Do the 12 Steps Have to Be Taken in Order?
The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are a tool for spiritual growth and healing. These steps lay out a path that has provided a way of sober living for millions of addicts and alcoholics all over the world. When you first get sober and have no idea how to go about living your life without alcohol or drugs, the 12 steps offer hope and direction.
Do the 12 steps have to be taken in order? In both AA and NA, there are no hard-and-fast rules. Ultimately you have to work the program in a way that makes sense for you. At meetings, those in recovery share their experiences, strengths and hopes with each other, and sometimes recover using surprisingly different paths.
Step One Is the Foundation
Although people sometimes disagree on the interpretation of the 12 steps, it is fairly universally agreed that no recovery can happen until you take the first step. Step one requires that you admit you are powerless over your drug of choice and that you recognize the negative effect addiction has had on your life.
Until you admit and accept that you have a problem with alcohol or drugs, there isn’t much hope that you will have the willingness to do whatever it takes to recover. Addiction is a strong opponent, and once you realize that it has you down for the count, there is hope for recovery. Step one is the foundation of everything else in recovery. It is the only step that can be taken perfectly.
Getting Stuck and Moving Forward
Some people feel strongly that you have to take the remaining steps in order. If you work the steps in this way, you focus on one step at a time and don’t move forward in the steps until you and your sponsor believe you have completed each one. The problem with this approach is that if you get stuck, you may have the urge to give up and believe that the 12 steps aren’t for you. You may be striving for perfection when perfection isn’t attainable.
Another approach is to be patient with yourself when things don’t make sense and to continually work all of the 12 steps to the best of your ability one day at a time. This approach allows someone who has gotten stuck on a single step to continue to move forward. For example, if you are stuck on step two because you’re struggling to define a power greater than yourself, you can still work part of step 12 by sharing what you have learned so far with others. If you’re stuck on step four because you aren’t quite ready to face your past, you can still put some effort into step 10 and pay attention to what you’re doing right and wrong today. If you haven’t yet found someone to take step five with, you can still work step 11 and improve your connection with your higher power. The key is to continually strive to do the best you can with each and every step.
Working With a Sponsor
How you approach the steps is a personal decision. The only step you’ll ever be able to take perfectly is step one, and all the other steps will require continual effort, patience and dedication. They are about progress, not perfection.
Most people believe that working with a sponsor is the best approach. A sponsor can share insight into his or her experiences with the step. He or she can point out to you when you are stuck because you are afraid or reluctant to face your demons, and when you might be trying to lie to yourself or make excuses.
There are lessons to be learned from all 12 steps. Keep reading, keep learning and keep moving forward. Work closely with your sponsor or other spiritual teachers. People will offer suggestions, but it’s your job to find your own path. Use these powerful tools to learn how to live a sober, useful life. You will be amazed at how the 12 steps can transform the person you brought to AA or NA.
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