Why Is It Important To Do The 12 Steps In Order?

Most newcomers in recovery soon learn that there are 12 steps, and despite our inclinations to skip the more uncomfortable and challenging steps, we are initiated into the idea that serious and solid recovery works all of the steps in their exact order. No skipping, no stalling and no switching it up.

But why the rigidity of the order? What if it isn’t convenient to work on Step Four (the personal inventory) right now? Couldn’t we just skip to Step 11 (prayer and meditation)? If we’re having a hard time believing that a power greater than ourselves could save us (Step Two), can’t we just keep going until we feel it?

Why It's Important To Do The 12-Steps In Order - ChristianDrugRehabMost sponsors are quick to say no. Rather than letting us jump ahead to a step that feels more our speed at the moment, they keep us in the step that is challenging us, giving more reading and writing assignments and having us talk with other program fellows about it. So we’re grounded at Step Two, Step Four or whichever step is causing the problem, and we feel like our recovery is stalled.

Why It’s Important To Do The 12 Steps In Order

If we plan to get through all of the steps eventually, does the order in which we do them really matter?

The answer is that the sequence of the 12 steps is not random and the order in which we complete them really does matter. Here’s why:

Each Step Builds On The One Before

The steps laid out in Alcoholics Anonymous, aka The Big Book, are not a stand-alone collection of tips for sobriety. They are a plan—a roadmap for recovery. As we work each of the steps, we are building a foundation for our continued, lifelong sobriety. Just as we don’t attach the roof before we pour a foundation when building a house, neither do we work on later steps before completing earlier ones. Though it may not always be clear how this is so, the later steps will build upon completed earlier steps. Thus skipping around doesn’t allow us to construct the healthy foundation of recovery that will keep us sober for life.

We’re Not In Charge

Another important aspect of following the order of the steps is that it requires us to surrender to a wisdom outside of ourselves—something that many of us have been reluctant to do, especially in regard to our addiction. Behind the actions of the steps is the spirit of surrendering our wills and our lives to God, to the program and to our sponsors. When we look at where our own plans and actions got us, many of us become willing to admit we don’t know everything. We start to see the benefit of letting go and trusting a process that has worked for so many.

It Is A Discipline

It is especially humbling, for those of us who are used to managing others or being in charge, to have to take orders or follow the lead of someone else. We’ve always been pretty sure we can figure it out on our own. But here is the important thing to remember: regardless of how powerful or successful we have been in other areas of our lives, when it came to our addiction we had no control whatsoever and most of us proved it over and over again.

The fact that the 12 steps and their given order are a discipline does not mean the process is thus harder. In many ways, it is simpler. The path has been laid out before us. There’s no need to plot our own course. We simply follow.

This Is What Works

As much as we would like our own special formulation, we can’t deny that the people who have had long term success in recovery are those who went by the book. But if you are so certain this way is not the best way, do an experiment. Commit yourself to following the program exactly as it is laid out in the 12 steps. Let no one say you didn’t try hard enough. If it doesn’t work, try your way. But if you listen to the stories from your fellows in recovery, most will admit that things went best when they got out of the way and listened to someone else. Give it a try.