Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Twelve Steps.

From ODAT, page 96:

"The Steps are like a medicine that many of us won't bother to take, although we know they can heal us from the sickness of despair, frustration, resentment and self-pity."

I like this medicine analogy - it reminds me of the way most people used to take antibiotics - they never finished out the prescription, just took them for long enough to feel better, and then quit. For many people, Step 4 seems to be the one pill they just can't face swallowing.

I've seen this time and again, in the program. People will come into the meetings in an awful state, brought to their knees by someone else's drinking. They will show up every week, but only just long enough to feel a bit better, then they stop attending, and I won't see them for six months or so. When they begin to feel that churning wretchedness again, they will start showing up at meetings, and the pattern repeats.

They never progress past a certain point of health, because they don't like taking the medicine. I used to judge these poor souls harshly when I was a newcomer myself, and clinging to program with all my might. Now, I feel compassion, and try to offer a warm welcome when I do see them at meetings. Perhaps, one day, they'll get tired of living with a low-grade fever of misery and anguish, and decide that this time, they are going to swallow all of the medicine, and truly recover.

I can encourage them, I can rave about how well the medicine has worked for me, but I can't force them to take it - we are each free to choose. I'm grateful for my first sponsor, who used to hand me my medicine, and grin at me, while waiting for me to take it. There were quite a few times that I pretended to take it while she was watching, but when I got home, I'd spit it out, because I didn't need that. I was too new to 12-step to realise that it was obvious I hadn't taken it, next time we spoke, and she'd call me on it each and every time - that woman had eyes in the back of her head, and a sharp tongue. She also had the one attribute that could get through to me - a wickedly funny, ironic view of life and human nature.

For me, humour was, and still is, the "spoonful of sugar," which makes some of the medicine of 12-step, more palatable.


  1. I don't know why people don't keep coming to meetings and working the steps. I've seen three patterns: either they just come to meetings or they get a sponsor and work the steps, or they start the steps but can't get past Step One or Step Four. It may taste a bit bitter on the way down, but this is powerful medicine that will make a person well.

  2. I just started blogging tonight and I'm glad I did. I really appreciate seeing this tonight. It's a bit late so I'm a bit tired to go into real detail but I wanted to say that I was one of those people.
    I went to Al-Anon for about a year religiously. Things and I started to change. My husband after about 3 months with my going in Al-Anon tried to go to AA to get sober. It didn't work. I stopped going to Al-Anon. I was bitter about the whole program. I didn't go to Al-anon again until about a month ago. (I had been away around a year.)
    I realize now its a different program then when I went before. When I went before I didn't go for "Me" I went for "Him". He really didn't quit for "Him" he quit for "Me".
    My husband never stopped drinking since then and of course things are unbearable again.
    I thought about that last time I was happy and that was when I was in Al-Anon. I decided to give it a shot again and I have been going to meetings at least 4 times a week and just started to work the steps with a sponsor. The two things I notice now is 1) Even though I left Al-Anon, some of the tools never left me. Even though I was bitter, I still used them. When I was hopeless I still knew I could pick up the ODAT or Courage to Change and get some small relief. I knew I would be hugged by someone if I just walked through the doors!! The other thing I noticed is that the people that I started the program with, that stuck it out, are so bright and happy now. It reassured me that it works!!
    I am really trying hard to stay now.....Even if its just One Day/Meeting at a Time!!