Why the Steps Aren’t a One Time Deal
“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” Benjamin Franklin
If you were to ask ten different people on how many times you should work the steps or how often, you may get 10 different answers. I’m not even sure there is a right or a wrong answer. I have switched the question of “right or wrong” to “effective or ineffective” this last year of my life. It seems less likely to attach judgment. If the purpose of the steps is to recover from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body, stay that way and help others achieve the same, I assume it would be based on effectiveness in this scenario.
Learning the Big Book
People often ask me how I know the big book so well. I pretty much have committed the first 103 pages to memory. Sure, I studied it. I listened to the entire big book adventure of Joe and Charlie, attended many local big book studies and listened to many others teach the big book online. What taught me best was the many people I sat across from on a park bench, on a couch or at a kitchen table and read it with them personally. I’m the first to say knowledge doesn’t lead to application.
We hear tons of people take shots at “big book thumpers” making comments that knowing the book doesn’t make you spiritual. That is true, but a full understanding of the instructions of the path dramatically increases the odds of the path being walked. Also, those who know the path and find themselves falling short have a different internal experience than those not walking around with the knowledge of what they are doing. Awareness is a double-edged sword; awareness without action tends to be painful.
How to Continuously Work the Steps
Too many people give their opinions on experiences they have never had. The answers to the question proposed will come from three sources, the literature, the experience of the original AA’s and my personal experience. They all align perfectly. As many mistakes as I have made over the years, the straight line of how to work the steps is no stranger to me.
Those who are literature adherent are continually “working the steps.” We work them initially with our sponsor and then take others right through. Bill W brought Dr. Bob through the work. They didn’t take a break to absorb it, learn more, grow spiritually or anything of the sort. They immediately sought out another alcoholic to carry the message to. A. A number three, Bill D. Too often we hear that people aren’t ready to sponsor. It is the sponsoring others that teaches us as well. If we are using the book, no creativity is needed. Also, our sponsors will help us guide others, that’s a massive part of sponsoring.
“Both you and the new man must walk day by day in the path of spiritual progress.” (pg. 100 Big Book) When we are dropping to our knees with a newcomer in the 3rd step prayer, he is surrendering his alcoholism, but we are surrendering our current defects if the prayer is heartfelt. When we instruct him on amends, our conscious is pointed towards our unmade amends. When trading stories on his 5th we are back in a non-religious confession ourselves. When guiding him on how to do daily inventory, prayer and meditation our possible lack of application can be presented to us. Sponsoring another is working the steps because we do we heal in pairs. We ruin the newcomers drinking while he ruins our lack of sobriety.
Being that step 10 is steps 1 through 9 wrapped into a spiritual toolkit, it could be looked at as a 3-step program. “Our next function is to grow in understanding and effectiveness. This is not an overnight matter. It should continue for a lifetime.” (pg. 85 Big Book on step 10). As a lack of consistency in daily practice, we may get jammed up again spiritually.
Getting jammed up spiritually is often where a person with time will be driven back to a 4th step to clean out the spiritual closet that has gotten messy again. Bill W also wrote after going through the big book that some may do quarterly or annual inventories to stay on the beam. That is a personal choice, but A.A is very clear on this one, we should always be working the steps, with and through someone else who needs it more than us.