Monday, March 2, 2009

Are the steps the only way?

I enjoyed hosting the chat last night. There were quite a few bloggers on there. Thanks for stopping by. I enjoyed it.

One of the most interesting questions that came up for me was whether the steps were the only way.

I immediately thought "Yes". But then I realized that I needed to qualify that by saying, "Yes, for me they are a proven way." But the steps may not be the only way for others.

So I went back to the source. The Big Book states, "Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery.."
And further reading revealed that "It would be a product of false pride to claim that A.A. is a cure-all, even for alcoholism." (Bill W. in "A.A. Comes of Age", page 232.). Bill W. repeatedly said that "our hats are off to you if you can find a better way" and "If [those seeking a different cure] can do better by other means, we are glad." (Bill W. in Concept XII).

For me as an Al-Anon member, the 12 steps are a guideline for change. I took these steps and found a process to focus on myself, seek the help of others, clean up the problems in my life, and share the process with others. These steps are not the only way that people can change, but the key to recovery is change.

Many people resist any kind of change. They don't want to do the work, or they think it will be too painful. Trying to quit an addiction, whether it be to drugs, alcohol, or other people, without replacing that addiction with healthier things doesn't work. The active addiction masks and covers up the underlying problems. Without the mask, the problems become glaring and painful. There are not many choices when anyone gets to that point. They can live with the problems (pain), begin to change the problems(recovery), or go back to masking the problems (addiction).

Each person must make the choice about how they are going to deal with this. I needed a guideline for change. I'd been to therapists, but it wasn't until doing the 12 steps that I started to move into recovery.

I didn't want to live with the pain anymore. So the pain of changing became less than the pain of remaining in my problems. And from what I've heard in meetings, those who work the steps find that something wonderful and remarkable occurs. I found that I could overcome hopelessness, despair, dishonesty, loneliness, anger, resentment, fear, impatience, arrogance, intolerance, and a host of other defects that gave rise to great suffering.

So the 12 steps were a way for me to undergo cognitive restructuring. I'm sure that working the steps won't succeed in every individual. But by doing the Steps, I took myself through a new way of thinking, feeling, seeing and acting. And in doing so, I found aspects of myself that had been hidden and that were much more vital than I had known before.

I don’t know of any better alternative for me. May you find your own way.


  1. I'm all about people discovering what works for them - and often-it takes time to make that discovery.
    Then there are blogs like yours,Syd.That offer that reminder to anyone still searching ..
    I cannot thank you enough for the support you offer people via your blog.Thanks for just being you ;)

  2. Syd, your ability to give back and write about your al anon expierences is one of the reasons I gave al anon another go, why I stuck to it - because I could read your serenity and I wanted that - and isn't that the best way for it to begin?!

  3. Syd once again you inspired me. I It takes lots of courage to be open and honest in this world we live in, dealing with whatever life bestows upon us. As I have said I am not a drinker, etc, have my own issues, fears, you inspire, your have come along way. your support to many is a blessing.
    I posted a poem for you on my blog.

  4. You said it compassionately & hopefully here. I found that working the steps improved my life in many ways. But I never want to be closed to the idea that another way might work for someone else.
    You are a sweetheart, and I missed reading you.

  5. The suggested way worked for me. I really identified with "WHAT an order" but I did it and its lasting. Tried an treu does work.

  6. Yay Syd! You are so good at saying things! The steps are a great way to live and recover. However, there are people who can and do recover in other ways and I believe that the steps can lead to a deaper exploration of the spirit than many people in the rooms ever explore. That has been MY experience. Great chat last night. jeNN

  7. You are very broadminded and that is a very good trait you have. :)

    Thanks to you I now went to an OPEN AA for 3 Fridays in a row. The speakers they get each week are very motivating to live their lives with CHANGE ..

    I learned more COMPASSION for my daughter who is an Alcoholic. She truly loves me and shame on me for having resentments that she is an alcoholic. (still won't live with her ever again - can't). I know why I had resentments.. because I grew up with an alcoholic dad and did not want my two older adult children to have addictions (one computer games / one booze). I felt PITY for MYSELF. I disown a family .. do everything right.. (well very well) and still this happens?

    The steps?? ---to me the steps is good old fashion COMMON SENSE. And I read Dr. Abraham Maslow at 18 years old in Psych 101... and believe in that Self-Actualization Theory. The steps clarified how to get higher to reaching Self-Actualization.

    When I'm wrong I apologize immediate....and I have made amends... and I have found out about my Character Defects.. which was painful; but good so i can learn to change my behavior.

    I have to be honest... MY THINKING has not catch up to MY BEHAVIOR. I still have character defects as strongly in my mind; but I behave more like an ADULT and don't act them out.

    I love the steps..... even as an Agnostic. My HP is just compassion; beauty and love for all living creatures including humans.

    I hate to sound like a HIPPIE flower child.. but i really do have LOVE for each member in all my f2f meetings.

    Thanks for hosting last night... I did get thrown off the system; and I do have a high speed cable line; so I have no idea why... lol.

  8. i see the steps as A way but not perhaps not THE way. and i pause sometimes waiting for someone to throw something at me when i say things like that.

    however, i just fear anything that causes a sense of 'separateness' i.e. i'm (or my way is) right and you are (or your way) is wrong - the cause of ALL war it seems. i have heard of instances where an alcoholic never worked the twelve steps but had a spiritual awakening.. the key was that he/she was serving/helping others.

    i'm not sure what would have happened had i not worked the steps. i see correlations between spiritual teachings such as Eckhart Tolle's and Byron Katie's 'The Work' (the work is VERY 4th/10th stepish but with a Zen twist).. most spiritual teachings seem to have all of the elements of the steps within it. not sure i would have 'gotten' their teachings on the level i do, without the steps FIRST. But not many human beings search out any of it if their 'dream' is a pleasant one.. those who come to the steps or any spiritual teaching are suffering in some way and realize their way ain't it!

    ah well - just my 2 cents for what's it's worth!

  9. Absolutely wonderful post. I want to be there on Sundays, but my homegroup meeting is Sunday from 7:30-8:30 so I get home and it's over...:-( so I am sorry to have missed this.

    Great comments to this post too, I have found that the steps are the way that work for me and are a springboard to life and to more exploration...they are but a part of the puzzle...but they are the foundation that all the rest can be built on..for me it works.

    Thanks Syd for the amazing posts, inspiration and amazing writing.

  10. thank you. I hope to make it to a chat sometime!

    sometimes I still get tripped up on step one...but, at least I know what step one IS and I can better recognize when I've fallen off.

  11. Since I had tried every possible way I could to halt whatever was wrong with me and met with failure every time, for me the twelve steps were life.

    My hat is off to anyone who can find another way of recovery. I could not. If I hadn't found AA and the steps, I would have died a long time ago.

    So.....that's my story and I'm sticking to it! :) -VBG-

  12. Thank you, Syd. Well said and much to think on.

  13. you're right, we all find our own unique way. and we need to start somewhere...

  14. Such an honest and accurate way of stating the issues -- I wish I could have made your TSR session from my time zone.

    Thanks Syd

    Mary LA

  15. Like others I had tried other ways of dealing with life but AA and Al-Anon seemed to offer something different and far more workable for me. I am grateful.

  16. I needed the Steps in my life, I still do. I also applied them to quitting smoking 8 yrs ago and they worked (after several trial runs of course lol).

    I have seen people get cleaned up without the Steps so who am I to say they are the only way. I am just glad God led me to AA and they worked for me when I practiced them in my life.

    great discussion!

  17. I tried every easier and softer way I could find. It was the steps and the suggested work that got me and keeps me sober.

  18. My best story when I was out there looking for The Answer was when I spent 39.99 to talk to a phone psychic (yes, I was that desperate). The Twelve Steps is the only thing that finally gave me hope. I'm sticking around.


  19. I so appreciate that you wrote this post. I find the steps to be an awesome tool in recovery. I also think that being in AA was critical for me getting sober. I also think there is much outside the rooms of AA that has beenbpowerful on contributing to my growth and continued sobriety. I think having a mind open to change is where a spiritual awakening begins.


Let me know what you think. I like reading what you have to say.