Most people come to the 12-Steps because they have a habit or addiction that has not been permanently healed or relieved by other approaches. What is different among newcomers is the level of fear they feel about becoming free from their addiction, about how hard it might be to work the Steps and about failing.
Desperate to Be Free
A common thought in 12-Step circles and literature is that “when the pain of the problem becomes worse than the pain of the solution we will be ready to change.” Another way to say this is that when we are sufficiently desperate to be free from our addiction, we will be willing to do the work, even if we don’t want to do it. Desperation works in our favor in this area.
Fearful of the Process of Working the Steps
Often we get hung up looking ahead at the future steps that we are afraid of having to do. We obsess about things like:
- If I turn my will and my life over to God, what if His plan for me or His timing is not what I want? (Step 3)
- If I have already confessed and repented of a past transgression, do I have to include it in my 4th step inventory? (Step 4)
- If my sponsor knew everything I have done s/he would judge me or reject me. (Step 5)
- What will my life be like without a particular weakness or shortcoming that I see as an integral part of who I am? (Step 6)
- What if I ask God to remove my character defect and He doesn’t? (Step 7)
- I don’t think I can forgive the one who caused me such pain! (Step 8)
- What if I try to make amends to someone and they reject me? (Step 9)
The purpose of working the program is to access the Atonement to relieve you of guilt, shame, and resentment and enable you to fulfill your potential with the help of the Lord.
“For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.” (2 Nephi 28:30)
We work the program one step at a time for a reason. That is the pattern the Lord has set up for us to learn truth and wisdom. We are not ready to work a step until we have completed the previous step. When we have really completed a step we want to move on to the next one. The fears listed above are gifts from the Adversary to stop our forward progress. There are specific answers for each one of them but the most important thing to keep in mind is this: if we stop thinking about the future steps and just focus on the step we are currently working on, we will make progress and find recovery.
Fear of Failure
The most debilitating fear is that even if we do the steps, we will not be freed from our addictions. If we come to the 12-Steps believing that we have tried every other approach to becoming free, and that this is our last chance and only hope, then the fear that even this will not work can be paralyzing. Sometimes people stop attending meetings and stop working the steps because they are afraid that if it doesn’t work they will be left without hope.
The most poignant answer to this fear comes directly from the Lord:
If the spirit of fear does not come from God, then where does it come from? Refuse to accept that gift from the Adversary. Instead, gratefully receive the gifts of power, love, and a sound mind that the Lord is willing to give you.
- What fears are holding back your progress?
- Are you willing to receive the gifts of power, love and a sound mind that the Lord offers you?
- Write about what you and your life would be like if you received those gifts.
- What will you do today to take a step towards living without fear?
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