Category Archives: Step 12

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.

The Prompter

 

The prompter  is a person who prompts; specifically one who cues performers when they forget their lines.  Other speakers use Tele-Prompters, which enables the speaker to read their  speech from a screen.

In the Depressed Anonymous program of recovery, we  find ourselves listening to a spiritual Prompter —  an inner  voice, a Higher Power, providing us with a brand new line of thinking. An action oriented  prompt, where we come to believe in a Power greater than ourselves nudging  us to change the way we think and behave.

But who is this Prompter? What is its name? And why  am I hearing it’s voice now. I am hearing it now because I am ready to hear it. Fair enough?  I have surrendered.  Once beat down by my addictions, I now no longer follow the cues which produced for me  a life of negative moods and behaviors. I told the  God of my understanding that I’ve had it! No more beating myself up   with blame and  negative thinking.  Negative thinking  produced those painful  moods  spiraling me   down into feelings of hopelessness and depression.  I had the  feeling that all my efforts at finding hope were futile.

The  Prompter which I have been  listening to in the inner depths of my soul has been leading me towards serenity and filling me with a powerful meaning for my life. After having been introduced to the spiritual principles of the Twelve Steps I continued to listen  to the Prompter in the quiet of those daily moments of meditation and prayer.

It was my decision to put my life on a brand new trajectory of wellness and healing. I had a spiritual awakening, ever so gradually. I just knew it was the Prompter itself who was placing a new life script into my heart.

Each and every day of my life I pray, I quiet the chatter in my mind, and draw near to the God of my understanding.   When we draw near to God, God draws near to us. What you seek, seeks you.

I believe that  my daily conscious contact with  God in prayer and meditation  I am able to  discover that we  are no longer dependent on our will but on God’s will for us. And just as Bill W  tells us  in Alcoholics Anonymous that when we are faced with the indecision about something, we then ask God for inspiration and we let go  of struggling for an answer.  He tells us that you will be surprised at how the right answers will come after we have practiced  this way of living. It also comes to pass that our hunches are more right than wrong. We also pause throughout the day when we are fearful, puzzled or anxious. We pray to the Higher Power for which direction to take. I like the suggestion the best when AA  says,” We are then in much less danger of excitement, fear, anger, worry, self pity, or foolish decisions. We become more efficient. We do not tire so easily, for we  are not burning up energy foolishly as we did when we were trying to arrange life to suit ourselves..”  (Depressed  Anonymous, Page 101).    We  all know that our new life script which  the Prompter has provided us  gives our life  direction and meaning.

Depressed Anonymous   shares with us Meister Eckart’s   thoughts on that  Vital Spiritual Experience which comes to each of us when we surrender our lives and wills to the  God of our understanding.

“This work (birth), when  it is perfect, will be due solely to God’s action while you have been passive. If you really forsake your own knowledge and will, then surely and gladly  God will enter with his knowledge shining clearly. Where God achieves self-consciousness, your own knowledge is of no use, nor has it standing. Do not imagine that your own intelligence may rise to it,  so that you may know God. Indeed when God divinely enlightens you, no natural light is required to bring that about. This natural light must in fact be completely extinguished before God will shine in with his light, bringing back with God all that you have forsaken and a thousand times more, together with a new form to contain it all.” (Depressed Anonymous, Page 161).

“Made a decision to turn our will and lives   over to the care of God as we understand God to be.

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SOURCE:  Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition. (2011)  Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville. KY.  Page 101, 161.

Service Gladly Rendered…

Carrying the message of hope to those still suffering from depression.

“Service gladly rendered, obligations squarely met, troubles well accepted with God’s help, the knowledge that at home or in the world outside we are partners in a common effort, the fact that in God’s sight all human beings are important, the proof that love freely given brings a full return, the certainty that we are no longer isolated and alone in self constructed prisons, the surety that we can fit and belong in God’s scheme of things –these are the satisfactions of right living for which no pomp or circumstances, no heap of material possessions, could possibly substitute.” Twelve and Twelve, AA World services. Page 124.

Also, in The Depressed Anonymous Workbook (2002) we read

“The part about carrying the message is so important if we are to remain out of the clutches of depression. It is important to keep in touch with the newcomers and others in the program. It is in this carrying the message that reminds us that we once needed help and it was through the unselfishness of the older members of Depressed Anonymous that got us through our depression.” Page 85.

“We soon discover in the program that no compulsion can be controlled by will power alone. It must be surrendered to the Higher Power or to the care of God of our understanding. It alone can remove in time the burden from our backs. This is the spiritual awakening that keeps us free from sadness as we take the message of healing to others in the group who are new to the program. We admit that we make no promises to anyone and that there will be no magic answer and quick solutions to their saddiction.  No, it all takes time and this is the message of the group. Such slogans as: “Take it easy,” “Keep  it simple,” and “Easy does it” are all meant to help you and me to live one day at a time and continue to try and live with serenity. When we practice these steps on a daily basis, starting our day with asking the Higher Power for guidance for the rest of the day we can then be  assured of God’s presence and help in our lives.”

Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition. (2011) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville. Page 106.

I Am More Than My Addiction!

“…Because addicted individuals generally  possess such strong feelings of shame, embarrassment and self-loathing, it is extremely curative when they learn that they can be viewed by others in a positive manner.

…Shame, a more profound feeling all alcoholics and addicts (saddicts)  struggle with implies “I feel bad because of what I am.”  Addiction from this view implies that group therapy must enhance the self understanding and the acceptance that one is worthwhile despite their strong feelings of self loathing and self-hatred.  (The Depressed Anonymous Fellowship Group. ED)   ….before a person can  be healed, they have to know they can heal another. …It is this opportunity to learn that one has the ability to help another in being a healer which supports the use of  group psychotherapy. In  fact, this is the very same principle which AA  (DA) applies within the Twelfth Step of its Twelve Step program for recovery. The alcoholic and the addict (saddict)  maintains their own sobriety by helping another alcoholic get sober.” Source excerpts: Group Psychotherapy with Addicted Populations.  , (1988)  Flores, Phillip J., The Haworth Press. NY

Likewise, the person depressed has a better chance of  overcoming depression when they hear someone else,  with the same situation, feeling better and overcoming their depression.

SOURCE: Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition. (2011) Depressed Anonymous Publications.Louisville.

Dr. Alfred Adler’s Prescription For Depression

“Years ago, Dr. Alfred Adler prescribed this remedy for depression to a patient.  “You can be helped if every day you begin the first thing in the morning to consider how you can bring joy to someone else. If you can stick to this for two weeks, you will no longer need therapy.”

Adler’s “prescription” of  course  is not much different than the suggestion that we work more intensively the program’s Twelve Steps to rid ourselves of depression. When I am depressed do I keep my feelings to myself or do I do what friends in the program have suggested that I do?” Source: A Day at a Time. 1976.Sept 10.

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I like Adler’s “prescription” as a real concrete and positive aid in being mindful of the needs of others. In a Twelve Step meeting we find ourselves in the midst of a group of people, some who are newcomers, some who  have been in the group for a period of time and others who have gone through all the Steps, one after another. That’s the beauty of the 12 Step program of recovery. The Twelfth Step tells us that ” Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we   tried to carry this message to the depressed, and to practice these principles in all of our affairs.”

One of the instances for me personally of putting  the prescription of Dr. Adler into practice and  before  I  leave for work , is to ask God to lead me to that person who needs a loving presence the most. I happen to work in a long term care facility and because of a person’s different stage of their dementia, just to be a silent presence can  give a  person comfort.

But if we stay holed up in the isolation of life deadening thoughts all we can reflect upon is our own pain, much less the pain of anyone else. So, get the picture?  Reach out to someone else; leave the prison of our isolating and negative ruminations; connect with another human being and give ourselves someone to think about other than ourselves. Who knows, maybe we will come away from our encounter the other and be grateful  of what we can still do that has a positive effect on another’s life.

Stepping Up To Hope

In Depressed Anonymous I have heard members of the group say what works for them is not to fight depression but instead do the dead man’s float — just let go and feel the sadness –don’t run away from it with lots of activity and doing — this can lead to mania — instead, admit our sadness, our despondency and face the feeling.
Don’t fight it and push it down but DISCUSS it –talk about it and see it for what it is. Since depression is a dependency issue it is only when we begin to surrender to the Higher Power or God as we understand him that we make it possible to recover from this experience. We choose to live, feel and think differently.
THE ANTIDEPRESSANT TABLET
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This approach to depression really works, as the many testimonies in our “Big Book” Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition illustrate. Yes, we know that running away from any difficulty or problem just digs the hole of our sadness deeper. Once we give up our shame or guilt for being depressed–basically our feelings powerless and being isolated –and start to share our story with others, we find our sense of mastery begins to return as our feelings of uselessness begin to evaporate. How often do members of the group, after coming to the group for some weeks, begin to look different–that is, they seem calmer and their faces become softer. The hardness disappears.
Hugh

If My Life Is Joyful, Then Why Do I Continue To Go To Depressed Anonymous Meetings?

Today, as promised yesterday (7/22) in our BLOG, we shared how Lois declared that she  “no longer experiences those black, bleak, hopeless periods”. She says that “her life is joyful.”

If her life is so joyful  Lois needs to explain why she continues to go to Depressed Anonymous meetings five years later. The Twelfth Step of this program: “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry the message to the depressed, and to practice these principles in all of our affairs.”  ” I am so grateful to Depressed Anonymous that I want it to be there for those who are still suffering.”

See pages 110-111 for a full account of Lois’ testimony in THE PERSONAL STORIES section of Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition. Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville.

Also read the remaining thirty stories of the other members of Depressed Anonymous who found serenity and joy using the Twelve Step program of recovery.

Like Lois, there are many of us who today continue to carry the message of hope to those still suffering from depression. Like myself, they all want to share with others that there is hope — there is a day coming that a light may shine and give them a way out of the darkness of their depression. This website and BLOG is just one way that I am taking the message of HOPE to others. Just yesterday a Depressed Anonymous group leader tells of how she is sharing her story OF HOPE to a man who intends to take his life, Another man in the group who worked his way out of despair using the Twelve Steps of recovery is also sharing his own story of despair and hopelessness with the man. That is what Lois is doing–bringing hope to others even though her whole life took a dramatic change.  Even though she is no longer imprisoned in depression she still sees it her mission to continue telling people her story. I told my story tonight at one of our local Depressed Anonymous meetings. At each meeting that I attend,  gradually, as Lois puts it, I  unscramble a part of the mess that brought me to my knees in the first place.