Who will cry for the little boy who walks the burning sand.
Who will cry for the little boy who strives for hope.
Who will cry for the little boy who hold [sic] his faith in hand.
Who will cry for the little boy who puts his faith in God’s hand.
Who will cry for the little boy who tries to still his joy.
Who will cry for the little boy who’s[sic] love for life instill in him.
Who will cry for the little boy, the boy inside of me.
Who will cry for the little boy, the boy inside the man.
By Eddie C
The author understands that “The Thirteenth Step” is sometimes connected to a practice of some 12-stepers who attempt to take advantage of newer and more vulnerable people for selfish, ignoble purposes. That connotation has no part of this story.
Jack had learned a great truth today: one that he felt the need to share with others. Maybe an idea would come to him over the next few days, because this was a message that would be like sunshine after the storm for so many people who wear searching for a little light and a little peace. It was a truth filled with hope.
Jack had been involved with 12-step programs for over 20 years. He’s grown up with an alcoholic father and a mother who struggled greatly as the wife of an alcoholic. Jack’s feelings toward his father ran the gamut from anger to hate to shame to sympathy; but it had been a long time since he had felt any love and respect toward him.
Jack had first visited a 12-step program at the invitation of a close, college friend. Before that, he hadn’t known of anything that might help the family and friends of alcoholics. He quickly learned that there was nothing he could do to change his father, but there were things he could do to find peace in his own life.
Jack had always been an analytical sort. He was deeply curious about why things worked and why they didn’t work. This curiosity grew the more as he became more involved in 12-steps.
At some point, Jack’s father had started going to his own 12-step program and he seemed to be finding some limited success in managing his disease. Jack didn’t feel comfortable discussing the 12 steps with his father because it was such a personal issue.
Jack did introduce his mother to a program for family and friends. Giving her credit, she tried, but never really found personal peace. She was a private person and could never share the pain of her past with anyone else, either in a group or privately. So she drifted back to her own pain-filled world believing that nothing would ever bring her peace.
She and Jack had talked about the program; and Jack was that his mother failed to find any answers for herself.
Jack also attended an occasional “open” session for alcoholics because he wanted to see how the program worked for other people. And he continued to regularly attend his “family and friends” program.
He purchased materials from both programs including the daily readers that contained the dated short topics for meditation.
Let nothing said here be construed as criticism of 12-step programs. Jack was thoroughly convinced that there were great strengths in the programs both for the addicted and those who were near to them.
Over the years he reached several conclusions from his observations of both programs.
- The steps contain great wisdom and when applied can be life-changing.
- The traditions provide a focus when so many groups meld into activist or advocacy campaigns.
- The social contact with others who understand their version of your pain can be supportive.
- The reliance on a “higher power,” although often criticized, is necessary for any lasting change in the human psyche.
Jack’s observations also led to other conclusions:
- Many come, most leave.
- Many who stay continue to dwell on their pain, if the group sharing and individual stories are valid indicators.
- Some of the encouragement can become trite. “Work the program” seems to be a catch-all response to virtually every need.
- Some people, like his mother, are never able to share their pain publicly, yet the enthusiasm of the crowd seems to pressure them in that direction. So they leave.
- Some groups seem to have a somewhat morbid fascination in who could share the most outrageous story.
As the years passed, Jack became even more fascinated with the people who left than with those who stayed. The standard group response of “still in denial” seemed to him to be a little hasty. The group-think was that if someone truly reached the realization that they were an alcoholic or that a family or friend was alcoholic and they needed help in dealing with it, then participation in the 12-step group was axiomatic.
Yet every year, dozens of new people came to local groups and almost as many left still searching for some relief and hope.
Jack began seeking out every newcomer at any meeting; to make them feel welcome and to encourage them to come back.
In doing that, Jack met Chuck – a grizzled septuagenarian – at one of the open meetings. Jack was struck by two things regarding Chuck: one, his simple self-introduction of “I’m Chuck, a sober alcoholic for forty-seven years;” and two, the simple, radiant joy on Chuck’s face.
Jack made sure that Chuck understood that he was himself a visitor and that his active involvement was in the “family of” program. Chuck accepted that with a simple question, “Why are you here?”
When Jack explained his higher interest in why people left over why they came, Chuck said, “I think I’d like to buy you a cup of coffee at the diner down the street.”
Jack accepted and shortly they found themselves sitting at a table along the back wall of the diner with steaming cups of coffee between them. There were several other people from the 12-step meeting, but the table afforded enough privacy.
Chuck began to share his story with Jack.
“I’m not one who easily gets up and showcases my faults. I acknowledge them; and daily I deal with them; but I don’t like public displays of martyrdom.” He laughed, “You’ve just learned all you’re going to learn about my addiction.”
“I go to lots of meetings and I don’t consider myself a member of any single group. I take a lot of road trips to visit other meetings. I’m always looking for that one person, if any, who wants to know more about the program’s failures, not its successes. You qualified yourself when you told me of your interest in the people who left.
“I love the 12-step programs; but honest people will have to admit that the power of the program is one of mind-control. We teach people to say the slogans, meditate on the writings, call their sponsors, and above all to “work the program” which is to say, meditate, and call. I’m not saying that’s bad; those are just the facts of life in 12-step.”
“For people responsive to this form of mind control, the programs work.”
“For people too ornery, too stubborn, too educated, or too sophisticated, the program will never work. You have to be a little pliable. And my, never-to-be-documented guess is that the stubbornness group is a small percentage of those who leave for the second reason.”
“Like you, Jack, I made a habit of always meeting the new people. I got to the point that I could see the depth of pain in their eyes or the defeated slope of their shoulders and say to myself ‘That one won’t be here long.’”
“You see, 12-step programs require that you face your pain. So you ‘work the program.’ When the pain builds up, you call your chosen sponsor and he or she tells you to ‘work the program.’”
“The dated materials for both groups tell us again and again that negative thoughts will be stirred up and the solution is to ‘work the program’.”
“For many people, thinking about the hurt is too painful to face; and the easiest solution is to return to the drinking or the denial.”
Jack was curious. “Are you saying that we don’t have anything to help the people who get overwhelmed thinking about their pain?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying, Jack. As good as our programs are, we are discouraged from using materials other than the officially endorsed books, pamphlets, and publications. So I share the Thirteenth Step for those who can’t deal with their pain with slogans, sponsors, and social contact.”
“Okay! You have definitely piqued my curiosity,” Jack pressed. “What is the Thirteenth Step?”
“It may be too simple for some people to embrace and apply to their lives. Formally stated, the Thirteenth Step says ‘I commit that whenever painful thoughts pop up in my mind, I will consistently say out loud to myself, ‘I will not think about that’. When the thought returns, say out loud again, ‘I will not think about that’.”
“If people use the Thirteenth Step consistently, they will find that the negative thinking comes less and less until it becomes insignificant to us. The fact is that we’re just built to handle negative thinking that way!”
As Chuck talked, Jack began to think of how much the Thirteenth Step could have helped his mother in her own search for peace through the “family and friends” 12-step program.
“Jack, I am living proof that the Thirteenth Step works. After I had gone to a half-dozen or so meetings, I was frustrated. Every time I started ‘working the program,’ my mind would begin to churn with all the hurts I had suffered, the hurts I had caused and the excuses I was making, you know, the typical mind clutter that all of us have, that I would get totally distracted from the program and totally involved with my negative thinking. Can you identify with that?”
He continued without waiting for my answer, “An old gentleman, a WWI vet, came up to me much like you came up to me tonight and asked if he could help me get through my negative thinking. We ended up sitting over a cup of coffee and he shared with me what he call the Thirteenth Step. That step has eased my way through this program for the past forty-seven years. It helped me so much that since then, I have shared the Thirteenth Step with people like yourself in every state in the Union and most of the Canadian provinces.”
“I asked a friend who knows something about computers to create an online course to teach the concept and provide the accountability to make the step a reality for anyone wants more personal peace. In just weeks, you can be free of most emotional pain and negative thinking. Then you can devote your peaceful thinking to solving your real life issues and living the other 12 steps.”
“I’m passing it along to you, Jack. Many old hands in 12-step groups resist ideas like this. I encourage you to keep looking for inquiring minds and share it with people who are truly seeking help. We have this tool already in each of us and all it needs is to be used. The online course shows us how to do that.
Jack and Chuck talked until the diner closed. He sensed that he would never see Chuck again; but he also sensed that Chuck had accomplished exactly what he came to town to do. He passed along the Thirteenth Step.
This fictional story introduces a principle that has been around for thousands of years. In addition to the Bible, philosophers like Confucius, Marcus Aurelius, Shakespeare, and others have written or spoken about our wonderful capacity to train ourselves not to ruminate on negative thoughts in order to minimize the effects of emotional or even physical pain in our lives..
Children as well as adults can easily understand the simple Thirteenth Step. The principles work for many negative emotions that result from almost any negative thinking.
This concept is explained fully in an online eCourse called Finding Personal Peace – http://findingpersonalpeace.com. The course leads you through these life principles and also covers topics like making good decisions, and dealing with serious stuff like death, illness, abuse, and addiction.
The eCourse leads one through a process of turning the habits of negative emotions into the habits of peace, freedom, and serenity.
You can read other short stories on life issues by searching the category, Short Stories, at the right. You can start with the course today and begin to find more personal peace in your life immediately.
All the best.
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