I used to love the Lynyrd Skynyrd song “Gimme Three Steps.” I remember dancing to it with my friend Lisa in high school at her house while getting ready for a party. Inevitably, I drank too much and don’t remember the rest of the night. The irony hit me when I realized today’s dance for me would somehow revolve around a twelve step program, since that is such a huge focus of my life. In other words, you can gimme three steps, but I’ll need nine more.

I’ve talked about the twelve steps to recovery before (see my piece from April 17th entitled “Slowly I Turned, Step by Step”). I feel like I’m treading on thin ice when I do because there are those diehards with respect to the anonymity aspect of AA who get extremely nervous when there is a mere mention of them. Like I am violating a secret code. As I have said before, I have the utmost respect for the program and wouldn’t ever want to disrespect any of its rules. But it is easy to find the twelve steps anywhere on the internet.

The wonderful thing about the twelve steps is that they can be applied to many problems in life, not just alcoholism. There are so many situations where I would be much better off if I would simply third-step them. The third step states that we “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” Think about the Lord’s prayer: “thy will be done.” THY will, not MY will. Turning things over to God (or whatever Higher Power you follow) brings about a whole new world of peace. Being able to recognize the things that are not in our control is not only humbling but pacifying. I’ve pretty much always been a worrier. Now I’m a warrior. I can’t tell you the serenity that the third step has brought to my life.

Then there’s the eleventh step: “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out.” If we are uncertain what God’s will for us is, we can simply pray for that knowledge. And if we doubt our strength, we can simply pray for power. Look how much this simplifies life. Everyone should have some form of a twelve step program.

But perhaps the most helpful, and most difficult, is the fourth step: “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” Could you imagine a world where everyone did this, not just addicts or alcoholics? A searching and fearless moral inventory. A list of our good and bad. A real and honest look inside ourselves. If we can identify our own flaws and character defects, and then pray for God to remove these shortcomings (as we do in Step 7), we can become a better, new and improved person (Martha 2.0 as my friend calls me). But believe me, step four is not easy. For many, it opens up the closet to too many skeletons and demons that are just too difficult to deal with, especially sober. The good thing is, if you are able to get through step four, and then in step 5 admit them to yourself, to God and to another human being, you can leave the past behind you.

So that you don’t have to go and search the internet, I’m going to list all Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous for your here. If you know someone in recovery, this will help you to understand what they are going through better. If you are just curious and wonder if these steps might be applicable to your life somehow, try them out.

1. Admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Even step 12 advocates for practicing these principles in all our affairs. I try to carry this message to other alcoholics, as well as to other people who may benefit from it. Of course you may not have any shortcomings or character defects, but I sure as hell do. But I’m working on them and I’m asking them to be removed.

I didn’t give much attention to steps eight and nine—making a list of people we had harmed with our drinking and making amends to them. That’s for another post. I wish I could just do a blanket apology here and say sorry to all those I hurt, but I can’t. I need to do the work. But when it gets tough, I still may just ask you to gimme three steps towards the door.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” -Lao Tzu