There may be as many ways of working the steps as there are people who work them. When someone finishes Step 12, they may work the maintenance Steps (10, 11 and 12) for a while or start over with Step 1. They may work the Steps quickly or slowly. They may choose a particular issue to work on as they start over, or may just go down deeper on the same issues.
In this post I am sharing an in-depth approach to working the Steps that relies heavily on the tool of writing. It may take days or weeks to get through a Step this way, and months to get through them all. If this feels overwhelming to you at this point in your program, it might be best for you to save this approach for later. It makes me dig deep and learn more about myself and about living in a sane and abstinent way. It is most effective if you have a sponsor and report your progress, discussing any insights you receive as you work through the steps.
(see Resources page to find out where and how to obtain these materials)
- He Did Deliver Me from Bondage, Colleen Harrison
- Optional: Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous (if you are working on food related issues) or Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Al Anon (if you are working on codependence) or any other twelve step manual that is relevant to your addiction or issue
- Optional: Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous (no matter what your issue is)
- The ARP manual, A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing
Step-work Sandwich Overview
Think of this method of working each step as assembling a sandwich (see diagram below). The “preparation” questions at the end of the previous step in He Did Deliver Me from Bondage (“HDDM” in diagram) are one of the slices of bread. The questions at the end of the same step in A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing (the ARP manual) are the other slice of bread. The lettuce leaf just inside the first piece of bread is the step (“principle”) in He Did Deliver Me from Bondage. The lettuce leaf just inside the other piece of bread is the step in the ARP manual. Between the lettuce leaves are your choice of optional materials, listed above, to help nourish and nurture your emotional, physical and spiritual healing and growth. Each of these optional materials brings something unique to your understanding and application of the Steps. The book that specifically addresses your addiction helps you identify with how the Steps have been worked by others with your addiction. The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous (“AA 12 & 12” in diagram) is a very powerfully written book that does not pull any punches in its description of the nature of addiction and the importance of overcoming it. If you leave out the optional materials you will still be fed, but not as thoroughly and you may miss some “nutrients” that you really need. Nevertheless, you could certainly work the Steps this way – just skip items 3 and/or 4 in the “Working the Steps” section below.
Preface and Introduction
- Start by reading and highlighting the Prefaces and Introduction in He Did Deliver Me from Bondage. Do not answer the questions at the end of the Introduction at this point.
- Make notes in the margins or in a notebook when you have thoughts about how the text applies to your life.
- Read, highlight and annotate the Preface and Introduction in the remaining books on the materials list, in order.
Working the Steps
- Begin each new step by answering the “preparation” questions which are located at the end of the previous step (or at the end of the Introduction in the case of Step 1) in He Did Deliver Me from Bondage.
- Read the step in He Did Deliver Me from Bondage and “capture” it as you go (as described on page A-3 of that book). Share what you have written with your sponsor or someone else who is working the Steps.
- Read the step (capturing as you go) in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Al Anon (if you are working on codependence) OR in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous (if you are working on an eating disorder or food addiction) or any other 12 Step book that you find sheds light on your particular addiction.
- Read the step (capturing as you go) in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous.
- Read the step (capturing as you go) in the ARP manual, A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing, and answer the questions at the end of the step.
- Do any footwork required by the step (e.g. make a written inventory when you are working Step 4, pray for those you are trying to forgive in Step 8, make direct amends wherever appropriate in Step 9, etc. There is some kind of footwork required by each step.)
- Do a quick review of all the writing you have done for this step. Keep your mind open to promptings about any footwork you might still need to do before being ready to move to the next step.
- Pray and ask the Lord if you have completed the step and are ready to move on to the next step.
- When you receive a confirmation that you are ready to move on to the next step, start with the first instruction in this section, for the step following the one you have just completed.
If you do not receive a confirmation that you have completed the step, return to the step you have been working on, or even the previous step if necessary, praying for direction on how to proceed. Allow your sponsor to help you identify stumbling blocks and find solutions.
- Do you have a way of working the program that is getting you the results you want?
- If not, are you willing to try a different approach?
- What are you willing to do to improve the quality of your program, if necessary?