Saturday, 25 July 2015

Why do I rework the first nine Steps once a year?

People regularly fall asleep. People usually fall asleep slowly. They gradually drift, reducing the number of sponsees, the regularity of meetings and daily inventory, the conscious contact with God ... until they discover they're effectively no longer in AA.

That's fine. Many people are subsequently sober in perpetuity. But so many of the drifters eventually drink again. You can find out which category you will fall into only by testing it out. The ones who drink do not necessarily receive any warning, for instance their lives do not necessarily fall apart first, so it's a gamble.

So, do you fancy taking the risk? 50% (say) chance of staying sober forever, and having a good life, and a 50% (say) chance of accidentally drinking, just once, and triggering a process that cannot be stopped and that, before destroying you outright, destroys everything worthwhile?

No one in their right mind would take risk. One has to conclude either that the people who take the risk believe that they will stay sober forever (with the same certainty as those who ultimately drink), or that they're already too asleep to think it through.

The problem with falling asleep is that, if you're very awake, you can catch yourself and wake yourself up fully, but that, once you've really started to fall asleep, you've also started losing the faculty that can wake you up. This is how self-justification and delusory thinking work in practice. The more self-justification and delusory thinking go unchecked, the more you're compromising your critical faculties, and the lower your chances of finding your way back to sanity and clear vision.

Essentially, the more the ego grows back, the more you're simultaneously impairing your tools to combat the ego.

One of the points of reworking the Steps regularly, therefore, is to stay awake, as near as possible to 100%.

Another of the points stems from the observation of the lives of the people who do, and the people who don't.

The Twelfth Step suggests we practise these principles in all our affairs. The term 'these principles' self-evidently refers to the principles contained within the Steps. Amazingly, there are people who construe this to mean working the last three Steps only and never reworking the first nine. There is no linguistic basis for this; there is no spiritual basis for this; and there is no experiential basis for this.

Of course there are people who rework the first nine, following the instructions for the first nine steps, but call it working Step Ten, but that is by the by: substantially, the first nine are being reworked, just under a different heading.

Incidentally, this is not a prescription for staying stuck in the past or morbidly delving into the recesses of one's mind, to no good purpose. The process of revisiting One through Nine once a year takes a dozen hours or so (not including the time actually spent on amends), and, after 22 years, that's sufficient to scour the dark corners for egoic residue that has built up.

To sum up: an an alcoholic, I'm never cured (as evidenced by people with comparable histories who drink again after two decades and come to a sticky end); I have to choose a path most likely to guarantee sobriety in perpetuity. The path I've chosen is the one that I've concluded, based on observation, is most likely to keep me awake.

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