything to do with my unmanageability being a manifestation of a lack of spirituality, and allowing myself to be consumed by my selfishness and self centerdness where I would put all of my own selfish needs and desires including getting high ahead of anything else which made my relationships with others unmanageable. I was unable to ever show up for anyone else or keep commitments because of my own selfish desires. Once I was able to admit this to myself it was time for me to move on to Steps 2 and 3.
These steps are all about coming to believe in a power greater than myself which can restore me to sanity, whom I consider God, and becoming willing to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as I understand him. For some people this can be a huge struggle because the whole concept of God as well as turning our lives over to something greater than ourselves can seem unfathomable or overwhelming. For me, the way that the Third Step was broken down in its most simplistic form was this: if you think about that gut feeling you get inside your stomach when your about to do something wrong, and you know you probably shouldn’t do it, you don’t do it. That is the most simple way and an easily comprehendible example of what living in God’s Will looks like for me. It also talks in the 3rd step prayer about about ridding us of our selfishness so that we can better live in God’s Will, meaning that by getting out of our own way and not thinking about ourselves, we can think about what we can do for others, which is another form of living in God’s Will.
Working through Steps 4 and 5 was probably one of the most eye opening experiences I have walked through. I wrote a thorough inventory on myself and all of the resentments I have ever had, starting with the person, the situation, what it affected, and what my part was. I then went on to write an inventory of all of my fears and why I had them. The pattern of the majority of my fears was that about 90% of them all tied back to the way that others perceived me, and me not wanting to be judged or look bad. Then I completed an inventory about my past relationships with women and where I had hurt them and done them wrong then took a look at what I should have done differently so that I could construct an strong ideal of what a relationship with another should look like. The 5th step was the more eye opening experience, where I shared all of these deep resentments and secrets about myself to my sponsor as well as God and myself. As a result, I was able to learn patterns about myself and see that I was a very jealous person and always wanted to be in someone else’s shoes. My solution before getting sober was if only I could be this person or if only I could have this person’s parents, or live here, everything would be better.
Step 6 and 7 was all about taking a look at my defects of character and asking God to remove them. By doing Steps 4 and 5, I was able to see that I was jealous, selfish, arrogant, entitled, dishonest, manipulative, vengeful, resentful, self-loathing, fearful, and very bitter. I was able to spend a day focusing on each of these defects and observing where they came up in my daily life so that I could start to allow myself to become aware of them. One thing that I was told to do was to question the motives behind everything that I do. As a result of doing that, my awareness of my defects is almost engrained into my consciousness, where I can tell what the motive is for my desire to say or do something and what defect it plays into before I even say it.
Steps 8 and 9 were all about mending my relationships with those I had harmed in my life before getting sober. I have made amends to my direct family members as well as a number of friends from my past, it is probably on of the most spiritual experiences that I’ve gotten to enjoy. It takes a lot of humility to be able to go and right the harm that I have caused others. By making these amends, it keeps me excited and fired up about being sober and motivates me to push myself even harder.
Steps 10-12 are what some people call the maintenance Steps. They are basically a culmination of the first 9 Steps in 3 Steps that us as alcoholics practice on daily basis. The 10th step is all about taking inventory of situations that rise in our daily life and admitting when we are at fault and making things right when we make mistakes or owe amends.It is a culmination of steps 4,5, 6,7,8, and 9. The 11th step is all about improving our conscious contact with God, basically it gives me the ability to plan out the day ahead and review my day at night through prayer and meditation. One way prayer and mediation was broken down to me is that prayer is humbly asking, and meditation is simply listening. This step blends the 2nd and 3rd Steps together. The 12th Step is all about working with others – this includes sharing our experience with the Steps to people new in sobriety by sponsoring them and being a spiritual guide to them. as well as practicing the principles of these Steps in our daily lives so that whether in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous or on the streets of Manhattan Beach we can be the best possible person and carry love and tolerance to all.