I have recently been thinking about Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to (alcoholics, addicts, others), and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
It reminds me of when my son was in the marching band. Over 200 kids would show up in the heat of summer knowing not a lick of music slated for their upcoming season. They would spend weeks before school started, learning the music, learning the choreography, getting to know their individual parts and how those impacted the production as a whole. They got to know their abilities, their fellow band members, and every nuance of each song. Despite the fact that they worked their butts off, none of these kids ever expected to get out there on the first day and put on a perfect, flawless performance. I also bet none of them ever beat themselves up about it.
The band members remind me of each person in recovery. We all show up with a different expectation, a different role and a different level of experience. Some of us have been to band camp before, might even know a few people. Some of us haven’t and we are scared and nervous. We march around, taking direction, trying to stay in step with the beat of the group as a whole, eventually finding a rhythm that suits us. We work hard at learning the music, taking notes and spending hours reading the pages. We listen to the instruction of our section leaders and spend night after night rehearsing our parts on our own.
During this process we are both excited and apprehensive. We aren’t sure if we can cut it, keep up with the rest of the band. Self-doubt causes some of us to hold back and not really explore our musical abilities. We can build walls that prevent us from really bonding with our band mates. When we do, we miss out on the thrill of camaradarie that we see in our fellows. We realize, after watching and wanting, that we must step out of our comfort zone and reach out to them in order to enjoy the company, the coffee after practice and the laughs, the never ending laughs rising above the field.
As we work through each and every step, we finally arrive at the last step. We are amazed when we realize that we have made it to the big show. It’s halftime and the football team is leaving the field, the lights are beaming and the crowd is cheering. This is it… we are ready to show the world what we, we as a group, have accomplished. We lift our instruments and with one wave of a gloved hand, we carry the message we have been sleeping, eating, breathing, sweating and crying for months. Our tune floats out of us like a beautiful poem, words hidden in a life-changing melody. Our song reaches our family members cheering us on, our friends, the hopeful and doubtful fans in the stands. It winds its way up through the crowd, disappearing into the bleachers, caught only by those who are willing to hear it, the rest evaporating into the cool night air.
When it is all over, when we have played our hearts out, listened to the applause and received the accolades, we pack up our instruments and music, careful to keep them at the ready. We retire for the night satisfied. And in the morning, we practice again.
Recovery is practice. I see myself as a band member on that field. Sometimes it’s rainy and cold, other times electric, warm and thrilling. Every day I must practice. I must take my music, my notes and my instrument out and listen to the direction of my fellows and leaders. I must pay attention and make changes as I take my steps. I work hard. Sometimes I am out of step, sometimes I can’t hit the right notes. But still I practice.
I don’t practice because I want to. I don’t practice because I like to. I practice because there is no other alternative and because that’s what Step 12 tells me to do. “Practice these principles in all our affairs.” I’m so grateful it doesn’t say “Perfect these principles” or “Master these principles.” I’m so glad I’ve grown enough to have a younger, less burdened mind that doesn’t expect me to put on a flawless performance every day. I am immeasurably grateful that the other, wiser, more senior band members took time to tell me that I didn’t have to get it all right on the first day. I’m glad they were patient and kind to me and gave me the confidence I needed when I didn’t have it. I’m glad they showed me, and told me, how they got through the grueling practices without giving up.
Now it is my turn. Not because I feel I know it all…. oh no. Not because I can’t wait to share my experience with others. But as my sponsor told me, I should show others the way because I know how. She also told me that I don’t have to, but rather, I get to.
Today I try to live in Step 12. I try to keep my mind focused on diligent practice. I strive to always be improving, knowing that I may never perfect my tune. But also knowing that the tune I play today might be exactly what someone needs to hear.