What Does 'Drop the Rock' Mean?

Welcome to the Voyage of Recovery

You may be familiar with some version of the Drop the Rock parable. It's about the Twelve Step group members who set sail on the ship Recovery across the sea of Life for the island of Serenity. As the parable is usually told, soon after the boat pulls away from the dock, the passengers realize that some of their friends are not yet on board.

Sure enough, their friend Mary comes running down the street and onto the dock. The people on the boat cheer her on. "Dive in and swim, Mary!" they shout. "You can do it!" Mary dives into the water and swims for the boat as fast and hard as she can. But as she gets close to the boat, she slows and struggles to stay afloat. Everyone on board can see why: a heavy rock is hanging from a snarl of strings around Mary's neck. "Drop the rock!" they all shout. "Let go! Drop the rock!"

Treading water, Mary looks down at the rock. She realizes it contains her fear, resentments, self-pity, anger, intolerance, and other character flaws. She also realizes that if she doesn't let go of them, she will drown.

She tears off the strings, holds the rock away from her body, and lets it go. Freed of the heavy and useless weight, Mary easily swims the rest of the way to the boat. She climbs aboard, dripping and deeply relieved.

When most people tell this story, this is where they stop. That's understandable, because that part alone is useful and instructive.

But here's how that parable might continue: As Mary is drying off, she notices something heavy in her pants pocket. She reaches in and discovers another rock, although much smaller than the one she'd just released. She recognizes this as her character defect of self-centeredness and immediately tosses it into the water.

As everyone congratulates Mary, they look back toward shore. Someone else is in the water, swimming desperately toward the boat. But that person, too, is being pulled underwater after every few strokes.

As the swimmer gets closer to the boat, Mary can see that it's Ramon, her old friend and—before they went through alcohol treatment together—drinking buddy.

Mary runs to the rail, leans over, and shouts, "Hey, Ramon, it's me, Mary! Drop the rock! Can you see the ripples from the rocks I just dropped? We don't have to carry around our character defects any more. If I can do it, you can!"

As the ripples from Mary's rocks reach Ramon, he pulls the strings off his shoulders and raises his hand above his head in a thumbs-up.

"You're almost there!" Mary shouts.

"I'm coming!" Ramon shouts back.

He dives under the ripples and disappears. Half a minute later, his head pops out of the water, only thirty feet from the boat.

He disappears beneath the water again. Everyone on board watches breathlessly.

Then suddenly Ramon appears next to the boat, just below Mary. He gasps, "Help me in!"

Mary leans over, stretches out her arm, and pulls Ramon aboard.

How Can I Learn More About Steps Six and Seven?

Drop the Rock: Removing Character Defects, written by recovery veterans Bill P., Todd W., and Sara S., is a groundbreaking book that has helped an untold amount of individuals in recovery from addiction unpack the power and potential of Steps Six and Seven. It speaks to a real need, because those two Steps are only briefly discussed in the book Alcoholics Anonymous—commonly called the Big Book—which serves as a basic text for many in addiction recovery. In fact, the Big Book devotes only two paragraphs to these Steps, which leaves a lot of people looking for guidance on how to actually put them into action in their lives. Even the dozen pages devoted to Steps Six and Seven in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions often get lost in the shuffle, as too many people today either don't read or only skim this important book. When Drop the Rock: Removing Character Defects was first published in 1993, it was the only book to fill this long-overlooked gap. Since then, hundreds of thousands of people in recovery have found that book immensely valuable.

What Comes After Drop the Rock: Removing Character Defects?

Drop the Rock—The Ripple Effect is the sequel to the original Drop the Rock and focuses specifically on Steps Six, Seven, and Ten:

  • Step Six: We're entirely ready to have God remove all our defects of character.
  • Step Seven: Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.
  • Step Ten: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

What makes each of the Drop the Rock books unique?

Drop the Rock: Removing Character Defects is especially helpful for people who are working (or about to work) Steps Six and Seven for the first time. It's also of great value for people who thought they had been working these Steps, but have realized that they were only going through the motions. They hadn't yet made the all-important turn of humbly and honestly asking to be transformed—in very specific, uniquely personal ways—by a Higher Power.

Drop the Rock—The Ripple Effect is particularly valuable for folks who have already worked all the preparation Steps (One through Three) and all the action Steps (Four through Nine). Now they have begun to work the maintenance Steps. These people are no longer learning how to work the Program. They are learning how to make the Program a way of life, day by day and moment by moment. They are also shifting from a focus on self to a focus on service.

Are you ready to learn more about the subtle power of the ripple effect? Read my next blog about how all our decisions, words, and actions ripple out and affect others.

Excerpted from Drop the Rock—The Ripple Effect: Using Step 10 to Work 6 and 7 Every Day  by Fred H.


Fred H. has worked in the field of addiction and recovery for thirty-seven years and is the director of the retreat center for a leading addiction treatment program. He is a popular international speaker on the Big Book and the principles of the Twelve Steps.

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