Posted by: innerpilgrimage | March 7, 2014

Step Ten, Eleven, and Twelve: One Day at a Time

      Addiction and recovery are like the process of solving a terminal illness with surgery. Step One, I accept I’m sick. Step Two, I accept help’s out there. Step Three, I decide to get help. Step Four, I look at the symptoms honestly. Step Five, I tell someone I trust about my symptoms, holding nothing back in order to get the help I need. Step Six, I decide I want to be healthy. Step Seven, I commit to having the disease removed from me and I commit to the post-surgical lifestyle. Step Eight, I become ready to die to the illness, even if it means I lose everything else. Step Nine, I let others in my life know how sick I was, and I show them that I’m not taking this opportunity to save my own life for granted–no matter what I lose in the process.
      Then comes the real work of recovery. I begin living that new and healthy lifestyle, and I let nature do its thing. I’ve been told that when one goes into surgery, the surgeon does not really heal the patient. Yes, a surgeon can remove or repair something within us which is killing us immediately, but our bodies are tasked to do what they do naturally after the extraction or the repair. The surgeon works on our behalf and injures our bodies more even as that injury gives us the chance to heal. As living beings, we heal one day at a time. We cannot undo being sick, and we have scars which are testaments to our choice to live changed instead of die as we were. That post-surgical healing is what I think Steps Ten, Eleven, and Twelve are all about. With that natural healing humans possess plus the nurture of our minds and hearts and spirits . . . we can recover a life. Not our old life but a new life where we have to approach living completely differently. A life we can appreciate more for having chosen to do whatever it takes to have a chance to live at all.

      I like the idea of program recovery as healing after surgery for a terminal illness. It’s honestly as sensible a metaphor as anything else. So, after Steps One through Nine (with or without God), it’s on to daily healing from the disease of addiction . . . beginning with Step Ten.

Continued to take personal inventory and, when we were wrong, promptly admitted it. (OA, CoDA, SLAA, ACA)

      To me, personal inventory is keeping a daily Fourth Step and Ninth Step going. I’m not going to be perfect as soon as I’ve gotten my last amends made. I’m not even going to do my amends perfectly, seeing as I’m not perfect and will never be perfect. However, I accept that recovery (for me) isn’t about getting the life I want. Recovery is about becoming part of life that’s already here now. I’ll always have that history of addiction, I’ll always be challenged by my desire to use maladaptive behaviors to get what I want when I want it no matter who loses–as long as I am standing in the winner’s circle at the end of the day.
      That’s not the fellowship way to me. I’m in recovery to rejoin humanity, not take part in a human race to try to earn the gold.
      So, what would be the purpose of a daily fearless moral inventory and daily amends? Wouldn’t that constant self-policing, assuming I’m a criminal just waiting for my opportunity to get away with something sinister, make me return to my addictions? Nope. See, well-adjusted people do naturally what Step Ten reminds me to do on a daily basis. They live, make mistakes, take lessons, make amends, let go, and evolve as people. This is just a step that reminds me to practice real life consciously, even as a well-adjusted person might practice it unconsciously because that was their “normal” growing up. While I will always be between “addict” and “well-adjusted”, I can consciously live as a recovering addict.
      And there it is, why I and others in 12-Step recovery programs say we are “recovering” not “recovered”. Well, okay. I say I’m both. I consider I was recovered from drowning in my addiction but I am recovering from the effects of the addiction for the rest of my life. I can go back to addiction, because it and I had a really bad romance. I will always have the memories of how intensely alive I felt when I was chasing euphoria and caught it for the first time. That won’t go away, so I practice on a daily basis to maintain that recovery. To, in essence, reach the record length of recovery from addiction in any 12-Step (according to program aphorism): twenty-four hours. Relapse isn’t just for newcomers. People with decades of recovery can slide into that nostalgia and relapse. That’s, I think, why I accept the truthiness of that program saying, “Don’t forget that the world record is 24 hours.” I am a huge fan of program sayings, because I see them as proverbs for those of us in recovery–either humorous observations or inspirational affirmations. There have been days I’ve leaned hard on them, and I spent months gripping to “Progress, not perfection.” Why? Because I wanted a perfect life in addiction, and I believed recovery could get me that perfect life in the beginning if I worked the steps perfectly. Wanting to work the steps perfectly kept me from working them at all. So, I now believe that as long as I make progress, I’m doing recovery right.
      I picked up the world record program proverb when my length of recovery became more important than recovery, itself. I began getting anxious about being able to make it to five years, to ten, to twenty . . . and it just became overwhelming living in a future that I can’t control. Though “One Day at a Time” and “Just for Today” work for so many, I find “Don’t forget the world record is 24 hours,” (and variations on it) keeps me more mentally grounded in today because I can get competitive and lose sight of the point of living in recovery. So, program aphorisms are part of living one day at a time for me.
      Now, seeing as I am recovering, I don’t expect I’ll be immediately able to recognize the addict nuttiness when I’m in it. So, Step Ten is generally done at an end-of-day review. I consider the day and think about both when I reacted like an addict and when I acted in recovery. I can get grateful for my recovered behavior, and I can contemplate how I can use recovered thinking the next time I am faced with a challenge which results in a default to my addicted reactive behaviors. While in a safe situation, a review of the day, I can consider alternatives and create choices in my life. The power to choose between a knee-jerk addict reaction or a considered recovered action is empowering. By practicing creating choices, I open my mind to OA’s promised new way of thinking which leads to a new way of living. The more time I spend splitting seconds and deciding instead of being dragged along by my maladaptive thinking, the shorter my daily inventory and amends list will be. That, to me, is living the promises. How can I not feel more serene if I am living well?
      So, with that action-based Step Ten as I understand it, I come to that final God-consciousness step, which gets pretty sticky for me as an atheist. And it is all about God-conscience and God-consciousness, even if AA okayed the changes for three of my four groups:

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. (OA)
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out. (CoDA)
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with a Power greater than ourselves, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out. (SLAA)
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understand God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry it out. (ACA)

     
      Okay. Well, what I know of this step as practiced is that it’s generally done in the morning. Bookending program practice from the time I get up to the time I go to sleep is part of working Steps Ten and Eleven. There’s a good amount of literature about doing precisely this. I have a hand-out I got in an OA group which discusses both of these steps, and it is deeply religious. It was hard to read because of the resentment I want to release, and it gave me little comfort because the practices offered don’t apply in my own life.
      I can meditate, so that part’s good. Praying . . . well, I can physically do that. I just get anxious that it’s not just “acting as if” any more for me. So, I don’t have a transcendent therapist to talk to. I’m also a codependent, so I definitely cannot do that to a human being and get better doing it. I have a dog, but she’s been raised as a binge buddy and encourages me to have my life revolve around food–like hers does. Plus, she’s a dog. I’m not going to ask my dog to give me knowledge of her will for me and the power to carry that out. There’s a cute LOLdog meme that sums up what I think my dog would say if she were able to talk. So, improving my conscious contact with dog won’t work, either.
      This is the step that makes me seek out the spirit behind the steps more than any of the others. There’s no getting around religious practice in Step Eleven. I literally have to pick it apart to understand it. So far, I’ve considered contemplation and meditation. Contemplation is choosing to put into my personal awareness what I am not accepting and what I believe will get me to settle my backside onto the slippery slide into relapse. Since I can’t really talk to reality–it not having a will of its own or knowledge I can glean out of it without questioning my sanity–Step Eleven as written doesn’t work. Unfortunately, I see trouble on the horizon when I rely on myself wholly for the answers. So . . . where can I go?
      Well, I can use program wisdom. A lot of people have recovered, and there’s a lot of literature. God-conscienced or secular, I have access to a lot of experience, strength, and hope. I also have brought up the use of “The God Box” or “Higher Oatmeal Box” before in this journal, though I’m not going to link to it this time. It’s a few years back, I think when I was reading Seeking the Spiritual Path with my first OA home group. How one uses a “God Box” is to write the concerns one has (anything one has trouble accepting or wants guidance over) on a slip of paper and drop that slip of paper into the box. Essentially, it’s mailing a little note to one’s Higher Power. Part of the point is to let the problem go as soon as it’s gone into the box for one’s Higher Power to handle. The physical action reflects the mental action of surrendering a problem completely. Last night, I considered how I could secularize a “God Box”, and I think it’s going to be renamed my “Acceptance Box” to align with the purpose of a “God Box”–to live by the principles of “Acceptance is the Answer”. . .
      . . . which I’m going to secularize for my personal use in the mornings, to keep mindful of the spirit of recovery on a daily basis. I already have access to a secular Serenity Prayer, though I can’t link to it because it’s MIA from where I initially found it. In essence, it replaces the God’s granting of the gifts with “I wish” there instead. No big deal. The spirit is still there and the words are nearly identical, just like my secularization of Acceptance is the Answer will be nearly identical, save for changing it from “God’s world” to “the world”.
      The spirit of program isn’t lost by removing God and the religious practices from it. The spirit of the steps are not lost by removing God and the religious practices from them. Recovery has its own spirit, and I think it is the spirit of the natural human power to heal the mind, the heart, and the body without our intervention. Living things are naturally predisposed to heal; it’s unnatural to sustain an illness and prevent that healing process in ourselves. My job in the healing process is to encourage the healing by choosing consciously not to sustain the illness then choosing actions which can be used to sustain healing. Like, for example, choosing a balanced diet so my body can use the nutrition to restore itself to the best health possible. It’s choosing not to poison my body with alcohol or drugs. It’s choosing not to poison my mind with maladaptive behaviors meant to numb my emotions and break me from fully experiencing a world which can amaze and inspire me. Well, that’s what I believe. Others can call it God, and more power to them when they do. I just don’t, though it doesn’t remove the wonder that the system is in place at all–even if I don’t understand how or why life naturally repairs itself until my body is supposed to succumb to time. Death is part of life, and the knowledge it will happen to me (like every living thing) can either inspire me to live as fully as possible or terrify me into maladaptive nihilism. I can live by the program aphorism, “Be. Here. Now,” and live in the Heaven of today, or I can live with the promise of Heaven after I die. Promises, I’ve learned, are hopes for tomorrow. Well, if I’m going to be living the promises of recovery one day at a time by practicing recovery? Then they aren’t promises any longer. They’re a well-lived life today, and that is why recovery is the most important thing in my life.
      I wish a well-lived life today, and following the spirit of program, the spirit of recovery, and the spirit of the steps makes that happen. Others have shared their personal experiences with it, and I’ve even experienced it. Recovery exists if one is willing to do whatever it takes to get it–even if that means one starts without a Higher Power or, in my case, loses Program God by doing what the Big Book says to do in order to find Program God. And that brings me to Step Twelve.

Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to compulsive overeaters and to practice these principles in all our affairs. (OA)
Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other co-dependents, and to practice these principles in all our affairs. (CoDA)
Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to sex and love addicts, and to practice these principles in all areas of our lives. (SLAA)
Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others who still suffer, and to practice these principles in all our affairs. (ACA)

     
      Step Twelve is a little sticky to me, because it’s got two practices I fully agree with and one which makes me think of proselytizing. The spiritual awakening is, for me, realizing that the promises of recovery are no longer tomorrow’s promises but today’s tools for a well-lived life. I went to an SLAA group which used the promises drafted by a Daytona, Florida, SLAA group, and I love these promises as much as the Ninth Step ones. Actually, this whole page of readings from slaaonline.org is really awesome and includes some really great program stuff–some of it I doubt is conference-approved. I don’t worry about whether something is conference-approved or not, as long as it inspires me to keep making daily progress toward living every day as a part of humanity instead of apart from it.
      Okay, so . . . spiritual awakening. It’s a personal experience from within, and it can be religious or not. It can be sourced from a soul or a consciousness separate from the mind or just a chemical process from the brain–depending on who one asks. Me? I’m taking the same approach as I do for the God question: “I don’t know.” Unlike the God question, it doesn’t matter what I believe. Spiritual experiences happen to people, and I can choose to simply appreciate them as they come for what they are, or I can lose them by overthinking the why and how of it all. It doesn’t mean I’ll agree if someone says, “It’s God, of course!”
      I only hope that a person who has that easy answer doesn’t decide to convince me of it; I haven’t released my resentment, and I will be owing an amends for reacting and putting a whole lot of negative energy toward shoving that person away from me as hard as possible. I appreciate that others have God on their sides, and I even accept that they get afraid for my eternal soul and want me to be with them in paradise after death. They want me at the grand eternal party they’ve been promised. That fear is very real, because I had a friend try to convert me for that very reason. He was deeply distressed when I stayed true to convictions I had just ascertained that morning as the sun rose. (Ugh, I should reread my journal entry on that).
      I have a confession to repeat: I like Christians who live their spirituality sans the rabid proselytizing. I appreciate Christians who live the spiritual lessons instead of obey-without-question what their leadership demands they do for, well, financial reasons. More butts in chairs, more tithes. That’s how I see the religion. However . . . there is a graceful and beautiful spirituality to some practitioners of the faith. If I were ever going to return to the church, it would be at one of those people’s sides–not because someone knocked on my door and started speaking in the kind of wide-eyed zeal that I recognize from, well, photos of Charles Manson.
      Yes. There. I said it. Door-to-door proselytizers have the same look of zeal in their eyes to me as Charles Manson, and they scare me because I can’t anticipate what they’ll do. I don’t buy Girl Scout Cookies or magazine subscriptions any more. I definitely am not going to buy a deity . . . especially when subscribing to that deity feels a lot more like the times I’ve paid my money for magazines and got nothing. Or I got grief from the distributor because they didn’t have the magazine I ordered and they want to offer me something I’m not interested in. That’s a real experience, and if I feel anxious in the same way about door-to-door God salespeople as I do door-to-door magazine scams? I’m going to trust that anxiety and extricate myself in very non-recovered CoDA ways.
      Okay, so, there that is. Proselytizers scare me, and I’m not going to be a Big Book apostle proselytizing on behalf of the Alcoholic’s Bible. Not going to happen. That said, I am going to offer my experience, strength, and hope. I am going to say what works for me, that it’s an option for someone to research if one feels that one’s life is reeling utterly out of control and isn’t sure why. There are so many treatment options out there, and they all work for somebody. Hey, I used to be part of the cognitive behavior recovery program, Recovery International, though I had serious problem with that program language not being explained or written down anywhere. It got confusing, even if I appreciated some of the practices apply today in my 12-Step recovery . . . apparently like others in program do (though concurrently, with the 12-Step and RI programs supporting each other).
      So, letting people know it’s an option (instead of chasing people down with the wide-eyed zeal of a Moonie or one of the Manson Family) is how I like to carry the message. And, well, I’m carrying it here, whether or not I end up censured. Which I won’t. I’m just one voice in a very, very big wilderness, and this is my personal experience and strength and hope. I’m trying to carry a message that I can be an atheist in program, just like Jim B. was. That it’s about as easy to be an atheist in OA as it is to be an anorexic. Sure, anorexia is acknowledged as part of program, but COEs seem absolutely baffled that someone who’s thin has a problem with food. And, well, it’s part of the name: Overeater’s Anonymous. And it’s infused in the literature and steps. Anorexics and atheists stand together, untrusted for trying to mess with what works for the majority of people. You know, we want recovery, too. A patronizing nod and a “Keep Coming Back” won’t keep people coming back.
      We need to be a fellowship of individuals who live more by Rozanne’s Prayer than any Big Book prayer filled with Thees, Thys, Thous, Hes, and Hims. Of course, that’s my opinion.
      Who knows? Maybe I am a proselytizer, though one within the groups instead of outside of them. I believe in program because it works for me despite not believing in a Program God which has a personal will greater than mine that aligns with the religious convictions of whoever’s in charge at intergroup, regional, and world services levels. I believe that exclusionary tactics based on religious convictions give pretty powerful arguments to those who say 12-Step is a religious cult masquerading as recovery. I believe that more people would find recovery if 12-Step were bold enough to include secular approaches in conference literature and practice (instead of simply saying it’s part of 12-step principles to be inclusive yet publishing literature which shows a religious exclusivity in practice). Practicing God-conscienced personality before recovery principles will destroy program from the inside out, just like the Washingtonian Society fell apart due to internal social and external religious pressures. Twelve-step may become a footnote in recovery history in my lifetime . . . like the Washingtonian Society was when Bill W. and Dr. Bob were splitting from Oxford Group–very likely less than fifty years from the last Washingtonian Society meeting. They never heard of it, and this was a huge recovery movement in the latter half of the 1800s.
      Stories like the ones I’ve linked to from aaagnostica.org (including an assault by a Program-God believer on a Program Atheist) shows even me that personalities are being honored over principles. I want program to last. Unfortunately, if I’m supposed to leave the debating society because I’m a Program Atheist and my recovery journey is unpopular and scary to people who don’t want to believe that recovery has worked for atheists and agnostics, then I suppose that 12-step and I have reached a place of non-acceptance from BOTH sides. I don’t accept that program is only meant for those who choose to call God by the name God. I don’t accept it because it works for people who don’t have a self-willed transcendent superheroic deity to lean on every day in every way. I believe the original program literature works and it should be kept as the foundation of 12-Step recovery. I would just like to see 12-Step conferences be bold enough to follow Tradition Three in every approved 12-Step World Services Conference. I wish for AA and every Twelve-Step group to put principles before personalities and approve literature which acknowledges and supports the atheist and agnostic 12-Step journey.
      Inclusion, not insurrection.
      So, Step Twelve. I can have an atheist spiritual awakening. I can tell people that recovery works for me because of the spirit of the program’s principles–even if I have no words to express how that spirit manifests. It’s a mystery, like why living beings heal on their own. It being a mystery doesn’t make it any less profound and wondrous to me. Lastly, I see how practicing the principles, mysterious or not, in all areas of my life allow me to appreciate being part of, well, being on a day-to-day basis.
     
      So, there are the steps as I hear them in the rooms. I’ve expressed where my personality conflicts with the words and I get separated from the program principles which I believe aren’t only for those who work from a God-conscience. Just like any spiritual journey–even in a religious context–there is more to it than just ritual. Life and healing are embraced, and the power to do that which we could not alone is invoked.
      I suppose, in summation, I’m going to turn toward Rozanne S. yet again. I think “The Unity Prayer”, aka “I Put My Hand in Yours” aka “Rozanne’s Prayer” is a beautiful summation of how I think the principles of program can be set on a daily basis before our Sacred-Cow personalities:
     
I put my hand in yours, and together we can do what we could never do alone. No longer is there a sense of hopelessness, no longer must we each depend upon our own unsteady willpower. We are all together now, reaching out our hands for power and strength greater than ours, and as we join hands, we find love and understanding beyond our wildest dreams.

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