Two Step

Dance with the devil in the pale moonlight
Put your arms around him and hold him tight
Give up 2 the feeling and don’t try 2 fight
He wants your soul and he wants it 2night

– Prince

According to one world champion dancer, the Texas two step “is just walking to a beat.” In other words, it feels natural (or, at least, it should). The pattern for dancing a two step is measured over six beats in a common time signature and consists of two quick moves followed by two slow moves. Quick – quick – slow – slow.

Typically, this style of dance involves dancing with a partner whereby one person leads while the other follows. From the outside looking in, this dance is capable of being so simple that observers may not even realize a dance is happening before their eyes.

Of course, everything simple can be made into something complicated. The two step can become quite competitive, involving advanced turns and tricks. Likewise, there are advanced techniques which can be adopted by intermediate and advanced dancers. But by and large two-stepping is simple enough that practically anyone can do it.

That’s all good and well in the world of Texas style dancing. Matter of fact, if you step foot into any honky-tonk in the country, you’re liable to see any number of people participating in this simple dance.

In the recovery world, however, two-stepping means something entirely different. It’s just as simple and just as prevalent in the rooms as this dance is in country western bars. It goes something like this:

Step 1) We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors – that our lives had become unmanageable.

Step 2) Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and practice these principles in all our affairs.

That’s a recovery two step. Those unfamiliar with recovery might not immediately see a problem here. From the outside looking in, this is a simple progression.

I admit that I have a problem. That’s a huge step. It’s not to be taken lightly or looked down on. Recognizing that everything’s not okay takes a lot of cognitive wherewithal. Part of that admission is the realization that I’ve been in denial for such a long time. Things are truly out of control, and I need help. I’m in over my head. That’s not a great place to be, but it’s a good and powerful admission to make.

But that admission is not the be all end all of recovery. There’s a program that’s supposed to be worked, and the culmination of that program is carrying the message of the program to others that they might also have an opportunity to recover.

The spiritual experience which exists as the result of these steps requires that we actually work the steps. If we didn’t work the program and don’t continue to work the program, all we’re sharing with others are promises and pat phrases which we haven’t actually experienced ourselves.

That’s because the simple progression listed above in steps 1&2 are actually Step 1 and Step 12 of the 12 steps. But for people doing the recovery two step, these are the only steps that matter.

These people are in the rooms. Oftentimes they are sober and have been for quite some time. They are sponsoring others and teaching others how to work the program, but they haven’t done the work themselves. Trust me, these people know the steps. They are intimately familiar with the steps and the program on a conceptual and intellectual level, yet they haven’t spent the time getting their hands dirty by actively participating in their own recovery.

According to, these are some of the primary reasons for two stepping*:

  • There are people who feel that the 12 Step program is not for them. They do benefit from the support of the AA meetings so they continue to attend the group.
  • …they find a part of the program too much of a challenge. The usual stumbling block will be around taking a personal inventory and making amends.
  • There are people who treat recovery from addiction as being similar to serving time in prison.  These dry drunks reluctantly come to the meetings, but they are not willing to do any more than this.
  • Some individuals have other problems that prevent them from working the 12 Steps. They may be suffering from undiagnosed depression or another mental health condition.
  • After a few months [sic] motivation can begin to wane. They might forget how bad things were in addiction so they become unwilling to do the things they need do to remain sober.

Whatever reasons or motivations a person might have for two stepping, it’s taking the easy way out, and we all know that taking the easy way out has not payed off for us in the long run. While many who two step might be or remain sober for a period of time, relapse is almost guaranteed at some point down the line due to unaddressed character defects and an unwillingness to get to the root problem behind our acting out.

The 12 steps are not intended to be just another coping mechanism in our lives, but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t capable of turning them into just another crutch to help us limp through life. Our maladaptive coping strategies have done enough harm in our lives and the lives of others. It’s time for a heart change. Real self-examination accompanied by investment in God can and will lead to transformation physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.

Just as almost anyone can learn to do the Texas two-step in a matter of minutes, it takes minimal effort to fall into the practice to two stepping your recovery program. That’s part of the problem for so many of us. We want a quick fix. When we’re ready to get better or make a change or detox, we want to do it right now. And when we find out that the solution isn’t nearly as immediate as getting a fix can be, we’re not interested.

What we have to remember is that we didn’t get to where we are overnight. We’ve dedicated days, weeks, months, and years to making ourselves the way we are at the height of our addiction. When everything is out of control, think about how much time or how much money or how much brain power has been dedicated to chasing after that next hit.

Imagine how different life could be if we were willing to dedicate as many hours of the day toward getting and remaining sober as we spent acting out and chasing the unattainable dream of that first time. People think they don’t have time to get sober. They can’t forfeit as much time as it takes to go to rehab or attend regular meetings.

Well, you had the time to get high. You had the time to get drunk. You had the time to go places you never would have gone before to meet people you never would have met before to do things you never would have done before.

So you have the time to get sober. You can’t not have the time. If you don’t have the time, you will die. This is not a sooner or later issue. It’s just sooner.

The sooner we figure out we need help, the sooner we can head down the path of recovery toward sobriety and wholeness. Otherwise, the only thing that’s going to happen sooner is us losing everything in life that matters to us, up to and including life itself.

Two stepping might be simple, but it’s not effective. Stick with what’s tried and true. And when in doubt, remember that those who’ve gone before you have your best interest in mind because they’re anxious to return the favors which were so graciously bestowed upon them.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior;
    my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.
He is my shield, the power that saves me,
    and my place of safety.
I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
    and he saved me from my enemies.

The ropes of death entangled me;
    floods of destruction swept over me.
The grave wrapped its ropes around me;
    death laid a trap in my path.
But in my distress I cried out to the Lord;
    yes, I prayed to my God for help.
He heard me from his sanctuary;
    my cry to him reached his ears.

– Psalm 18:2-6

– Alex Walker

*Two Stepping in AA


1 thought on “Two Step

  1. Bryan B

    My sponsor said, “It says ‘these steps’ not ‘this step’. Pay attention.” 2 step plan is admission and no work. I have admitted I’m an alcoholic before, and I still drank. Nothing hiding under the skirts here. Not even half measures.



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