Getting Freedom, Happiness, and Other Promises from the Twelve Steps

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 83)

Wow, “new freedom and a new happiness.”  On the next page this paragraph goes on to promise “we will know peace” and many more great things.  Those of us who have been around the 12 Step rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous have probably heard these promises a few times. 

The part that most people tend to miss is summed up best by the first word of the paragraph:  “If”.  These things are promised “if”, but if what?  The answer is “If we are painstaking about this phase of our development”, but that is not really the answer either as it leaves us with another question:  What is “this phase of our development”?  The use of the word “this” means that without knowing what is going on in the paragraphs and pages before this paragraph we cannot know truly what you need to do to get what is promised. 

The paragraph basically says:

If THIS then the PROMISES – If you do not know what “this” is, then you have no real idea how it is telling you to get those promises.  So, what are the preceding paragraphs and pages discussing?

Let’s begin with the paragraph before this one:

There may be some wrongs we can never fully right. We don’t worry about them if we can honestly say to ourselves that we would right them if we could. Some people cannot be seen – we send them an honest letter. And there may be a valid reason for postponement in some cases. But we don’t delay if it can be avoided.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 83)

Righting wrongs is what you do in Step 9 and that is the context.  On page 76 you arrive at Steps 8 and 9 and you do not move on to Step 10 until page 84 where you encounter the words “This thought brings us to Step Ten…”

If you are not completely familiar with the Steps, Step 9 is:

Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 59)

But the passage didn’t just say if you work Step 9 you can expect these promises in your life, the passage says that you have to be “painstaking about” it.  If you are painstaking about working the Ninth Step you can have an expectation of these promises (such as freedom, happiness, peace etc.) before you are even halfway through with making your amends.

The only thing left to do to truly understand what this paragraph is really saying is to define the word “painstaking.”  According to WordNetWeb from Princeton University:

Painstaking = characterized by extreme care and great effort; “conscientious application to the work at hand”; “painstaking research”; “scrupulous attention to details”

So if you make amends exerting great effort to make them and taking great care to make them all and in detail then you can expect some wonderful things to happen such as freedom, happiness, peace, freedom from fear, freedom from fear of the past and more.  You can actually expect these things to happen to you before you are even half way done.

So get over regret of the past and wanting to just forget the past (shut the door on it) and face your past.  An unresolved past secretly affects you every day which means it is not really your past; it is your present that is trying to destroy your future.  Painstakingly work it through as described by Steps 8 and 9 and you:

…will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 83)