The Twelve Steps

I believe in second chances. I believe in third chances. This poem is about belief that things can always change, that they can always get better once you confront the things that scare you.

-Alexa

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.

When you lose the ability
to breathe, is it better to gasp for air
or learn how to live without
breathing. Do you feel like air
may kill you, that words may kill you,
that the world may leave you behind.
Sometimes I feel like you do, but instead
of liquor or wine or pills or powder
I am powerless to an immense feeling of loneliness,
drunk with an anxiety that leaves me scared
to leave the house, to face you or the world.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

You told me once that I saved you,
but I needed you more than you
needed me. I was so afraid of what it would feel like
to live in this world without family,
that it wasn’t so much saving you,
as saving me from being alone.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

I do not believe in God.
But I find comfort in the fact
that you do:
to believe in something so much that you’ve come to find personal peace—

I respect your decision to believe
in something greater than yourself as I have chosen to turn
life over to music and family and truth.
You believe in the good and the kind,
though sometimes you say things
that are unsettling and I tell you
this is so.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

What did you find when you sorted through
the files of who you were and
whom you wanted to be? Did you remember nights
where you left me alone on a couch,
my knees wrapped in a large T-shirt that you got
at a charity event where you probably drank
and I probably noticed, but didn’t say anything
because I was too young to know
I should speak up?

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

There are still things you haven’t told me
and I’m okay with this
because the past for you is a place
you do not want to go,
and I do not want to take you there
like I don’t want to go
to the place where I’m in an airport
hunched on the floor
finding out my grandmother died.
Let’s avoid these places
together.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

You cannot remove
the birthmark that has nestled itself
into the beauty of your skin
without leaving
even a faint scar.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

It will hurt,
and someday they may come back.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Was I first or second or third?
I grew up strong and strong-willed
so you cannot say I was harmed, but tested
by the lack of you.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

You wrote me a short letter, almost the same length
as the letter I found in a yellow box
meant for my eyes first—
an antonym to everything I understood
about my place in the world to you.

If I had known
depression rested on your heart
like a paperweight
maybe I would have come sooner.
Maybe there would have been no yellow box.
No letter.
Maybe.

I’ve felt that weight,
hard to remove when you live alone
and your arms feel as flimsy
as paper—
weight made heavier by overthinking,
a fear of sinking,
and yellow boxes.

I did not mean it when I said I hated you.
I did not mean it.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

I lied.
I was selfish.
I didn’t know better.
I lied.
I did know better.
I was selfish.
I loved myself
more than I loved you.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

Sometimes I talk to my grandmother,
conversations to my ceiling fan or to my wall.
And I try to believe she can hear me.

Sometimes I think that is the same thing
as believing in God.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Fear grips my hand
like a child,
little fingers attempting to interweave
with mine.
And though my hands are small,
he cannot get a full grasp—
because Hope makes Fear’s hands smaller than mine,
Hope wraps her arm around my shoulder
pulls me close
and tells me it will all be okay for longer
than a little while.

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