“How to STOP Screwing Up” by Martha Woodroof (Hampton Roads Publishing) has a subtitle “12 Steps to a Real Life and a Pretty Good Time”.
The basic premise of this book is that you can use the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous for any type of behavior that is unhealthy and destructive for you. The author herself is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict but identified some of her behavioral traits, such as her temper, as something that was an unhealthy habit that led to chaos and self-destruction. So no matter if your problem is alcohol, drugs, smoking, food, gambling, anger, dishonesty, or any type of “screwing up issue”, the Twelve Steps could address these. In working the Steps the sufferer eventually can learn how to live life on life’s terms and be pretty darn happy!
The idea that we can find peace and serenity and become better people through the Twelve Steps is absolutely true. The problem with the book is that if you aren’t familiar with the Twelve Steps already, you may find it a bit confusing. Ms. Woodroof creates her own steps that she calls “Twelve Steps for Dealing with General Screwups”. In general, they reflect the idea of each of AA’s steps. I use the word “reflect” because if you know the steps well, you may have to read a few of these twice to make the connection.
If you are in recovery and have worked all of the Twelve Steps and you would like to read something a bit less serious and different from other recovery publications, I think you will enjoy this. If you do not have a serious addiction but want a little self-help this might be beneficial and may be your springboard to get serious help. But if you believe you have a real problem with any addiction, I would not suggest this book. It’s just not serious enough for the newcomer. It gives one the impression that working these steps is something you do all by yourself. “We” is never mentioned.
Steps Four, Five, Eight and Nine seemed confusing to me. “Our part” in something is usually written in Step Four and verbalized in Step Five. But “our part” was not mentioned until Step Eight. What was very uncomfortable for me (thinking newcomers may not know better) is that sponsorship is never mentioned. It frightens me to think that someone would get out there and make an amend to without truly understanding the process. That is a relapse waiting to happen! Even if the author was not specifically talking about making amends for a serious addiction, the result of making an amend without guidance could be serious. My idea of an amend is not a “gee, I’m sorry”. An apology is quite different.
Before you think I didn’t enjoy the book, read on. I thoroughly enjoyed the writing style. If I were to write a book, I would want to use that same combination of humor and seriousness. I have to admit that Ms. Woodroof’s name for the God of her understanding, “Alice”, totally annoyed me. I know it shouldn’t have but every time I read the name “Alice” I had a picture in my mind and it just wasn’t close to God. But that is the wonderful nature of a spiritual program. I don’t have to believe or “see” the same God as anyone else.
I particularly enjoyed Steps Ten, Eleven, and Twelve; the maintenance steps. The author gives a down-to-earth approach as to how she works these steps on a daily basis. Actually, she talks about “living” the steps which is really what this is all about.
At the end of each chapter (step), there is a series of questions or statements called “The Kick Start”. Some are questions one can answer on paper or use for discussion and some are statements that one might want to think or meditate about. I always enjoy these types of activities because it does further involve you in your reading and make the book more interactive.
I don’t know if the author intended this book to be read and used by seriously addicted folk but if it is, it is just another self-help publication that probably will not get them clean. Overall I enjoyed the book and I think those of you who have been in recovery for a while will also. There is nothing particularly new here but it is important that we continue to hear the message from as many people as we can in their own personal way. If you are looking to read about the Steps for more enjoyment than deep reflection and spirituality, this is a good read. If you need something deep and spiritual, I don't think this would be your best choice.
Ms. Woodroof was very correct to suggest that when we really stop screwing up (because we have followed the Twelve Steps), we will have a real life with all of the ups and downs but ultimately a pretty good time of it all!
Namaste’. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.