Do we need to work the steps in numerical order?

Q: It seems to me that the steps to should be worked in numerical order, but I know of others who jump around.  Which is the correct way to work the steps?

A: Regardless of the fellowship you’re in, the “correct” way to work the steps is with your sponsor.  You should find a person who is relatable and is someone you can work with.  This doesn’t mean it should be your best friend.  You need a sponsor who will push you and call you out on your bullshit from time to time.

Every sponsor has a different style.  Typically, sponsors tend to work the steps with their sponsees in the same way their sponsor taught them, combined with various things they’ve learned along the way, either from fellow addicts or trial and error.

Some sponsors are radically different from others.  It’s OK to “fire” your sponsor if you don’t like him or her.  It’s OK to find someone else.  This is especially true when sponsors are controlling and tell you that there way is the only way that works.  The unfortunate reality is that some sponsors would make good cult leaders.  Your Higher Power is God, not your sponsor.  Don’t replace God with your sponsor.

Specifically to your question, I feel the steps are in the order they are for a reason.  Start with Step One, end with Step Twelve.  This does not mean, however, that the steps should be worked strictly from 1 – 12.  In many cases, it would be wrong to say, “I can’t make amends to you because I’m only on step one.”  This is especially true for a “Step Ten” mistake — where you have a quick turnaround on making amends to a recent wrong.  Step Nine is more for the amends while you were acting out (eg. cheating on wife, neglecting kids to go to strip clubs), whereas Step Ten is focused on continual amends (eg, “I’m sorry I yelled at you this morning.”)

Likewise, at the time of writing this I am still working on Steps Six and Seven, but I’ve had to go back and work Steps One – Five, at least in an informal way, when I start to rely too much on myself rather than God.  The steps are linear, but they’re also cyclical.  You work them, but then you keep working them.

TL;DR: In short, work the steps in order with your sponsor, but don’t be so rigid that you end up hurting yourself or others.

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Holy Week

Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.

All of Lent, but especially Holy Week, is a time to rekindle our relationship and conscious contact with God.  It is a time for increased prayer and meditation.  It is a time for Step Eleven.

You do not need to have worked Steps One through Ten to improve your conscious contact with God.  That is something all of us, addicts and non-addicts alike, should be working towards our whole life.

Make a special effort toward working Step Eleven during Holy Week.  Go to Mass on Palm Sunday, and take home some palms.  They are blessed objects, sacramentals, and it is customary to place them in your home.  They are typically kept in the home until the next year, when they are returned to the church to be burned and made into the ashes used on Ash Wednesday.

Maybe you can go to daily Mass during the week, or at least read the Bible readings from those days.  Thursday, Friday, and Saturday are special, of course.  Thursday commemorates the our Lord’s Last Supper, or first Mass.  Friday commemorates His death.  The Good Friday service features veneration of the cross, and is usually at 3 pm, the time Jesus died.  Most parishes have the Stations of the Cross devotion sometime on Good Friday, too.

Holy Saturday has no liturgy until the evening.  It is referred to as the “Easter Vigil,” because we are metaphorically awaiting the resurrection of Christ.  It is the first Easter celebration.  The Ordinary Form of the liturgy is long, but is a beautiful transition of darkness into light, which symbolizes both the death and resurrection of Christ as well as our “death” as sinners and “resurrection” through baptism into a life in Christ.  It is fitting that this is a common time for adult converts to be baptized and confirmed.  Furthermore, for us addicts, it symbolizes us being brought out of the darkness of addiction into the light of recovery.

Although the Holy Saturday Mass “counts” as Easter (meaning it fulfills your Sunday Obligation), there is nothing wrong with going to Mass on Sunday, too.  The feel of the Mass is different.  It is more like a normal Sunday Mass, but it should be marked by more joyous celebration than sometimes the drab penitence of Lent.

Step 4: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

If there’s one other thing I can encourage you to do: Go to Confession! Steps Four and Ten tell us that confession is a crucial and valuable part of our recovery.  For recovery purposes, it does not have to be a sacramental confession (that is, to a priest).  But why not make it to a priest?  As a Catholic, you’re supposed to go to Confession at least once during Lent.  But besides that, Confession is a Sacrament; it is a means of grace.

When we confess our sins to the priest and he absolves us, we are truly forgiven by God, and God gives us His grace to help us avoid sins in the future.  We resolve not to sin (including our inner circle behaviors) and to avoid those things that lead us to sin (including our middle circle behaviors).

If you haven’t been in long time, tell the priest.  He will help you.  Here are some tips for a good confession.

Don’t worry about anonymity.  You can always go behind the screen (request it or go to a different parish if a screen isn’t available).  The priest isn’t allowed to reveal anything about the confession under penalty of excommunication.

Blessings to you in your recovery!

Yet even now,” says the Lord,
    return to me with all your heart…”
– Joel 2:12