- How long should I wait to take the 12 Steps?

How long should I wait to take the 12 Steps?




12 Steps: Discussions related to the 12 Steps and using them as a treatment to recover from alcohol and drug addiction.

How long should I wait to take the 12 Steps?

Postby Dallas » Tue Aug 09, 2005 9:15 am

How long should I wait to take the 12 Steps?

One of the common questions that I often get asked by newcomers is "How long should I wait to take the 12 Steps?" My reply is usually something like, "If you were bleeding to death, and you knew you were going to die from it ... how long would you want to wait to get to the hospital?"

I've discovered that many newcomer's are much like I was when I first came to AA. I didn't understand how serious, tragic and deadly the disease of alcoholism is. As I see it now, it's like a lethal snake bite... if I've been bitten... I want to get treated for it as fast as I can... rather than run the risk of dying from the poisonous bite.

Sometimes, I've heard some deadly ideas shared in an AA meeting. When I was very new in AA, I remember someone, who was apparently an old-timer, sharing "Well, I suggest you take one step a year, and in 12 years, you've taken them all!" I've even heard Sponsor's suggest to people they were sponsoring that "they were not ready to take the 12 Steps"!

I'm sure glad that I had an AA Sponsor who knew enough about alcoholism and AA, to steer me in a different direction! I would have been drunk and dead had I waited long to take the 12 Steps!!!

There are some very strong warnings in the Big Book, and in the book 12 Steps and 12 Traditions, that suggest that if we delay taking the Steps, we will end up drinking again, and for us to drink is to die.

The best AA answer I've found to the question of "How long should I wait to take the 12 Steps?" are the answers that I've found in the Big Book. AA books such as, Dr. Bob & the Good Old-timers, and AA Comes of Age, are also very informative.

When I read the personal story in back of Big Book, (3rd Edition) titled: "He sold himself short", it appears that Dr. Bob's practice was to take the newcomer through the Steps in one afternoon.

I realize that I can't shove sobriety down an alcoholics throat and rush them through recovery. Many are like I was, they will insist on their drinking rights until they have reached a hopeless condition of pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization and wait until all of the good things in life are gone, before becoming willing to listen to the AA message. And, as sad as it is, some will never hear it.

When I first took the 12 Steps, my life was so full of pain, and I knew that it was certain that I would drink again, that I wanted to take the 12 Steps just to stay alive!!!

After I took the 12 Steps, myself and my life changed in such a radical way for the better, that I couldn't figure out why I had waited so long to take the 12 Steps!!!

Thanks for letting me share!!!

Dallas
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Postby crickit » Wed Aug 10, 2005 12:59 am

Good question Dallas. In my opinion, it's not so important how long it takes to work the steps because that seems to be an on going process, but it's also important to at least get started. I am a bit of an over acheiver so when I started AA I wanted all the answers NOW. Step one was easy. I knew I was powerless over alcohol when I came to AA. That's what brought me here. Being a spiritual person I had step 2 & 3 down pat too. So I thought. By the time 3 months rolled around I told my sponsor I was ready to do my step 4. I saw what a difference it made in everyone elses life and I wanted that serenity. But every time I was ready to start the 4th something would happen and I would loose faith again. It wasn't until I was able to accept the first 3 steps 100% without question that I was able to move forward. Now 6mths sober I'm working on my 4th and some still say that's too early but I think we know when we are ready, or at least our sponsors will anyway. I know others that have been in the program over a year and are just starting the steps now. As long as we work the program daily and stay focused on that light at the end of the tunnel. One of the most important things I have learned in the last 6 months is that giving up the drink, going to meetings and getting a sponsor is only the beginning and that's the easy part. It's all the internal work we do that keeps us sober. It took me 44 years to get where I am today and the changes will not happen over night. Tonight I chaired my first meeting and there was a newcomer. After the meeting I went over to welcome her to the group. She said she could never get up in front of a bunch of people and talk. I told her that's exactly what I thought 6 mths ago. She was shocked that I had only been with AA for 6 mths. I told her I was a total mess when I first came to AA and had no choice but to give up my life to the care of the gods or I wouldn't be standing here today. AA has made me want to live again. She still looked surprised and asked 'and that can happen in six months' I told her it all depends on how badly you want it. I gave her a copy of the big book, gave her a hug and said ' no matter how bad it is today, keep coming back and it will get better and if you can truely believe that then it will happen.'

HAPPY 24 HOURS
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Postby openminded » Wed Aug 10, 2005 2:26 am

I was one of those people mentioned who didn't formally start writing out the steps untill i had over a year....I had probably 13 months of sobriety before I started writing my fourth. I got down on myself really bad, and i think i felt sort of guilty for not having written out all the steps with 13 months sobriety. Where i was going to meetings, it was extreamly difficult to find a woman sponsor, so part of the reason i wasn't moving quicker was because my sponsor was only a step ahead of me. Looking back, I don't know if she wanted it as bad as I did. I took responsibility for my recovery, and got a sponsor that i trusted and that would allow me to move on in the steps when she saw fit.

Going through them and writing them out formally did so much for me. One thing that i had found out was that i had been working the steps the whole time, and didn't even realize that the STEPS were what i was working.

I understand now, the serenity and peace gained from living the steps, and i don't feel i would have gained anywhere near as much as i've gained now if I hadn't gone over the steps with a sponsor. I would have been completly willing to start earlier, but everything is exactly as it's supposed to be.

Thanks for the topic.
Openminded

By writing the steps out formally and going over them with a sponsor, i felt i understood what each step was about, whereas before, i was working and living the steps, but i couldn't point out which step was which. I just didn't know. After i started writing them out I felt much more comfortable talking in step study meetings, and sponsoring other women. I guess I learned how to LIVE the steps, and when to use them. I never had that before i went through them with a sponsor. I understood things much more clearly now.
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Postby Tim » Wed Aug 10, 2005 3:43 am

As life-changing as the Steps are, and useful to keep one contentedly sober, I am an advocate of a thorough working of the Steps as soon as possible. I don't suggest a time limit, which will vary considerably for each individual, but I personally feel that as long as a recovering alcoholic is working on the Steps on a daily basis, he or she is in less danger of a relapse--whether sober for a month, a year, or a decade. Practice makes progress

That said, I don't think it makes much sense to push through the Steps as if they were an odious task to get over with. The Steps are like an onion, and each stage of sobriety unpeels more of what each Step is about and one finds a new depth and understanding.

As I have progressed in recovery, I find that I have not so much worked the Steps as the Steps have worked me, changing me profoundly and subtly as I am willing to learn from them.
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Postby Dallas » Wed Aug 10, 2005 1:34 pm

One of the many problems I had as a newcomer in AA, was that I had no real understanding of what it meant to be a real alcoholic. I had perceptions and opinions, but later, after reading the book Alcoholics Anonymous and listening to more experienced members of AA, I know now, that my opinions and perceptions about alcoholism, were wrong.

I thought that it was immature to think that AA’s 12 Steps would help me with anything! I thought they were just some code or creed of mumbo jumbo that was totally irrelevant to a highly-advanced intelligent person like me. Later, it was proved to me, that I was wrong again.

I also thought that if I were going to take AA’s 12 Steps, I could take the 12 Steps any way that I decided were right for me to take them.

My results were that I ended up drunk again after 5 ½ months of sobriety. I very nearly missed out on ever having another moment sober! I see looking back on my experience that it was directly related to me wanting to recover “my wayâ€
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Postby crickit » Thu Aug 18, 2005 1:35 pm

Hi Dannydad. Welcome to the forum. Good to see you here.

I personally can't imagine getting through the 12 steps in 2 weeks. Heck, the 4th step seems to be the longest one to get through and I'm constantly being tested on the first 3. I have 6 months sober and although I love to help out others in there time of need, I could'nt imagine sponsoring someone else right now. For me I found it difficult to get through 44 years of crap in just 6 months. It's still a constant process for me. I have a very close connection to my higher power and still have current problems that I have to work through so I'm taking my time with my 4th step. I talk to my sponsor daily, sometimes 2-3 times. I go to meetings 5 nights a week, see a therapist once a week and have group therapy for concurrent disorders once a week. I have become active in my home group, chaired my first meeting last week and have become very involved in the business meetings. I have also joined the shut in program to help others that can't get out to a meeting. And of course, try to be as active as possible on this message board.

Anyway, glad to see you back after your relapse. Keep coming back

Bright Blessings
Crickit
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Postby dannysdad » Thu Aug 18, 2005 2:05 pm

crickit wrote:Hi Dannydad. Welcome to the forum. Good to see you here.

I personally can't imagine getting through the 12 steps in 2 weeks. Heck, the 4th step seems to be the longest one to get through and I'm constantly being tested on the first 3. I have 6 months sober and although I love to help out others in there time of need, I could'nt imagine sponsoring someone else right now. For me I found it difficult to get through 44 years of crap in just 6 months. It's still a constant process for me. I have a very close connection to my higher power and still have current problems that I have to work through so I'm taking my time with my 4th step. I talk to my sponsor daily, sometimes 2-3 times. I go to meetings 5 nights a week, see a therapist once a week and have group therapy for concurrent disorders once a week. I have become active in my home group, chaired my first meeting last week and have become very involved in the business meetings. I have also joined the shut in program to help others that can't get out to a meeting. And of course, try to be as active as possible on this message board.

Anyway, glad to see you back after your relapse. Keep coming back

Bright Blessings
Crickit


I admire your commitment to your recovery. Your issues are important and shouldn't be ignored. All I'm saying is that AA meetings are not the place to deal with them. Use your sponsor and your therapist.

As for the 4th step...you don't have time to wait. If you do it exactly like it is spelled out in the big book, it shouldn't take more than 2 hours. That's it. Your 5th step shouldn't take much more than an hour. You HAVE to get to step 12 as soon as possible. The early AA's did all 12 steps in days. If they had waited for their issues to clear up, you and I would be dead today.

Finish the steps and start sponsoring people. You will be blown away at how your life has changed. Trust me.
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Postby Dallas » Thu Aug 18, 2005 2:07 pm

DannysDad

Welcome back to Life and welcome to Step12.com. I look forward to your participation in the forum!!!

Thank you for sharing your experience strength and hope.

I’m glad that you were fortunate enough to find a great AA sponsor who has read the book and knows what the real AA message is! Thank you for continuing to pass it on!

If the AA Pioneer’s were able to take the 12 Steps in one day, it’s hard for me to imagine why newcomers can’t take them that way today!!! It worked then. And, my experience has shown that it still works now!

I’ve heard that it’s because newcomers and some of the long-time hanger-oner’s now have so many “issues and conditionsâ€
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Postby dannysdad » Thu Aug 18, 2005 2:20 pm

Thanks, Dallas. Sounds like we're on the same page. I have to get to the office, now. HAve a great day.
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Postby new2this » Sat Aug 20, 2005 5:47 am

Hi Dannysdad,

Welcome to the forums!

As for the question at hand, I can only share my own experience. I don't know "how it works" for other people.

For me, I wasn't given months to work the steps. I have been given the reprieve of continually practicing them, though. And as the book says....that should continue for a lifetime.

You hear a lot of people say that they knew they weren't alcoholic when they came to AA. You hear a lot of people say that they didn't know if they were alcoholic when they came to AA.

I wasn't in either of those groups.

I knew I was alcoholic. I also knew that there wasn't a damn thing that could be done to help someone like me. I had tried it all. I was hopeless. And I also knew that everybody was lying to me. Heck, nobody stays sober for 25 minutes, let alone 25 years!!! (Notice how many times I used the word "I"??)

I ended up in detox at the local ICU. My husband, an EMT, refused to visit me. My children, who wanted to visit me were unable to as a result. They were told that I was a liar. That delusion was smashed when the bill came, though!!! :lol: :lol:

A few people visited, though. Those visits came from people I didn't even know. Some crazy AA people that had met me only once or twice at the most. It's impossible to convey to you how much those visits meant. (Even though part of my cynical mind wondered "Don't you people have a life???")

Other than those visits, about the only thing I had with me was my Big Book. The only reason I even bought that Big Book was because some un-informed oldtimer was silly enough to suggest that a working person like myself might need to make payment arrangements for six dollars and fifty cents!! :oops:

Anyhoo, since that darned "heart-rate swat team" wouldn't let me get out of bed, I became the over-achiever that Cricket mentions. I took my first Fourth Step in a hospital bed hooked up to heart monitors and IV's. And I did that all by my big self! :lol:

I still have it and I gotta say that I didn't do a bad job under the circumstances!!! :wink:

I was drunk off my butt three days later. Then I made it nine days. Then I made it six.....and so on.

A lot of people stuck by my side, even though I didn't realize it at the time. And finally one of those people said to me something to effect of .....It's great that you are reading....keep reading. And it's great that you are coming to meetings.....keep coming back. And it's great that you did step four....that shows that you want it.

But. (uh-oh) :shock:

Step four isn't going to work until you've done steps one through three. And then..... they had the audacity to ask if I was aware that there were eight other steps to take! You ready yet? Okay, then let's get down to business.....now.

And I don't know about all of you, but I found Step five to be much harder than Step four. Writing it down and admitting something to myself that I already knew and admitting to God something that He already knew ......yeah, that was hard. But not near as hard as being honest with another human being!!!! And that is probably the only time I've gotten to bring up "issues".

If I were to try bringing up "issues" at a meeting.....I'd be told to save some money and buy the subscription! That or "Buy some new shoes!"

Thanks for letting me share. I'll try to be a little less winded next time.

Take Care All,

Cathy
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