I was on vacation with my family last week. We went to Texas – where it is all country music all the time. I LOVE country music – it is a secret vice of mine. Cruising in a van that could accommodate the seven of us – we were singing to the radio heading to see the Alamo. (Recovery is so great – repairs relationships and allows me to have experiences like this.) We were singing along to “Life’s A Dance” with the refrain….
“Life’s a dance you learn as you go
Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow
Don’t worry about what you don’t know
Life’s a dance you learn as you go”
(which I always heard as “you learn as you grow” which fits my understanding just fine.) Singing at the top of our lungs as we all know the words, it was a really fun moment of connection.
Later as my heart was buzzing with contentment from our singing, with our trip and the shared activity of the museum, I was thinking about recovery and that brought me to thinking about the steps. In my experience, the journey through the program of recovery has been like the song: sometimes I move through the steps – or am lead by my sponsor, and sometimes the steps lead me. I have learned not to worry, or at least to worry less. There is a back and forth of purpose and intention that I have grown into.
Over time the steps themselves have become less discrete, less separate. They blur with one another, sometimes the wisdom is found in the sequence and sometimes not. I may start doing a step ten inventory and then discover something that I need to delve into further moving me back to step four – particularly if my issue had been a codependency or ACA shortcoming. There is always more work to do.
I may sit in prayer and meditation and find that I am holding or gripping onto an outcome and so be led back to step three – to give the challenge or the problem into the hands of my universal power, my higher power. I am encouraged to get my claws out and remember, as a friend recently told me, “it’s already alright.”
First time through the steps was like a dance you are just learning. You take each part of the dance, the step, individually and practice that. “I am powerless over my addiction”…recall that like a mantra for myself over and over. Then “my life has become unmanageable.” Again a piece of wisdom to step through until the process becomes smooth, the transition seamless. Then it can become the whole step “We admitted we were powerless over ___and our lives had become unmanageable.”
In music one practices a piece measure by measure, until phrases and passages become smooth. In recovery we read the literature, the Big Book and certainly the steps until we get the phrasing down. There does come a point when the whole series of steps becomes natural and you can begin to experience the JAZZ of them.
When I am troubled with a person, process, place or project I know now how to slide up and down the notes of the steps until I find my sticking point, the place where acceptance gets stuck. Sometimes it is in my response to reality. My defects, defenses, or shortcomings have popped up. Sometimes there is a hidden trigger that has revealed something from my past that I have yet to deal with. And yet other times it is me trying yet again to control outcomes and I nestle into the will of my higher power. After a lot of snorting, querulousness and resistance do I nestle. I do not go easily into the realm of reason.
Learning a poem by heart means repeating the words and stanzas over and over. Piece by piece we eventually learn the whole thing. We do that at meetings – reading and hearing the steps over and over; but sometime losing the sense of them in the rhythm of the ritual. In doing the steps thoroughly (half measures being what they are) I also need to reaffirm their purpose and meaning. The story behind the poem, the passion in that purpose, allows me to have freedom moving in and out of the steps.
The association between the steps as I progress numerically as well as the link between them allows for more fluidity as I work them. As I have moved from one to the other with greater ease, less definition between one step and another – enjoying the similarities and differences.
Enjoy the dance, accept not knowing and above all, recognize that you “learn as you g[r]o[w].”