These words are in the first sentence of the chapter, “How it Works” in the book Alcoholics Anonymous, the grand daddy of all twelve step programs. The author originally wrote: “Never have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path.” Those around him convinced him to change to ‘rarely‘, to soften the statement a bit. However, the longer I have been on this path, my River of Recovery, the more I understand the truth in the original statement. I have yet to hear a person who has relapsed claim that it happened while they were ‘thoroughly’ following the program.
The twelve steps are a recipe for recovery. Each part is integral to the result. If you don’t follow the recipe to bake a cake, you won’t get the cake you want. It’s a matter of following the instructions, adding the ingredients in the manner described and baking, waiting patiently for the result. Each ingredient is necessary. Each action is necessary. Whenever I say to myself, ‘Oh, I don’t need to find a higher power,’ I am not following the recipe. If I tell myself, ‘I don’t need to look at myself in step four; it’s everyone around me that is the problem,’ then I won’t find the sobriety that has been found in twelve step programs since it began more than 82 years ago. If I want the results that other have gotten, I have to follow the recipe to the letter.
Discovering sobriety is not easy. Those twelve steps seem simple enough, but their application takes time, practice, failure and success. Like anything else in life, there is no short cut. There is no ‘worm-hole’ that I can travel through to get sobriety. I have to do the work. No one ever got sober with a drink in their hand or half an eight ball up their nose. It just won’t work. I have to put down whatever I’m addicted to and make the change.
This is hard work. Going through withdrawal, D.T.’s and all the other immediate consequences of no longer putting this substance into one’s body is damned hard. Fortunately, I don’t have to do it alone. I have others in the program that I can lean on. I may need professional help. I may need to be in a detox or rehab centre for this process. My disease doesn’t want me to change. It likes having the booze or drugs in my body. Addiction tells me that if I don’t have it, I will die; I know that if I do have it, I will die. I make a change to survive. This is change and for whatever reason, we resist change. We want everything to stay the same. But without change, everything will stay the same: an addict who is still using is still an addict.
I have to stick with it. And yes, at first, it may be hard, and I may fall and I may struggle to quit again and again. Through all of this I must remember I am not the first person who has struggled with this. Other’s made it, I can to. Giving into temptation is not an option this time. I am following the recipe of the program. I will not take a short cut. I will do the work. Over and over I tell myself this. This is my mantra. Others have done it, I can too! Even if I fall, knowing that I had two weeks or two months of clean time before, means that I can do it again and maybe achieve more; I get back up again.
The miracle of the program is that, very soon, thing do change and get better. Soon I get over the physical effects of withdrawal. Very soon I can see changes in how I feel when I wake up in the morning, how my health is improving and how it becomes easier to say no. The emotional, mental and spiritual effects of withdrawal still need a pile of work, but at least my head is clear enough to make a start on those changes. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. In order to take the journey, I have to take the journey. Thoroughly following the path of my twelve step program is the recipe that has worked for me. I am grateful for where I am today: and my journey continues. I am grateful that the program will continue to work for me as I continue to “…trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.”