“Baby steps are the royal road to skill.” – Daniel Coyle
When we first came into the program of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), we were beaten and weak. We could hardly muster the energy to move the left foot in front of the right foot.
Taking big steps was out of the question and above our capabilities. Baby steps, they told us, what's the prescribed plan for success.
They say that a journey of a thousand steps begins with one.
Once we had chosen our direction, recovery, the power to proceed came from within. We knew we had to move, and we knew that we had to progress toward the unknown. Sometimes unconscious movement brought us to surprisingly pleasant places. Discomfort was almost always found post-step, which was natural, given our abstinence.
The purpose of this post Is to explore the base of the action that follows decision.
Webster defines direction this way; the line or course on which something is moving or is aimed to move or along which something is pointing or facing. So, we face recovery but are void of the specifics and detailed instructions needed to assemble realization.
We saw others at the desired destinations but were unsure how they arrived. Did they say yes or no? Did they bend right or left? Did they have a turkey sandwich or a ham sandwich? Seriously, was their program made up of more step work than service?; more acceptance than forgiveness?; more surrender than spirituality?
We found the following three truths helpful as we set out to follow others’ successes:
Go with the flow
When departing a plane, there is always that “lost bearing moment”; where are the exit, rental cars, and baggage claim? Instinctively, we follow the traffic flow. Are most people headed right or left? Often this proceeds looking up at directional signs as we can fill in the detail as we move down the path.
Recovery is similar in that most of the traffic follows a particular path. For those involved in AA, that flow usually includes going to physical meeting places, connecting with others through phone and texts, attending sobriety socials, and reading similar literature.
We found that we could not go wrong in mimicking the masses early on. If they showed up for five meetings a week, then we showed up for five meetings a week. If they got up and poured the coffee, we got up and served it. If they said they were grateful, we said we were grateful.
Eventually, forks of individuality will come into play, and if we follow the next two steps, we can choose direction and action more confidently.
Pay attention to the surroundings.
“Sign, sign everywhere, a sign.” There are clear signs that one can follow. The first 164 pages in the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous spell out 12 specialized signs that provide the best road map toward recovery that we have found. There is also a plethora of signage that surrounds us as we begin to dig deep into our spirituality and self-improvement energies – specific messages and quotes.
Internal signs and instincts connect us to our inner compass that creates guardrails, protecting us from veering off course. Sometimes these intuitions often tell us to remain on course even when not feeling it.
Eliminate “the next wrong thing.”
When unsure what the next right thing is, we eliminate the next wrong thing from our choices.
In the end, it doesn't matter if we have a turkey sandwich or a ham sandwich. What matters is that we eat. Similarly, it doesn't matter if we go to three meetings a week or four - it just matters that we go to meetings. Finally, it doesn't matter if we spend five or fifteen minutes praying and meditating in the morning - what matters is that we spend time focused on our spiritual base daily.
Each individual is going to have an individual approach to recovery.
We know today that if we do “the next right thing,” aligned with our internal breadth, the baby steps draw us closer to the person we were intended to be.
“A small step toward recovery is giant progress.” ― Mark Cortes
Thoughts and ideas for this blog post were taken and built upon from a sober.coffee podcast Bonus Drop - Cary's Story - 5 Years on the Sober Path…the episode dropped on 8/22/2021 Click here to hear the podcast.
Alcoholics Anonymous and AA are registered trademarks of Alcoholics World Service. Inc. References to AA, the 12 steps, and 12 traditions does not mean that AA has reviewed or approved the contents of this publication nor that AA agrees with the views expressed herein. This publication is intended to support personal growth and should not be considered a substitute for healthcare professionals' advice. The author’s advice and viewpoints are their own.