By nature, we addicts are impatient folks. We’ve always aimed at getting what we want, when we want it—if not sooner—and sometimes that worked, though seldom with any long term benefits. So not surprisingly, as newcomers, there’s a tendency among us to think of working a program in terms of reaching a destination. And quickly, if possible. We do this and this and this, and then we’ll be okay.

Recovery is less about outcomes, and more about how we live.

The Dangers of this Goal Oriented Approach

The trouble is, we are likely to fall into a goal-oriented approach, heading for an outcome, when really all we can do, is what we can do today. If we focus on the outcome we miss the process, and that’s where the good stuff actually happens. Doing the work and absorbing it is where the benefits lie: in the subtle improvements in the way we think, the mended relationships, the ability to better deal with stressors and much more. These are the result of experiencing and understanding the meaning of the steps, rather than just ticking them off a list. It’s a lot like the difference between “Never again!” and “Just for today.”

Some of us (and not just newcomers) seem to think of the Steps as something to be taken cafeteria style: Start with Step 1, jump to 9 for a quick “sorry”, then hop to 12, detour back to the Higher Power thing, then up to 11 for a bit of spirituality, then to 12, and so forth. Note that we omitted all those inconvenient ones—4 and 5, 8 and 10. You know, the ones that involve introspection, discomfort and work. That goes for 9, too.

Skipping Steps Hinders Our Recovery

Some of us may have treated other guidelines in the same hit-or-miss fashion—oh, say the 10 Commandments, or perhaps society’s laws (even common sense), and we’ve likely paid a price for it. All of those kinds of things, especially the 12 Steps, get in the way of thinking and behaving like addicts; they demand that we change, and we all know that addicts fear change. Fortunately, much of what we fear is reduced or eliminated by—you guessed it!—working the steps.

But the Steps and those other concepts aren’t checklists; they’re lifestyles. Sure, we work the Steps formally with a sponsor. If we’re wise, we do it more than once. But, as it says in Step 12, we then practice these principles in all the aspects of our lives. Thus we have wonderful guidelines to help us grow, and then to serve us as a roadmap for the rest of our lives, if we so choose.

The Twelve Steps Work — If You Work Them

Step 1: We admitted that we were powerless over [substances] -- that our lives had become unmanageable.The Steps connect us to the rest of our sober lives: to our program, our supports, our families and friends, our coworkers, the rest of the world and—most importantly— to ourselves. After we truly understand Step 1, we begin to see how the other steps apply to everything we do, especially those things that connect us with others and with ourselves. We use them as guidance—all the time.

Sobriety is a good way to live. Just do it! Don’t try to figure it out. Have a little faith, and follow in the sober footsteps of the millions who went before you. Sobriety isn’t just about abstinence, it’s about the doors it opens up in our lives, and the courage to find what lies beyond the doors. It’s all there for you, one step at a time.

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