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A Deeper Look at the 12 Steps

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

To many people who are just getting sober the 12 Steps are just those things hanging on the wall behind the speaker or something that takes too long to read at the beginning of a meeting. They have the word God in them, which is an initial turn off for many, they are asking us to reveal our secrets to another human being, and asking us to go to people that we have wronged and make things right. All of these things sound terrible when we are just beginning and what’s further, they don’t even really seem to make sense. I mean how does doing any of the things in the 12 Steps actually help a person to overcome their addiction?

Well, the truth is, I don’t really have an answer for that. In fact, I don’t think anyone really does, but what is known is that they work. This is probably why the reading at the beginning of AA meetings is titled “How It Works” and not “Why It Works”. So if you are just making an initial go at getting sober and you find yourself thinking, these things don’t make sense, know that you are correct, but that you should do them anyways because they expel your obsession to drink and drug and offer you a new way of living that you could have never imagined.

History of the 12 Steps

Although Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Bill Wilson compiled the Steps together, he did not, in fact, come up with the principles behind them. Many of the ideas that he presented in the final version of the 12 Steps had roots in previous programs that sought to help the alcoholic, such as the Oxford Group or The Washingtonians, and many of these programs borrowed from spiritual practices that were thousands of years old. Bill’s genius, however, lay not in his ability to discover new spiritual practices, but rather in his ability to distill spiritual teachings into terms that alcoholics would understand and be able to digest.

Yet as incredible the effect that the 12 Steps have had on the plight of the alcoholic and addict, their existence almost never came to be. In 1935 Bill Wilson traveled to Akron, Ohio on a business trip. His business proposition fell apart and he found himself standing in a hotel lobby faced with two choices. He could either go to the bar in the lobby or he could use the phone and call up a local church in order to try to find a drunk whom he could help. Luckily, Bill chose to pick up the phone and he was directed to a local doctor by the name of Dr. Bob Smith, and with this meeting the birth of the 12 Steps began.

Over the next few years the Steps were developed, with important contributions being made by AA’s earliest members. One such inclusion in the creation of the Steps was the term God as we understood him. These 5 short words are part of what has given the 12 Steps their longevity and has allowed them to help people from all walks of life. Many of AA’s predecessors focused on a particular understanding of God, mostly Christian, and because of this they ultimately failed. By allowing the alcoholic or addict their own choice in whom or what their God will be, opened the door for a personal relationship with God, rather than an esoteric misunderstanding. From this position many hopeless alcoholics and addicts have been able to have the required spiritual awakening necessary to overcome their addiction and find freedom.

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Synopsis Of The Steps

While the Steps may seem confusing at first, they are really very simple. They are ordered in a logical manner and their only real requirements for implementation is a desire to stop abusing substances and an open mind to new ideas.

The First Step is the corner stone of the Steps and without its acceptance, no other Steps can be truly applied. The reason being is that without an understanding that you are an Alcoholic or an Addict, you will not actually do the things required to overcome your addiction. Once a true understanding has set in that you suffer from a chronic illness that leaves you powerless over the choice of drinking or drugging, you can begin to move towards a solution.

The Second Step simply is a coming to terms with the fact that you, of yourself, cannot overcome your alcoholism or addiction. It is a realization that after fighting the battle yourself, you have failed, and need something greater than you in order to succeed.

The Third Step is turning over your will to something greater. This is something that trips up many people who are newly sober because they usually believe that if they turn their will over to God or the program or whatever, there will be nothing left of them. This, however, is not what this step means, and it is basically just a relieving of yourself from Commander of Universe and allowing life to unfold as it may. It takes the pressure of having to control everything off of a person and it is also an agreement to complete the Steps.

The Fourth and Fifth Steps frighten most people but in reality, they are not that frightening. Majority of the things on a Fourth and Fifth Step have been said thousands of times to anyone who would listen and it is really only a few items that scare us. Once these “secrets” are told they will no longer have as much power and you will experience freedom.

The Sixth and Seventh Steps are often misunderstood as well. Some people work on these steps by consciously attempting to remove their defects of character while others believe this isn’t possible. Regardless of what you believe, if you live life, you will have ample opportunity to become aware of your defects and attempt to change them.

The Eight and Ninth Steps are another set of Steps that scare people because they are not sure how people will react. Many times they are shocked when their legal charges are dropped or when people receive them warmly and with love. These two steps are exceedingly important in overcoming a lot of guilt that newly sober people can feel about the past and so they, like the other Steps, should not be skirted.

The Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Steps all focus on continuing to practice the tenets of the Steps, while seeking a better relationship with the God of your understanding. They also focus on helping others and carrying the message and so they are equally as important as the other Steps when it comes to attaining long-term sobriety.

Seeking Treatment

If you are not currently at the point where you are ready to start the 12 Steps but think that you may need treatment then call the trained professionals at First Steps Recovery, at 1-844-489-0836. They can help you get sober and get you ready to begin the transformative process that is the 12 steps.

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