Tag Archives: Literature

Why Recovery Stories are Important

Knowledge lodges in my mind. Stories bind it in my heart.

Sometimes we study the 12 Steps but don’t seem to be able to find recovery. It may not be because we don’t understand the Steps. Rather, it might be because we haven’t figured out how to apply the steps in our lives. In reality, the 12 Steps are neither more nor less than a way of learning about and applying the power of the Atonement in our lives. Learning about the Atonement and the 12 Steps is important, but applying them in our lives is more important. One way to do this is by listening to the recovery stories of others.

I have an opportunity to hear these stories when I attend 12 Step meetings. The more meetings I go to, the more opportunities I have to hear people tell how they apply the Steps in their lives on a daily basis. The recovery stories I hear at meetings give me ideas about how I can integrate the 12 Steps in my daily life and live in a state of recovery.

Another way to hear recovery stories is to listen to the podcasts and videos the Church has made available on their website. For example:

There are also stories of how people have seen the 12 Steps work in their lives in program literature from other fellowships.The basic texts of many of the 12 Step fellowships have recovery stories at the back of the book. For example:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous (The Big Book)
  • Overeaters Anonymous (The Brown Book)
  • Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text (6th Edition)

There are also monthly magazines that contain recovery stories:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous Grapevine Magazine (subscription required to access most content)
  • Overeaters Anonymous Lifeline magazine (free online in PDF format)
  • The NA Way magazine (free online in PDF format)

Parables and metaphors are also stories. The Savior used them when he taught because it helped those who were spiritually prepared to better understand and apply the principle he was talking about. Many of my blog posts contain metaphors that have come as I have searched for a way to explain a Step or concept to someone or as the Lord has explained one to me!

Knowledge lodges in the mind. Stories bind it in the heart.

  • What recovery stories have you read or heard that help you apply the Steps to your life?
  • What story can you share with others about living in recovery or applying the Steps?
  • What will you do today to help yourself or others to find ways to apply the Atonement?

Please share your thoughts about this post or other resources you would recommend by commenting below.

Related Posts: In the right hand column of this page, under the heading “Categories,” click on “Metaphor” to find stories that might help you live in a state of recovery.



Read to Learn; Write to Grow

Read to Learn - Write to Grow. As I work on my recovery, I learn so much from reading. This includes 12-Step program literature, scriptures, spiritually uplifting talks by Church leaders, books and other sources. I get new ideas, see things I may not have seen before and gain understanding. I learn new tips and techniques for dealing with temptation or stress. I find metaphors that help me make sense of my own strengths and shortcomings and the journey I am on. I learn about the program and about the recovery process.

Nevertheless, most of this happens in my head, not my heart.  Reading about it does not make it a part of me.

We have long been counseled by our Church leaders to keep a journal. There are many different kinds of journal writing. Some people primarily record the events of their lives. Others share their deepest feelings, hopes and dreams. No matter what kind of writing you do, and whether you write in a journal or notebook or on a computer, I have found that writing accesses a different part of your brain than pondering or speaking.

When I write, I explore how the things I am learning apply to me; to my life. When I write I find new understanding and practical application of what I have read or heard.  I get ideas about how I want to implement these concepts and practices in my life. I make commitments to myself and to God about what I am willing to do today, and start conceptualizing what my life could look like in the future as I become willing to apply more and more of what I have learned.

As I write I report on my progress; report both to myself and to the Lord. I look back at what I have written in the past and see proof of it. As I work to articulate my feelings and my observations I gain keener insight into them and synthesize new ideas I did not even have when I sat down to write.

I am grateful for all that has been written by others; for the raw materials I find there. I am even more grateful for the ability and opportunity to write for myself and co-create the new me with God, starting with who I am today and using those raw materials to become more of what He has given me the potential to be.

I read to learn. I write to grow.

  • How do you use the tool of writing?
  • How does/could writing help you to grow?
  • What are you willing to do today to use writing to co-create the new you with God?

Please share your thoughts about this post by commenting below.

Related Posts: Staying Abstinent: Using the Tools – Part 2Tools: Quality PrayerChange: The AADWAR Process



Digging Deep: the Step-work Sandwich

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.

Materials List

(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.

Image of layers of a sandwich labeled with a method for working each step. The method is described in following paragraph.

Preface and Introduction

  1. 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.
  2. Make notes in the margins or in a notebook when you have thoughts about how the text applies to your life.
  3. Read, highlight and annotate the Preface and Introduction in the remaining books on the materials list, in order.

Working the Steps

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Read the step (capturing as you go) in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.)
  7. 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.
  8. Pray and ask the Lord if you have completed the step and are ready to move on to the next step.
  9. 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?

Working One Step at a Time

Working the StepsIt is easy to get discouraged, working the 12-Step program, if we obsess about a step we are not ready for.  Think about it.  Wouldn’t it be horribly discouraging to start obsessing about passing a college chemistry class when you are taking 7th grade science? Thinking ahead can paralyze you and keep you from making progress on the step you are working right now.  This is especially true if we start worrying about Steps 4,5,8, or 9.

Here is some good news! Each step prepares you for the next. The output of a step becomes the input for the one that follows it. When you are ready to move on to the next step you will WANT to do it. You may not be excited about the footwork you have to do, but you will be very excited as you anticipate the results of doing it.

If you are a newcomer to the 12-step program, you are on Step 1, admitting that you are powerless over the behavior or substance that brought you to the program. Since most of us spent years thinking we were in control and not powerless at all, and trying to prove it by our actions, that can be a tall order! Focus on Step 1 if that is where you are.  Read the step in the ARP manual, He Did Deliver Me from Bondage, or one of the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions books. (See my Resources page for more info on these books.) Use the tool of writing to identify material that you can apply to your own life. Colleen Harrison, the author of He Did Deliver Me from Bondage  calls it “Capturing”. Here is an abbreviated explanation of how I use this tool.

  1. As you come across a passage that you feel inclined to highlight, copy it into a notebook.
  2. Write about what you think the passage means.
  3. Pray for guidance on how to apply this passage to your life and then write about the impressions you get.

Take the time to thoughtfully answer the questions that appear in the book you are studying. Talk to your sponsor and/or other people who are working the steps about what you are learning. When you think you have learned all you can from this step (this time around), prayerfully ask the Lord if you are done with it and ready to move on.  When you get a confirmation, start working the next one.

Getting Stuck

If I am stuck on a step and can’t seem to find the willingness to move on, it usually means that I probably wasn’t really done with the previous step when I started this one.  For example, if I am working Step 3, and just can’t seem to find the willingness to turn my will and my life over to the Lord and trust Him so I can start Step 4, I might need to go back to Step 2, and dig deeper for the ability and willingness to embrace the fact that He really CAN deliver me from my situation. If I really believe that He can and will deliver me then why would I be reluctant to ask Him to do so in Step 3?

Input and Output

What did I mean when I said that the output of one step becomes the input for the next? In Step 4 you make an inventory.  That inventory contains the things you confess in Step 5.  As you work Step 5, and give away your inventory, the person who receives it will be able to help you identify patterns and put together a list of your shortcomings and weaknesses.  In Step 6, you become willing to ask the Lord to remove them.  Truly, every one of the steps prepares us to work the next step, if we give ourselves to the work with humility and persistence.

  1. What step are you working on?
  2. Are you doing it with humility and persistence?
  3. Are you making progress?
  4. Are you using the tool of writing?
  5. Are you talking to others about what you are learning?
  6. What are you willing to do to move forward?


Staying Abstinent: Using the Tools – Part 2

Tools of the ProgramMy last post was Part 1 of a list of tools to use to help you stay abstinent by turning to the Lord instead of your addiction, or other inappropriate behavior in stressful situations.  Part 1 described the tools of Prayer and Meditation, Meetings, Service, Sponsorship and Telephone Calls.  Here is Part 2, which covers Writing, Music, Program Literature, Scriptures and Talks. There will be a part 3, but it may not be the next post, because I have some other things I want to write about, so watch for it.


love writing. I find that when I have a pen in my hand I use a different part of my brain than when I am just thinking or talking.  If I just start writing about something that I am struggling with, I often find that in the very act of writing, my mind has become clear and I can see and understand things that were hidden from or confusing me. When this happens it becomes much easier for me to stay abstinent. For more on writing see my post on written prayer.


Music can change my mood in an instant in a way that few other things can.  Identify music that lifts your mood and music that helps you connect with the Savior.  Keep a written list, and/or a playlist on your electronic device.  Create or find a Pandora station that plays what you need to hear.  Memorize a hymn or other song and sing it to yourself when you need a pick-me-up. Listening to the right music can help me become willing to be abstinent!

I had an amazing spiritual experience with music that was an answer to prayer once.  It was a particularly difficult and stressful time in my life and I woke up one morning with a melody going around in my mind.  It was not familiar to me, but it sounded like a hymn tune.  I got out my hymn book and started turning the pages, one at a time, looking for a melody like the one I was hearing in my head. When I got to page 114 it jumped off the page at me.  I didn’t recall ever having sung or heard Come Unto Me before, but the words – and melody – brought such peace to my heart and solace to my soul! I have memorized and used it for comfort in difficult times ever since. 

Program Literature

Have you ever escaped from dealing with the reality of life by reading a novel or watching TV? Then you know how media can serve the purpose of distracting you from whatever is causing stress in your life.  The problem with using those things to escape the moment is that when you stop reading or watching nothing has changed.  I have found that turning to my program literature, such as the ARP manual, The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Al-Anon, or another 12-Step program, or He Did Deliver Me from Bondage by Colleen Harrison can distract me for the moment, and also remind me of the progress I am making and why I WANT to be abstinent.  Additionally I can find specific thoughts or principles in this literature that can help me turn to the Lord for the power to address the challenges I am facing, instead of my addiction or some other behavior that will not bring me peace or serenity.


The scriptures can also provide great insight and help when we struggle with life.  Use your Topical Guide in the back of Bible to search the scriptures by topic.  Use the footnotes to lead you to other scriptures that might be relevant.  Memorize scriptures that seem particularly helpful.  The scriptures contain direct counsel from the Lord.  If you are looking for guidance from the Lord to help you deal with a situation you can often find it in the scriptures. See my Resources page for some of my favorite program-related scriptures.


There is an awesome additional resource for obtaining counsel from the Lord: the writing and talks given by the General Authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  They are contained in the monthly Ensign magazine, and can be accessed  on the Church website.  The General Conference Addresses can be watched, listened to, printed or downloaded here. There are additional wonderful Devotionals and other talks given by Church leaders and BYU personnel which can be accessed at the BYUtv website or at BYU Speeches. Since the Church has created its own channel on Youtube, lots of great talks and videos are available there. Finally, checkout MormonChannel.org, another great site with lots of uplifting content where you may be able to find the guidance you need.

I have links to some of my favorites talks and links to sites where you can order the books I mentioned on my Resources page.