I have been in twelve-step recovery for thirty years. While I know my life is transformed there are those days—and weeks—when I think, “God, am I ever gong to get this?” And yes, it is about God, and my complaint is a kind of prayer.
But yesterday I had an insight into this work that we do. I have been doing yoga and Pilates for several years now and most days in a Pilate’s class I think, “This is as hard as ever.” And “When am I going to get this scoop or this lift or this inverted pose?” But then later I look at my body or I feel myself moving or running or dancing and I think, “My God, my body really is different.”
I think it’s like that with the steps of recovery. Recently I participated in a Big Book Step Study and I did steps six and seven with a group and learned a new process of daily prayer to remove each defect—quite specifically—and praying for the very specific opposite characteristic.
For example, I now pray “Please remove my resentment toward X and replace it with forgiveness and compassion for X today. And then I invite myself to behave –this day—as if that is true. And I go thru a pretty long list of people and defects naming specific names and most importantly—naming the specific behavior I’ll practice this day—that represents the opposite of that defect. It’s a lot of work. But the repetition and the specificity seem to be what makes a difference.
Doing steps six and seven in this highly specific—and out loud—way keeps it very real and very active. This is not the old “pray for your defects to be removed” and move on method that I embraced for years. This is work. And it’s uncomfortable.
In that way it’s like a daily practice of yoga or Pilates. Small muscles, small movements, tiny, tiny incremental changes and the sense of, “This is no easier”…except that very slowly something is changing.
In the same way that my body slowly changes, almost without notice, my thinking and my heart are slowly changing too. Our Twelve Steps are spiritual Pilates and I am a grateful student.