Why Do We Work The Steps?

Updated: Jan 12, 2021

They are essential to finding a sober, happy life.

The journey of a thousand miles

must begin with a single step.

—Lao Tzu

In the beginning, the Steps definitely didn’t apply to me.

As I sat in the group room of detox, the banner extolling the Steps stared down at me. I read them, but in my toxic state, most of them made no sense. I was certainly NOT powerless. I had spent most of my life trying to accumulate power of any kind. Surrender was not a word I was familiar with.

Then there was a lot about this God thing. I had rejected all that stuff years before. Made a list of all persons who had harmed me, yeah, I was in for that. I had a list ready to go.

Searching and fearless moral inventory; I knew exactly what my character defects were but there was no way I was going to share them. Some of my mistakes would go to the grave with me.

Soon I realized part of my truth, that I was in a state of incomprehensible demoralization, and my problems went a lot deeper than the booze and the drugs. They told me, find a sponsor and work the Steps. Fortunately, I could take the Steps one at a time, so I managed a small degree of willingness. I bravely ventured out into this scary thing called recovery.

Why do we work the Steps? For a lot of reasons, but mostly because they changed who I had been, into who I wanted to become. I didn’t like myself very much. I had not yet found any measure of forgiveness. Here are the reasons I worked the Steps.

They took away the pain. There was no reason to wait, maybe to work one Step a month. Bill W. and Dr. Bob would work the first three Steps at the bedside of the newcomer. Personally, I wanted the pain to go away as fast as possible.

They gave me hope. Addiction was a life without hope. I knew that in spite of the money, prestige, and position my life had given me, I was doomed to die in a dark alley, shot in the head by a dope dealer. And I didn’t care.

They helped me deal with my past. My memories of the past were an aching knot in my chest that kept me from taking a deep breath. Remorse, resentment, and anger were a black cloud hanging over my head. A weight of a thousand pounds was hung around my neck.

They helped me understand my disease. My fancy education had taught me nothing about addiction. As far as I knew, it was a deep character flaw that would put me in the gutter. The idea that it was a disease, and that I was not really a bad person, was like a breath of fresh air.

They helped me find forgiveness. It was difficult to forgive all those assholes who had harmed me. There were lots of them. But actually, it proved easier than I thought, for I knew deep down that it was the right thing to do. Forgiving myself turned out to be a lot harder.

They taught me how to pray and meditate. Believe it or not, I discovered very quickly that when I prayed, something actually happened. I didn’t understand it, but they told me that understanding was highly overrated. Prayer was a skill I would have to work on. Practice they said, makes perfect. Meditation remained a mystery for a long time.

They helped me overcome my fear and my character defects. In rehab, they asked me what my fears were. My answer was that I didn’t have any, but I would soon learn otherwise. I was quite surprised that it was fear that drove all my character defects, but when I thought about it a while, it made good sense. But most remarkable was the discovery that faith could vanquish any fear.

They provided treatment for a disease that was killing me. I had tried everything I could to rid myself of my addiction. Self-knowledge, swearing off, making a firm decision, all the vows listed in the Big Book. I knew I was dying. I had reached the turning point. It was either quit or die.

They gave me the psychic change I needed. They told me that “everything you think you know is wrong,” which insulted my intelligence. But some craving inside picked me up and took me down the path to my spiritual awakening. As I learned more about myself and how to behave in the world, the path actually became fun and exciting. Imagine that!

They helped me find a higher power that I could relate to. It had been years since I had given up on the God-of-my-Fathers. But Bill W. said that inside each of us was a vague sense that something greater than us was running the world. I passionately wanted to believe in something that made sense in today’s world. Then came the words, “unconditional love,” and I was on my way to find an answer that fit me.

They returned me to my family and gave me new friends. My progression into addiction had slowly isolated me from friends, colleagues, and finally my family. They said that part of the process of recovery was “re-peoplization.” Amends, forgiveness, and newfound compassion carried me forward. Turns out my children wanted me back after all.

READ more Tips for the Newcomer here.

“Overcoming substance abuse through the use of the spiritual

principles behind 12-Step programs, to find long-term recovery

from addiction to drugs and alcohol and to live a sober life.”