You won’t change how you live by just reading a book or a website and nodding in agreement at what it says. You need to make this an active process.
The goal is to use these steps to develop your ability to bring a mindful quality to your life. Mindfulness is not a mysterious, mystical quality. It is just the opposite of mindlessness. It means you are engaged with what happens in your life. You are connected to your feelings, you reflect on what happens, and you learn from that.
I am inviting you to think of this as a process of self-discovery. Read each step as an invitation to dialogue instead of a directive that is carved in stone. Take a moment to see what comes up for you as you read each step.
Not just logical thought: Let yourself be curious about the felt sense of it. In other words, be prepared that much of what comes up may be murky. It’s not a problem. It’s actually great. “Murky” is an invitation to explore further, as opposed to “case closed”.
Reflecting on each step is not just a way to better understand what it says. It is a way to practice a reflective, mindful orientation toward felt experience. This is a quality that you cultivate to be more present in your life. That is, you experience each situation with an ability to feel and think. You notice that there are ways of reacting to it differently from your habitual knee-jerk reactions. You grow from that experience.
Prompting your curiosity
It is a good idea to prompt your curiosity by asking yourself a few questions, for instance:
– If I close my eyes, and try to remember the gist of the step, what comes up?
– Does this make sense to me?
– If it makes sense to me, what is it specifically that makes sense?
– If it doesn’t make sense to me, what is it that doesn’t?
– What situations does it remind me of?
– What is it that I might do differently in these situations, based on my reactions to the step?
– How would it feel inside if I acted this way?
Of course, it is better to read this book on your own than not to read it. But note this: When people say that the Twelve Steps have helped them, they usually do not mean that they have just been reading a book about the steps. They credit Twelve Steps meetings and the peer support they provide.
You owe yourself the best chances of success as you work to make meaningful changes in your life. I urge you to make this a shared process. Find friends or a support group to share this with.
If you do, see guidelines on structuring your conversations with a friend or a group.
Keep in mind that peer support may very well not be enough. For one thing, the Steps say nothing about the specifics of changing your problem behaviors. If you see no change happening, you may need to find appropriate help.
See the list of all alternative 12 steps.
See also Frequently Asked Questions and Serenity, Courage & Wisdom.