When i first came into the rooms, I would listen to people sharing in meetings about their experiences working the steps. I’d hear people with years and years of sobriety speak around being on the same steps as people who were fairly new to the programme. Overhearing this would confuse me and I struggled to understand just how long it took to complete the twelve steps. Having recently finished reading the last step with my sponsor, here’s my thoughts for newcomers wondering the same thing.
Firstly, you never finish working the 12 steps. While you do work through them for the first time in order with a sponsor, many steps are daily actions or principles that we look to incoprporate into our daily lives. So even after someone in recovery has worked through the steps, they will continue to work the steps and programme each day. Step 12 is a great example of this, it asks us to be of service and carry the message of the programme to the alcoholic who still suffers. As fellows in recovery, we actively work this step each time we do service, when we reach out to newcomers early in their journey, when we work with sponsees or when we share our stories of experience, strength and hope in meetings.
Aside from working the programme each day, it’s also common to repeat the Steps with your sponsor or a new sponsor after a period of time. Repeating the steps helps us to keep engaged with the programme and gives us new perspective as our life changes over time. Working the steps with a new sponsor in particular gives us a fresh perspective on the programme, so can be hugely beneficial to our spiritual journey over time.
In short, we work some steps continually in our daily lives and also repeat them in their entirety from time time during our recovery, so how long does it actually take to work them through for the first time?
There’s no set time frame for this, I’ve heard of people finishing the steps in as little as a few weeks while others take a year or longer. Based on my experience and discussions with other people in the programme I’d say around a year to eighteen months is around average.
Ultimately It takes as long as it takes for you and your sponsor to finish the reading and step work. Every sponsor will teach the steps slightly differently and work at a pace they feel is right for you. It will also depend on the amount of time and work you’re willing to put in and how quickly your sponsor is able to work with you. Some steps can be read and finished quickly, while others like Step 4 or Step 9 can take weeks or months to work through.
One thing I would say try to resist the urge to finish the steps as quickly as possible. Just be aware that this isn’t something you want to rush through, some steps are better done at your own pace so that you fully understand them and their role within your life and recovery.
I personally felt more confident having spent extra time around certain steps in order to better understand the core teachings and principles and my programme is stronger for it.
Give yourself time to work the steps thoroughly with your sponsor, they’re ultimately about embracing a new way of thinking and living, we never stop learning and we never stop working them. My life is fuller and now with hope, gratitude and a sense of peace, self-worth and purpose as a result, and for that I’ll be forever grateful.