Category Archives: Step 11

Strands vs. Steps

OK we all know the metaphor of the steps. They are an ever increasing ascent into sobriety. But is that the only metaphor that we can use for recovery?

I think not. I’m a big fan of trivia, and I have a thirst for the esoteric. One image that comes to my mind about recovery is the act of rope making. Thread is woven together to make yarn. Yarn is woven together to make twine. Twine is woven together to make rope. As the strands come together the result becomes stronger and stronger.

We start off with Step One, our first thread of recovery. It is the beginning of our recovery and a necessary part of it. Admitting powerlessness is a difficult undertaking. I think I have power: I am the master of my domain. Nothing is further from the truth. We can quibble over whether powerlessness is 0% power or is it 1% power, or some other single digit percentage of power. The bottom line is that we have very little power in our lives. Admitting powerlessness is a turning point in recovery. Something, somewhere, a power exists, but it is definitely not within us. Powerlessness is not the same as helplessness or hopelessness. It means that we are fallible and flawed beings. That is not a condemnation of our state of being, merely a statement of truth that we are fallible and that we need help.

Step Two is then woven in with Step One. Step One is still there, but we are now adding the additional wisdom of another spiritual principle. The most beautiful words in the English language are “Came to believe”. We see that there is a way out of our pit of depression. This power, this Higher Power can restore us to sanity. What does sanity mean? Well let’s look it up:

sanity – the quality or state of being sane
sane – proceeding from a sound mind
Sourcehttps://www.merriam-webster.com

Can we say that being in a state of depression is “proceeding from a sound mind”? I would say it is not.

Step Three is then woven with the other 2 strands. Turning our will and lives over to the care of the God1 of Our Understanding is a very hard idea to wrap your mind around. There is a saying in recovery: “Surrender to win”. Surrender is not about giving up. It’s about accepting fully to your current reality. You need help and your Higher Power can help if you’re willing. Remember that it is God’s will and not your will. You have it within your right to ask for things, but it is up to God1 to decide what is going to come to fruition.

Step Four is then woven in with the preceding strands. Making a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves is a difficult task, but a necessary one. We need to put down on paper what we have done, both right and wrong. Don’t just include your liabilities, but also include your assets. You haven’t been all bad, and neither are you all right. Have the courage to write is all down. You won’t die because of it.

“Admitting to God1, ourselves, and another human being…” is necessary as well. Step Five is about humility and sharing deeply about ourselves with another. Some people say: “I don’t want to confess my sins to another”. Confessing is not about supplicating yourself on the alter of forgiveness to escape damnation. The origin of the word confession is “testifying to the truth”. State clearly and concisely what has brought you to the state of depression.

Now that we have taken our inventory we can follow the guidelines of Step Six and make a list of all of our shortcomings. We can surrender these to the God1 of our understanding and become entirely ready to have Him2 remove them. This is not about beating yourself up, it’s about having the humility to admit where you have fallen short.

Which brings us to Step Seven: “Humbly asked Him2 to remove our shortcomings.” We can ask to have our character defects removed, but it is up to Him2 to decide which character defects will be removed. When asking to have your shortcomings removed end your petition with “Thy will, not mine be done”. Which ones will be removed is not up to you, it is up to Him2.

Step Eight is about making a list of all persons we have harmed. We don’t have anything else to do just yet. We are merely making a list. Don’t get ahead of yourself, you are not at Step 9. Focus on making the list.

“Made direct amends to such people, wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others”. Step Nine can be very frightening. If you are afraid to start making amends then I suggest that you talk to your sponsor. You may have created a terrible situation in your mind that you discover after talking with your sponsor that you don’t need to make amends to that person. Don’t avoid this step – it has amazing healing ability. A weight will be lifted from your shoulders. Making amends is not about begging for forgiveness. It’s about admitting what you did hurt another person, and that you are striving not to make that mistake any more. You can start with the easy amends and work your way towards the more difficult ones.

Step Ten is the next strand: “Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.” The longer you are in recovery the more prompt prompt becomes. It’s all about not creating a further wrong that needs to be fixed with another Step 9. Admit you were at fault. You will be glad you did.

If you’re in a hole, quit digging.
– Will Rogers

“Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God1…” brings us to Step Eleven. It’s all about seeking that deeper relationship with your Higher Power. The seeking is what is important. There will be times you feel connected to your Higher Power and there will be times that you are in a dark night of the soul and you don’t feel the presence of your Higher Power. Don’t beat yourself up that your relationship with your Higher Power ebbs and flows. That’s what it does.

Yes it is important that you have had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps. The critical thing with Step Twelve is “..we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all of our affairs.” Be of service to others. Help someone else. Not for accolades, but rather to pay your blessings forward that you have been pardoned from the prison of depression.

You have woven a rope of recovery. It is so much stronger than the single thread that you began with. You are free from depression, and with this rope you can move great obstacles in your life.

Notes:

  1. Here I mean whatever you conceive your Higher Power to be. It could be God, or Jesus, or Allah, or Buddha, or Universal Truth, or Love, or any other conception. Your conception of your Higher Power is yours and yours alone. It is just a whole lot easier to write it in the shorthand term God. Please don’t be offended.
  2. Using the pronoun Him does not mean that God is definitively masculine, it’s just a shorthand way of referring to your Higher Power. Please don’t be offended.

A Way Out Of Depression

” During  acute depression, avoid trying to set your whole life in order all at once.  If you take on assignments so heavy that you are sure to fail in them at the moment, then you are allowing yourself to be tricked by your unconscious. Thus you will continue to make sure of your failure, and when it comes you will have another alibi for still more retreat into depression.

“In short,  the ‘all or nothing’ attitude is a most destructive one. It is best to begin with whatever the irreducible minimums of activity are. Then work for an enlargement of these –day by day- Don’t be disconcerted by setbacks –just start over.”

Source: Bill W., in Letter, 1960.

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CLARIFICATION OF THOUGHT

Here is my take on the  statement above by Bill W., co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.

When I first got involved with the Twelve Steps, I couldn’t wait to read all the steps and get busy reading as much as I could about them. But as I continued to stay in the program and get more involved in the Fellowship I discovered that I could not read ahead and think that now that I have read all the literature about the addiction I was done.  I graduated.  Instead, after thirty years plus, I am still working through these Steps and finding material that I need to look at in my life. The Twelve Steps and the study thereof, alone using the Home Study Kit,  and in the context of a fellowship  group, I have continued my quest to live one day at a time. Step Eleven is one of my constant companions which states that I “sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry it out.”

Our guide, Depressed Anonymous 3rd edition,  written by those of us who were depressed, contains an excellent commentary on Step Eleven (Pages 94-103). The Steps provide you and me with a lifetime of hope and help. The Steps continue to provide me  with a lifeline that is available to me, today, every day and every time.  It works for me!

-Hugh