Reworking The Twelve Steps

My previous efforts.

Step One. Admit that I am powerless over my addictions. I am powerless over my desires for attention, nurturing, beauty, and power. I am powerless over my debting and under-earning and under-achieving and under-being. I am powerless to take the steps that will lead to an honorable life. I am powerless over my tendencies to alienate those around me, to have contempt for them, and to then isolate myself. I am powerless over my perversity. I am powerless over my need to think I am smarter, wiser and more moral than those around me. I am powerless over my drive to push myself forward and to try to take over any group I join. I am powerless over my maladaptive daydreaming, my grandiose fantastic fantasies of ruling America, running the New York Times, directing a movie studio. I am powerless over mental obsessions so powerful that my will can’t break them. If I follow my own will, if I keep following my will, I will destroy myself and possibly those around me. Pursuing fame, excitement, attention, sex, romance, intrigue, significance, caused me to step on the toes of others and they retaliated. I took stupid risks, such as swinging of a bridge. I risked my health by over-working and over-studying. I converted to Orthodox Judaism to fix myself and only succeeded in alienating myself from my new community.

When I think about giving up control of my life, I am frightened. It’s a leap of faith. It’s humiliating. I think of myself as so smart and disciplined and yet where am I? I am 49, never married, and with $45,000 in credit card debt.

By giving up control, I have to face that in my many conflicts with others, I was often wrong. Admitting I am powerless over my emotional addictions sends me into scary unfamiliar territory where I must be humble and learn from others and turn my life over to God.

My life is unmanageable because I am a chronic under-achiever. I’ve never married, never had kids, never stepped up to adult responsibility. I’ve leached off my family and friends and community. I’ve been more of a taker than a giver.

My emotional addictions have isolated me, made my life small, lonely, shameful, unhappy. I’ve become a manipulator and a beggar.

I made more money 31 years ago than I make now.

The progressive nature of addiction means that there are strong forces pushing me toward annihilation. I’m reduced to hanging out with those who are as sick as me, standing on the sidelines watching life pass me by.

STEP TWO. I come to believe in God who can restore me to sanity.

I’ve believed in God all of my life (except the years 18-22) but this belief has not been enough. I need a program to make God real in my life. Many of my previous attempts to turn my life over to God were either short lived, inadequate, fraudulent, or just overridden by my addictions. I have no problem intellectually in believing in God. It’s the part where I make God real in my life every day that is hard for me. That’s why I love the 12-Step world. It makes God real for me in a way that nothing else has. Every day I have to engage with the 12 Steps. Going to meetings and talking to a sponsor won’t make me well. Only working the 12 Steps will make me well.

I thought I could use my brain to float above everyone else but that didn’t work. I wasn’t so smart. I’m an all-time loser. I love to point out religious people who abuse their religious authority. Why do I have such a burn here? I love to feel superior to these frauds. My personality vibrates defiance.

MY NOTES FROM HERBK’s FOURTH STEP WORKSHOP: Discord comes from within me when people don’t live up to my idea of reality. I am the source of my suffering because I have beliefs about reality that are not reality. When you see the truth, you can laugh.

I don’t get to create reality. I get to observe it. It is my non-acceptance of reality that creates my suffering. I can detach from others’ interpretation of reality.

I might be creating my own health problems.

We don’t have control but we have influence.

You can be angry at many people but it might just be the same anger. It’s different people but the same resentment. There are only so many variations on the theme of distorting reality.

Symptoms of resentment include feeling hurt, damaged, changed, diminished.

If I am disturbed, there is something wrong with me. There is something unhealthy in my beliefs. I am denying reality.

I can’t change anything, necessarily, but my attitude.

My past is my asset for helping others.

If you are still reacting to a long ago event, it is your problem.

I wanted the power and money that came with the job, but not the responsibility.

Going to a meeting every day and talking to your sponsor is not going to change you.

Just because you have a resentment does not mean that you have harmed anyone. Did I diminish anyone?

Spiritual work isn’t a panacea. It smooths the ride. Spiritual shock absorbers.

I thought I was misunderstood, but I was understood.

In the third column of the Fourth Step work sheet, I thought I was misunderstood, but in the fourth column, I see that I was understood and that I am responsible for the reactions coming towards me.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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