When you first begin attending 12-step meetings, you will hear other recovering addicts and alcoholics tell you to get a sponsor and work the steps. You will also be encouraged to attend 90 meetings in 90 days. These are worthwhile suggestions, coming from people who have walked in your shoes, followed these same suggestions and found recovery. However, it is important to remember that everyone is different. Everyone recovers at his or her own pace and experiences sobriety in his or her own time.

Nevertheless, newcomers often feel a need to attach a timeline to the recovery process in order to gain some insight into how the program works. Some of the most common questions people ask when they enter 12-step recovery is in regard to working the steps. When should I start working the steps? How long should it take me to complete each step? When should I be finished with them?

In the early days, many people find that learning to live a life free from mood and mind altering substances is demanding enough without worrying about step work. Others obsess about it and “should” all over themselves; thinking they “should” be feverishly working through the steps, even though they might not feel ready.


There are no “shoulds” when it comes to working the 12 steps

There is no race. There is no rush. There is no hurry. There is no definite calendar when it comes to step work and there is no timetable. Step work is something that comes in its own time and is completed in its own time. There is no guideline as to how long you should spend on each step or how long of a break you should take between steps.

That being said, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, the 12 steps are where you will find healing, freedom and serenity. You will hear the message of recovery in meetings, but only when you work the steps will experience recovery.

The 12 steps give you relief from your ultimate problem: Yourself

They will help you overcome your powerlessness and unmanageability. The steps help you identify a higher power and teach you how to surrender to that power. They also help you get to know (and love) yourself. The steps also teach you to forgive others and show you how to seek forgiveness. In short, the 12 steps offer a magnificent journey that takes you from the depths of despair and sets you right with the world.

Many people get a sponsor and start working the steps immediately. Some wait until they feel mentally and emotionally ready to do so. Just keep in mind that you need to work the steps in order to experience all the gifts sobriety has to offer. If you decide to wait to get to work, that’s okay –just don’t wait too long. Some people remain abstinent for years and never work a single step…..not a good idea. (After all, we are living and working a 12-step program, not a no-step program!)

Battling the disease of addiction/alcoholism is no small feat. It requires incredible strength, courage and determination. Kudos to you for making the effort to better your life!

You’ll know when you’re ready to move forward in your recovery and tackle the 12 steps. If you don’t, your sponsor will give you a nudge to get you going!