Are we missing a great and thrilling adventure because we cannot honestly say, “Here are the steps we took”?
BEYOND STEP ONE lies a country most of us never visited before, not even in our dreams. It is a new land, unexplored territory. Once we step over its borders, we can never go back and be entirely as we were. Who would want to?
Most people who try AA and go back to drinking (either to be lost forever or to return to AA at a later date) have not, I am convinced, gone beyond Step One.
They may think they have. Some will tell you they have always believed in a Higher Power, and this qualifies them as having taken Step Three. Others believe they have taken Step Five simply by unburdening themselves at meetings. And, of course, we have any number of fantastic twelfth-steppers who haven’t bothered with Steps Two through Eleven.
I sat in a small Twelfth Step meeting not long ago with a group of people whom I knew to be active and activating twelfth-steppers. They were persons who quietly inspire all around them, in and out of AA. As each one spoke on the subject, it came out that they clearly considered the most important element in twelfth-stepping to be having taken the other eleven Steps. The consensus was: You can’t give away what you don’t have!
Beyond Step One lies that mysterious phenomenon, the spiritual awakening. To me, this means a change within oneself which has not been accomplished by visible means, and which becomes apparent only after it has taken place–usually apparent more to others, at first, than to oneself.
A spiritual awakening cannot be forced. It can, however, be nurtured. The seeds to be planted are so simple that it is often difficult to convince the new person of their power to produce a miracle. We sow the seeds by attending meetings and by practicing the Steps without reservations.
I recently spent several hours trying to convince a woman I am sponsoring that the answers to the mental agonies she is going through are to be found in the AA meetings and program. She reminded me of myself a few years ago. I wanted to be shown how AA could possibly help me with anything but my drinking. How much hell I would have spared myself had I been willing to take my sponsor’s word for it!
But we alcoholics can be stubborn. As we’re going down for the third time, we finally decide to grasp the AA lifeline that has been thrown to us. No more questioning; we’re ready to open our minds and hearts and venture out into the unknown–beyond Step One.
Now, we are no longer “dry, but not sober.” We may have problems, but they never again need overwhelm us. Now, we have a program.
Beyond Step One lies what is for us a new state–blissful unself-consciousness. This is a paradox, because it goes hand in hand with finding one’s true selfhood. We who have searched the world over (including in bottles and in bars, but sometimes in other places, as well), looking for our true selves and getting more and more lost, have finally discovered who we are.
We have a birthright–our identity. We are not saints, but our everyday living is joyous and full of meaning. Beyond Step One lies spiritual progress, and it isn’t at all what we imagined!