Clear Cut Directions – Steps 1, 2, and 3

clear-cut directions are given showing how we recovered. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 29)

All things 12 step and The Alcoholics Anonymous book (the original source for all things 12 Step) are supposed to be clear cut directions, but why such detail?  What
are they getting at.  Lets look at the importance of these clear cut instructions looking at Steps 1 through 3.  Let’s start at step 1:

I saw that will power and self-knowledge would not help in those strange mental blank spots. I had never been able to understand people who said that a problem had them hopelessly defeated. I knew then. It was a crushing blow. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 42)

There was a post I did previously about hitting bottom and Step 1.  This is a part of
the reality of that idea that makes recovery work.  I repeatedly go back to this concept as many of the struggles a person has in recovery can be traced back to a failure to properly work Step 1.

A person who reaches a step and uses an idea like, “Why do we have to do this, This isn’t gonna help” to keep himself or herself from doing that step properly (or from doing it at all) has not fully grasped that reality.  Asking or having the question is not the problem (I think questioning is good and good sponsors should have or at least know where to get the answers), not recognizing how desperate the situation is so you feel that it is safe to cut corners is where it becomes a breakdown in Step 1.

We were in a position where life was becoming impossible, and if we had passed into the region from which there is no return through human aid, we had but two alternatives: One was to go on to the bitter end, blotting out the consciousness of our intolerable situation as best we could; and the other, to accept spiritual help. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 25)

The next reality is that there is one possibility for escape, but it is one that some struggle with.  The point is bigger than that however.  The point is the first the previous recognition that I am trapped in a hopeless and helpless place.  The second point to get is that I there are large numbers of people that were in the same holes and helpless position who were helped through “spiritual help.”  If there is no hope whatsoever and suddenly someone shows me something that not only is the only hope, but has worked for others in a similar position, how desperately should I go after it?

We, in our turn, sought the same escape with all the desperation of drowning men. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 28)

How about, the same desperation that a drowning man would have?  That sounds like real desperation, doesn’t it?   That feeling a drowning person gets the moment he or she realizes that “I am not getting any air and I am going to die quickly if I don’t.”

That is a major point here, but there is more.  Notice the words: “the same scape”.   Whatever those that originally did this went through to get recovery you should be desperately seeking to do the same thing.  Not just the parts you are comfortable
with, or just how you feel like doing those things:  “the same escape”.

If discussing spirituality is a problem, then the problem is not that you struggle with the idea; it is only a problem if you do not desperately seek to figure out how to get over it to get the “same escape”.

To one who feels he is an atheist or agnostic such an experience seems impossible, but to continue as he is means disaster, especially if he is an alcoholic of the hopeless variety. To be doomed to an alcoholic death or to live on a spiritual basis are not always easy alternatives to face.

But it isn’t so difficult. About half our original fellowship were of exactly that type. At first some of us tried to avoid the issue, hoping against hope we were not true alcoholics. But after a while we had to face the fact that we must find a spiritual basis of life – or else. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 44)

This is where a person transitions from Step 1 to Step 2 then to Step 3.  Some can go faster than others but a person should not (and really cannot) go to a later step until having fully completed all of the preceding steps properly.  Not if that person is looking to get “the same escape”

That means a person not thoroughly convinced of his or her powerlessness in Step 1 will not be ready to look at Step 2 “with all of the desperation of drowning men.”  A person who does not fully understand that learning to “live on a spiritual basis” is his or her only hope cannot see the need to nor have a desire to turn his or
her will and life over to God.

This moves us into a conversation about Step 2 which is tied to Steps 1 and 3.  These are the 3 questions:

  1. Do you know that your situation is so desperate that you have no choice than to do whatever these people did to get recovery (especially those things which you find uncomfortable)?
  2. Do you realize that a major part of their idea of recovery was willing to “find a spiritual basis of life – or else” and are you willing to desperately pursue “a spiritual basis of life”?
  3. As part of pursuing “a spiritual basis of life”  are you willing to turn your will and life over to God (even if you do not know that much about Him)?

The Alcoholics Anonymous book puts these questions this way:

Our description of the alcoholic, the chapter to the agnostic, and our personal adventures before and after make clear three pertinent ideas:

(a)   That we were alcoholic and could not manage our
own lives.

(b)  That probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism.

(c)   That God could and would if He were sought.

Being convinced, we were at Step Three… (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 60)

These are the keys to moving on to Step 3 and you must be convinced.  Originally there was a sentence right before the words “Being convinced” in the original manuscript that were removed for their bluntness, but they do convey the concept I have been describing well.   The original passage looked like this in the manuscript:

Our description of the alcoholic, the chapter to the agnostic, and our personal adventures before and after, have been designed to sell you three pertinent ideas:

(a)   That you are alcoholic and cannot manage your own life.

(b)  That probably no human power can relieve your alcoholism.

(c)   That God can and will.

If you are not convinced on these vital issues, you ought to re-read the book to this point or else throw it away!

If you are convinced, you are now at step three… (Alcoholics Anonymous Original Manuscript)

If you are not convinced, YOU CANNOT GO ON, STOP AND GO BACK!  SO the real question is can you answer yes to all three propositions or not (no matter what addiction you are trying to get over).  Again I will put the question in clear words:

  1. Do you know that your situation is so desperate that you have no choice than to do whatever these people did to get recovery (especially those things which you find uncomfortable)?
  2. Do you realize that a major part of their idea of recovery was willing to “find a spiritual basis of life – or else” and are you willing to desperately pursue “a spiritual basis of life”?
  3. As part of pursuing “a spiritual basis of life”  are you willing to turn your will and life over to God (even if you do not know that much about Him)?

Those are the clear cut instructions and if a person cuts a corner on or skips any of the Steps the rest will not have the proper results.

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