What does it mean to work the steps? – Episode 80

When you first heard “work the steps”, what did you think? Are you still confused about what it means? Or, maybe you’ve worked the steps, but you’re looking for more.

Spencer talks with Ruth, Maria, and Patti about our understanding of and experience of “working the steps”. We consider these questions in our conversations.

  • When you first heard the phrase “work the steps”, what did you think it meant?
  • Have you worked the steps once? More than once?
    • If more than once, how did your understanding of “working the steps” change?
    • How did you work the steps? From a book? With a sponsor? As part of a group?
  • Some steps have clear actions in them (“took an inventory”, “made a list”), and some do not (“came to believe”, “became entirely ready”).
    • Would you say that some steps are “action steps” and some are not?
    • Or, do you believe that all the steps have actions in them?
  • How do you know you have “finished” a step and are ready to move on to the next one?
  • If you are a sponsor, how do you guide your sponsees in working the steps?

Our topic for next week is “The 3 C's“. We are told that “We didn't cause it, we can't cure it, and we can't control it.” How does this help? Does it help? What do you think? Please call us at 734-707-8795 or email feedback@therecoveryshow.com with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.


Here are some songs that we think connect to our topic. Listen to the episode to hear why and how.

Jordin Sparks – One Step at a Time

Ani DiFranco – Work Your Way Out

Janis Joplin – Work me, Lord

The music in the episode:

[bandcamp track=510377286 bgcol=FFFFFF linkcol=4285BB size=venti] (intro)

[bandcamp track=70695682 bgcol=FFFFFF linkcol=4285BB size=venti] (first break)

[bandcamp track=3576082032 bgcol=FFFFFF linkcol=4285BB size=venti]Klonopin (second break)

[bandcamp track=2428417786 bgcol=FFFFFF linkcol=4285BB size=venti] (closing)


2 comments on “What does it mean to work the steps? – Episode 80

  1. Brenda says:

    Spencer and guests,
    Thank you for your wonderful work and care with your site and podcast. I was wondering if you could speak to the “alcoholic mind”? I’ve heard it spoken of and would love some more clarification about this. (I heard a person say that he had an “alcoholic mind” at the age of 10 which seems totally baffling to me.)
    Thanks so much.

  2. Loriann says:

    Retrospectively checked out this episode, what a fantastic topic!

    Working the steps over the years has been an interesting journey. My first sponsors were not pushy about working the steps and I was actually afraid to ask about how and when this mysterious step process should start happening. After about the first year of attending meetings and getting more familiar with the program literature (still not wanting to “ask” for help from my designated sponsor) I had organized a small weekly step work group. The group agreed on a format and we used a workbook. It was a very positive experience and although not the same as working the steps solo with a sponsor, it was a great start and exercise in connecting my thoughts and experiences and taking ownership by sharing these aloud. It helped me to seek a sponsor who was more experienced with working the steps and I then began working them one on one. I later connected with a woman who needed a sponsor, in a different program where we both had about the same amount of time in that program. We agreed to “co-sponsor” each other and that experience was also uniquely helpful because we committed our time to each other, reading, writing, seeking out resources for our step work, and invested time into working the steps. I have heard in meetings is that there is no wrong way to work the steps, except that they need to be done in order and with a sponsor. Sponsorship can take different forms (groups, sometimes reaching out to a program fellow and asking for help provides temporary sponsorship, and of course a formal sponsor). As far time, there are workshops that can take us through all 12 steps in a weekend, a good opportunity to work all steps in order. In other situations, for deeper issues, working all 12 steps in order might take years. I have yet to be short on new issues to apply step-work to. I have difficulty relating to when someone claims that they “worked” the steps (as if it were a one shot deal). For me the steps are a tool, not a one time fix-all. The more familiar I am with using a tool, the easier it is to work on a problem that comes up. It has been very helpful to have taken different approaches and I hope to keep learning. Also, I have found that the availability of resources online is a blessing. Some of the best step workshops, speaker tapes, and written inventory worksheets can be found online as guides. Recently found this one which looks helpful: http://www.12step.org/

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