The Twelve Steps: Quickly or Slowly?
Early in my AA quest for sobriety, I was confronted by two opposing notions:
* Take your time doing the Twelve-Steps; you will know when you are ready.
* When do you do the steps? When do you want to get well?
I chose the slower variety because, after all, I had drank for many years and I didn’t expect to get well anytime soon. I was happily amazed as how my brand-new sober life had become, as they say, happy and joyous and free. I was successfully surviving on the friendly and colorful southern California fellowship, along with the first three Steps. What? Me hurry? But alas, several months later the free part waxed debatable: I marched right into a bar and almost ordered a Gin & Tonic! Thank God I didn’t, but so terrified was I that I had a Big Book thumper guy, Carl, to help me with the 12-step process right away. This was done quickly, in two sittings. God has not allowed me to drink since. Carl was thirteen years sober then, and has recently experienced his fifty-first annual celebration of love and service out in the San Fernando Valley.
I believe Dr. Bob realized the importance of emerging into the step process, el pronto. I like to read on page 263 how he took Earl T. through the six-step process, as it was at that time, (1937) in three or four hours. Earl became a co-founder of Chicago AA a few years later. Dr. Bob also sponsored Clarence S., who also used a speedy 12-Step method when he founded Cleveland AA in May of 1939. There were then only thirteen members, but by 1941 their membership had grown to several hundred.* Such rapid growth makes evident that those Cleveland member’s Twelve-Step method was fast and furious. Well, maybe not furious.
I try to help fully sober sponsees immerse themselves into the Twelve-Step process in two or three sittings. I explain the essentials of Steps One and Two, then go through the Third Step prayer sentence-by-sentence before praying it verbatim. Then I send the person home suggesting a method of ‘automatic’ writing where one asks God to reveal their selfishness, dishonesty, resentment and irrational fear and list them on paper as they crop up. This is done spontaneously, without thinking. Additions via memory may be added later. On the next visit we actually follow the Big Book directions on Step Four; then, Steps Five, Six and Seven follow directly thereafter. Of course, the Eighth Step list is finished and it is now time to start making amends which should continue while living in the spirit of Steps Ten, Eleven and Twelve. These vital steps may be explained the next day. This method, like Dr. Bob’s technique, is done in just three or four hours.
So, as you can see, I am a convert to: “When do you do the steps? When do you want to get well?” However, I have many AA friends who took much longer going through their initial Twelve-Step process and they have also remained sober, happy, joyous and free.