We often hear this phrase around the 12 Step fellowship. It is usually repeated in unison after the Lord’s Prayer in meetings in many parts of the country. Just what does this very small phrase mean? And why is it so important to understand?
Well, the word “work” implies that there is some work to be done to achieve and maintain sobriety. People will share a situation they are in and they may be asked where are they in the work. Plan and simple the work is the taking of the 12 Steps and applying the principles of the steps to our lives. When you see the word “program” you may be safe to assume that it means the 12 Steps. This work is to be done in order as to the number of the Step. The Steps build on each other. You can’t get the full benefit out of let’s say, Step 3 until you have taken Step 2. With a firm understanding of the previous step you are ready to take the next step. There are no short cuts here if you truly want to stay sober.
One of the main purposes of the Steps is to remove the defects of character you have which are blocking you from the Higher Power. Some people use the 7 Deadly Sins to describe our defects and shortcomings. This is very effective as most blockages can be found under one of these sins. The 7 are pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, anger and sloth. I can say that all my defects of character and shortcomings fall under one of these categories.
The steps are meant to be taken with a sponsor, close mouthed friend or member of the clergy. It is up to the individual to decide who to approach for help with the Steps. The Steps absolutely cannot be taken alone. We need someone to talk to; to tell our complete story to holding nothing back. We should choose wisely when selecting someone to work with. They should have completed the process of the steps themselves and have some sober time under their belt. This is to ensure that you have the best possible guidance and direction in your taking of the Steps. There are no short cuts here.
Step 1 is usually self-evident when we come into the fellowship. We certainly are powerless over our addiction or we wouldn’t be here. The unmanageability of our lives is usually self-evident also. We may be facing legal, relational, health, employment, mental health or other issues that have spun out of control due to our addiction. We may become homeless for a period of time counting on the generosity of whatever friends we may have left to sleep on their couch. We may have new friends in the fellowship who may be able to lend a helping hand on a short-term basis. There is also the possibility that we could end up in a shelter. We may need medical care as we have not done so well with this while using. Divorce and unemployment are on the horizon and things just seem to be snowballing out of control. Some or all of this may be true for the new person upon coming to detox or the fellowship.
What are we to do when faced with our life as we have lived it in a selfish and self-centered manner? Well, the recovery literature advises us to start on Step 1 with a sponsor. There is work to be done and changes to be made. There are steps to take and meetings to attend. There are detox programs to be completed. Obtaining and maintaining sobriety is a daunting prospect. But we do this with the help of a Higher Power, sponsor and fellowship at large. It works!! It really works. That’s why we say “It Works IF You Work It.”