A Minute to Learn

Go Game

The Game of Go

When I was a teenager, I discovered the game called “Go.”  It originated in China, and came to the US via Japan.  The set I bought came with a small instruction pamphlet with the following thought:  Go, a game that takes a minute to learn, and a lifetime to master.  It really was true.  There are exceedingly few rules to the play, and those can be memorized within a few minutes.  But learning how to apply those rules to your advantage takes years of practice.

The same can be said of the 12 Steps.  They can be read in about a minute, give or take, and they are written in ordinary, quite understandable language.  It just doesn’t take all that long to learn what the Steps are and where they’re going.  Mastering the Steps, however, internalizing and learning to use them to your advantage in this game of living, takes quite a long time; a lifetime, to be exact.

So how long should it take to do the Steps?  I’ve heard the question countless times.  And I’ve heard answers ranging from 1 day to 12 years (based on 1 year per Step!) given by folks who may or may not have personal experience with the program.  It’s all hogwash.  The answer, as with most of the answers we’re exploring here, will be found within each individual.  I can’t tell you or anyone else how long it will take before you start seeing results such as those listed in the Promises.  No one else can tell you, either.

The Steps are not a “magic bullet,” one-shot cure; they are not an exercise we do once and then we’re done.  They are a design for living based on universally recognized and nearly universally accepted principles for living a life well lived.  As such, there is no end point or completion date.  I’ve seen people angry, despondent, or simply bewildered over the fact that they’ve “finished the Steps and nothing has happened.”  One person asked me, “OK, I’m done with the Steps, now what happens?  Do I just sit on my ass and wait for the problem to go away?”  Well, no.  This is an on-going process.  We continue to apply the principles to all aspects of our lives, not just the alcohol-related aspects, and the time will come, sooner or later, swiftly or gradually, when the problem does disappear.  Such was my experience, and the experience of thousands of others who went before me.

Share your experience/thoughts on this topic in the comments.  Thanks!

photo credit:  Julio Martinez

  1. I played Go for over a year with a Master and one day realized, “Wow. I do NOT have any idea how to play this game!” I had gotten ‘pretty good’ and here I was after a year; a novice again.

    I love this analogy. the steps are like Go.

    I have known people who did their steps in months. My sponsor had a weird notion that the steps take a lifetime. (she was right) I took well over a year to work my first 4th and it is now in 4.5 HUGE binders in my closet. I am a type A kinda gal . I am glad my sponsor was a nutjob about the 4th. It was hard and it was fruitful.

    I have seen folks spend a week on their 4th and it worked. Me, not so much. I needed to go deep deep deep.

    20 years in the program and I am a novice. Just like playing Go.

    Peace, Jen


    • Yep. I’ll always be a work in progress. Wherever did you find a Go master? I only met a handful of folks who even know about it. Maybe if I’d had time while I was in Japan, but alas, that was all work and little play at a time when ‘play’ meant bar-hopping.


      • I was working on an anti nuke movement in Boulder Co. One of the main donors to the cause was a psychiatrist who was from Japan. It was an honor to study and play with him. He told me early on that I would reach the point of ‘unknowing’ about the game and that was when I would BEGIN to understand the game! He was right. I gave it up about 6 months later and went back to chess. I wish I had not.

        Why were you in Japan? I would LOVE to go to Japan!