6. Work the Twelve Steps
In this Practice:
- Some background on the Twelve Steps
- The elements of genuine recovery
- Work the Steps with others
- Assignment for Practice Six
The Twelve Steps—originally developed in the work that became Alcoholics Anonymous—are so ubiquitously referred to in our day that it’s easy to assume or trivialize them. There is an interesting dynamic that sometimes occurs: when we become overly familiar with something our regard for it diminishes. And the Twelve Steps are so commonly referenced in our day that most of us pick up bits and pieces about them and may begin to have the false notion that we really understand how this simple-but-not-easy program actually works.
Now, I want to be clear about a couple of things. First, working the Twelve Steps is not the only way to recover from addiction. You may find that you’re able to recover from your compulsive living without using the Twelve Steps as part of your own recovery program. Another approach may work better for you. Whichever approach works, my primary goal is that you and others like you and me gain our freedom from compulsive living.
Second, I don’t think there’s one precise way to actually work the Steps. There are guidelines to follow and basic things to admit, do and pursue, but there is some latitude in the specific ways people work them. Use competent resources or guides and ask God to help you.
Whether the Steps form an integral part of your recovery work or not, I think all healing comes from God. You will recover if you increasingly rely on and yield to the Spirit God, pursue the truth about yourself, your behaviors and life, cultivate honest relationships with others on the same path, drop shame and cultivate humility, gratitude and giving to others.
Having said all that, I think there is healing and power for most people who genuinely work the Twelve Steps. They’re not magic, but they are a pathway to genuine spiritual growth, emotional healing, addiction recovery, sane and healthy living. Actually I think the Twelve Steps are a wonderful pathway of Christian discipleship.
Reading through the Steps and listening to others talk about their experiences with the Steps is NOT working the Steps. Working the Steps means you do the work. You follow the program. The Steps are a program of action. And they are like a cycle. You work through them and then you keep reviewing them and especially stay living in Steps Ten, Eleven and Twelve.
The key is that you actually work through the Steps with someone else. It can be a friend who’s in recovery, a sponsor you’ve bound through a recovery group or someone you’ve met and developed an honest relationship with, i.e., someone safe who is working at facing their own stuff.
If you’re already in a group situation, as we discussed in the Practice 4, “Assemble Your Intentional Community of Specific Support,” and if it’s a recovery group or a Twelve Step group that is working through the Steps, then this may be the best context for you to work the Steps.
If you’re not in a group, then you’ll have to find a like-minded person with whom you can work through the Steps.
Why is it essential to work the Steps with someone else? The very nature of our recovery from this intimacy disorder (sexual compulsivity) requires we grow in healthy community. God almost always heals us in connection with others. Healing from this addiction simply cannot happen in isolation.
The Twelve Steps were developed by Bill W. and Dr. Bob S and shared with others in the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935. They were spelled out 18 years later in the book of the same name and are the bedrock program for millions of people seeking recovery from the insanity of addiction. Here is how I slightly adapt the Twelve Steps for folks who are compulsive in sexual behaviors.
The Twelve Steps
We admitted that we were powerless over our compulsive sexual behavior and that our lives had become unmanageable.
Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
We turned our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood God.
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all areas of our lives.
The first Three Steps are the foundational Steps. We face our problem with lust. We begin to come to terms with our Creator, who is all-powerful and loving. We surrender to our Creator that we might be recovered to a healthy, purposeful life.
Steps Four through Nine are the working Steps. We examine our lives and become as honest as we can be. We further surrender the things about us that are hurting us and others to our Creator and ask His help. And we acknowledge the damage our addictive living has done and offer whatever appropriate amends we can.
And Steps Ten through Twelve are the maintenance Steps that help us maintain and develop our sobriety, serenity and personal growth.
Assignment for Engaging the Sixth Practice—Work the Twelve Steps
1. Read in Ashamed No More, pp 101-105, “Genuine Spiritual Transformation and the Recovery Movement” and “What is Spiritual Transformation?”
2. Read in Ashamed No More, pp 105-111, “The Twelve Steps and the Church” and “Behaviors Have To Change”
3. Go to http://www.aa.org/pages/en_US/read-the-big-book-and-twelve-steps-and-twelve-traditions for a pdf version of the fourth edition of the Big Book of AA (if you have your own copy, even better), click on the tab for the Fourth Edition of Alcoholics Anonymous, scroll down to chapter 5, “How It Works” and read pp 58-63, which cover Steps One through Three*
4. Continuing in the Big Book, read pp 63-71 for Step Four
5. In the Big Book, read pp 72-88 (chapter 6, “Into Action”) which cover Steps Five through Nine
6. In the Big Book, read pp 84-88 for Steps Ten and Eleven
7. Again in the Big Book, read pp 89-103 (chapter 7, “Working With Others”), note that this entire chapter deals with Step Twelve, so a couple of thoughts I want you to keep in mind: one, carrying “this message to other addicts” offers a distinct challenge of applicability for those of us who are sexually compulsive; you must be very careful with whom you share your story; sometimes in your recovery you may very well disclose to someone else so as to help them; for all of us, another way of working this out is supporting the efforts of others who are publically sharing their story and promoting recovery from sex addiction; two, this chapter has much practical wisdom and application for every one, so please read carefully
8. Here is a version of the Step Three prayer for you to use daily during this Practice:
God, I offer myself to You—to build with me and to do with me as You will. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Your will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Your Power, Your Love and Your Way of life. May I do your will always! Amen.
*It will be helpful when reading in the Big Book that when you see the words “alcohol” and “alcoholic” you mentally substitute “lust” and “addict” or other terms that work for you; the principles of addiction and recovery are what we’re looking for
It’s helpful for you to realize that working through each Practice is meant to introduce you to important concepts and useful practices for you to revisit often. This whole set of Practices is meant to be a workbook you return to again and again until you’ve developed a healthier way of living that has become your norm.
For no Practices is this more true than Practice Six. You’ve familiarized yourself with the Twelve Steps and how they are to be worked, but you need still to work through them with someone or a group. So, now it’s time to both to move onto Practice Seven and at the same time continue working the Steps
For additional reading
Twelve Steps And Twelve Traditions, pp 21-125
The “White Book” of Sexaholics Anonymous, pp 77-157
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