If you’re just getting started you might be wondering how long it will take to do all Twelve Steps. A panel of scientists recently concluded that the average time is 8 months, 9 days, 7 hours, 43 minutes and 27 seconds. Just kidding. But I bet if you’re like most alcoholics or addicts you were already measuring your self-worth and ego against that number. But we digress.
The short answer is that there is no set time. Different sponsors will take you through in different amounts of time. Some might go a little slower. And some might crank through knowing the first time is probably a practice run anyways. You probably shouldn’t take too long nor should you go too quickly.
It is not uncommon in treatment centers to complete all the steps while in treatment. So that would be thirty days in most cases. Other people will tell you that you should get it done in a year or less once in “real world” recovery in meetings. However long it takes, here are some tips to get through your steps and get the most out of them:
1. Try to schedule some time for step work throughout the week. Whether it’s a little bit each day or spending a chunk of time on the weekends, regular work towards any goal will ensure its eventual completion. Know what works for you and be honest with yourself. If three hours on a Saturday feels like a lot, try to do half an hour each day. Talk to your sponsor and get some tips from those who have come before you.
2. Focus on the step that you’re on. If you’re like most of us, your eyes probably transfixed on Steps 4 and 9 like the proverbial deer in the headlights. It’s important to focus on the step that you’re on. The other steps are just as important. They’re in order for a reason.
3. If you think you’re going too slow or too fast based on how you’re being sponsored have an honest conversation and check in with yourself. If you feel like your sponsor is rushing you through the steps or doesn’t have the time for you to get through them in an efficient manner it might be time to have a conversation. Just because the popular person said they will sponsor you, it doesn’t mean that they actually have the time to do so. They might have tons of other demands on their time from other sponsees. So you might not be getting the time and attention you deserve. Conversely, someone with less experience might move you too quickly through the steps with only a surface level exposure. As a newcomer, it’s sometimes difficult to tell what is right. But as if often our refrain, check in with other alcoholics that you trust.
4. Get a buddy. When you’re working the steps, especially for the first time, it helps to have an accountability partner. Maybe you can pair up with a fellow newcomer and support and encourage each other to work through the steps. You might even introduce a little healthy competition. But remember it’s not a race. Plus an added bonus is that you have someone you can share your experience with who has a similar perspective to you.
5. Attend some step study meetings. If you haven’t figured it out by now, different meetings have different topics. The calendar will tell you what those little letters next to the meeting mean.
Find one that is a Step Study and show up. Step study meetings are great because if you aren’t on the step you can learn from others about their experience with it or ask questions. And if you are on the step or have already worked it, you can share your experience.
So when it comes to the Steps, remember to try and keep it balanced. Don’t go too fast and don’t take too long. Get some support. And most of all remember that it’s not a one-and-done thing. The steps are the foundation of the program. A lot of us will work them multiple times in earnest throughout our recovery, and continue to work them as needed on a daily basis.