by Rick R.
As we approach Step Eight in the 12 & 12 (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions), it describes the A.A. journey as a “moving and fascinating adventure” (Page 77). In Step Nine we start the process of making amends, and by then we realize that the promises are already starting to materialize. It would have been easy to rest on my laurels at that time, but I have been attending weekly step study meetings since I first got sober and I couldn’t get away from the sage advice I heard over and over. In Step Ten it says, “Our first objective will be the development of self-restraint. This carries a top priority rating.”
Some examples I read are: Restraint of tongue and pen, dropping the word “blame” from our speech and thought (Step Four), quick- tempered criticism, sulking and silent scorn. These are just a few, but you get the picture. Revisiting these things three or four times a year as we cycle through step study acts like a mental rock tumbler. Slowly but surely, I adopted new habits which eventually become second nature, and developed into virtues. This helped me to rein in many of those old behaviors that got between me and my peers. I never stop learning these new ideas.
Another thing that caught my attention in Step 10 was the quote: “Pain is the touchstone of all spiritual progress.” The paragraph ends with, “How heartily we A.A.’s can agree … for we know that the pain of drinking had to come before sobriety, and emotional turmoil before serenity.” Can this mean we can have no spiritual progress without suffering? It didn’t make sense to me, so I looked up the word “touchstone” in the dictionary.
A touchstone is a mineral that assayers use to test the purity of gold
I discovered a touchstone is a mineral that assayers used to test the purity of gold. Prior to that, I thought that it was synonymous with stepping stone. Now I understand it as a measure of how spiritual we are when the going gets rough. Do we revert to our old habits, or do we stick to the principles we have learned in the program?
A template for improving relationships
Another quote I kept seeing that piqued my curiosity was on Page 90 of the 12 & 12: “It is a spiritual axiom that every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us.” The “no matter what the cause” part threw me a curve ball. I questioned the idea. If a mother saw her child running into traffic and she wasn’t disturbed, there must be something wrong with her. I don’t think anyone could argue that point, so I believe that the spiritual axiom quote relates to the way we interface with other people. I find it to be a tremendous template for improving our relationships. We question what drives us when we start to get a little out of sorts and we can apply self- restraint.
For all the steps, I continue to attend those weekly meetings. Things get clearer each time I go through them so most of my issues are well under control (as long as I don’t assume I can let down my guard). Ego is always ready to fill in empty spaces in my program. The maintenance part of the tenth step is easy for me these days. I just get up in the morning and say, “God, please show me what to do, and please give me the strength to do it; I don’t do too well on my own.” I’m not sure that a higher power hears me, but I know that I hear me. It arms me with the best possible attitude I can have for that day. It usually works. I let the rock tumbler keep me on my toes, and I hope that I always pass the assayer’s test.