From the San Diego AA Coordinator, April, 2020

When I attended my first AA meeting, I had no idea what the 12 steps entailed but at that meeting I heard the things that were read, and I heard people sharing about steps and, looking back on it now, I realized that I came away from that meeting a changed man.

My life took a 180% turn at that point and I have never been the same since. For the first time in my life I saw a refreshing new approach to living an all I had done, up to that point, was to show up and listen. From that day on, I’ve had a huge change of perception and I’ve learned to recognize faulty thinking and to find the answers to life issues as they were articulated by the collective sharing in that meeting.

While attending a step study meeting recently, we were on Step 4 and as each person shared their experience with what we had read, it occurred to me that the same thing was happening there that happened at my first meeting decades before. It seemed that many of the people were assimilating, into their thinking, the things we had read and talked about, and that it had influenced them in ways that they probably didn’t even realize at the time. I’ve heard people in the program, when attending structured step study meetings, say that there may be as many as 50 people at the meeting when they started on Step 1, but by the time they got to Step 4 they might be down to 12 people left in the room.

There seems to be something in Step 4 that their ego would not let them address, at the time. It appears they had reached a fork in the road. When this happens, I believe they may not be ready for Step 4 yet, and if they are hurried into it, they may start to search for an easier softer way. If they stay on the softer path for long, they may end up developing a half measures approach and they may waste many precious years, or worse, they may relapse and do irreparable damage that can’t be undone.

When I hear of a person who has a relapse after long term sobriety I often wonder if it was due to skimping on Step 4 and 5, which may lead to a superficial approach to the remaining steps. “Thoroughness ought to be the watchword when taking inventory. “(12&12 pg.54)

I use the 4th step to illustrate what I mean when describing the way reading and hearing the things described in Step 4 are the things that we live with every day of our lives, and each time we cycle through them again, we realize that we have addressed some of these issues without being aware of it.

I’ve heard people who have not taken Step 4 yet using such terms as “Restraint of pen and tongue” or “Remove the word blame from my speech“ and, without realizing it, they are reducing their problems as the result of this different mindset. As long as they are honest about not being ready to take Step 4, it leaves the door open for the time when they are more confident, and they will be able to revisit this step and make a clean slate of it without feeling guilty about it.

I believe that the main reason why they wrote and published the 12 & 12 was because they did not want to establish a precedent of editing the big book, and they wanted to give amplifying information and examples of how to navigate the 12 steps. We can tell stories and drunkalogues of our drinking days and that’s fine, but if we don’t go through a meaningful process of addressing the causes and solutions to our problems and “The willingness to move forward “ (12&12 pg.54) We will be selling ourselves short, and life is much too precious to waste.

Rick R.