What Does "Drop the Rock" Mean? 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 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 defects. 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. A big part of Twelve Step recovery is learning to recognize and let go of the character defects, shortcomings and attitudes that would otherwise sink us. And with every "rock" we drop, we not only free ourselves to become the people we want to be, but our acts of humility, willingness and courage have a positive and healing "Ripple Effect" on one another, as well. How Do You Work AA's Steps Six and Seven? AA's Step 6: We're entirely ready to have God remove all our defects of character. AA's Step 7: Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings. Steps Six and Seven 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 the directions into action in their daily lives. Even the dozen pages devoted to Steps Six and Seven in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions often get lost in the shuffle, as many people in recovery today haven't read or only skimmed this instructive book. As I came to learn through study and practice, these are action Steps. Over the years, I got better at not making uncomfortable situations in my life worse by practicing the important Step 6 principle of being entirely ready to no longer be the way I used to be and the Step 7 principle of humbly following spiritual directions. But I also realized that even though I was managing my unmanageability, overall, I wasn't managing to feel better emotionally. So I started to examine where or how I was picking up the rock I continued to have to drop each day—because it was taking a lot of my life energy to not do what I was used to doing and then do what I wasn't used to doing. I realized I was reacting to the present as though it was the past. In other words, I was working on changing my responses to what was happening in my life; however, my reactions to life were the same. Key elements of the Serenity Prayer shed light on my situation: I was changing the things I can and accepting the things I can't change, but I wasn't doing anything else about my over-sensitivity and shaky self-esteem. So I started to look for more of the things I could do that would bring about changes in the things I can't. And the answer was right in front of me all along—the directions for Step 10 on page 84 of Alcoholics Anonymous continue to transform me, something I cannot do on my own. What Is the Ripple Effect of Step Ten? The Ripple Effect is the influence we have on other human beings, based on what we do (or don't do), what we say (or don't say) and how we show up in each moment. Our words and actions naturally ripple out to the people around us—and then to the people around them and the folks around them. It's an ongoing interactive process. Before Twelve Step recovery, we were largely unaware of how our behavior affected others. Or, if we were aware, we likely denied or ignored the impact we had, or we simply didn't care. Even early on in our recovery from substance abuse, we may not have recognized the Ripple Effect very well. We were focused primarily on our own healing, sanity and serenity. These were worthwhile goals, of course—but they were still self-oriented. By the time we did our first Steps Four through Nine, however, we started to see how our life and the lives of others are inextricably interwoven. When we first worked Step Nine, we understood this well enough that we didn't take an inventory and make amends just so we would feel better. We did it because we took a personal inventory and recognized that our decisions, words and actions had harmed other people. Now, as you work Step Ten in your own recovery, you will start to see how all your decisions, words and actions ripple out and affect others. You'll also notice how everyone else's decisions, words and actions ripple out in the same way. As you continue working your AA Twelve Step Program, this Ripple Effect will become more and more visible to you. Eventually you will see it functioning everywhere at all times. Why Is Step Ten Key to Spiritual Growth? AA's Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. In addiction recovery, for the newcomer and veteran alike, it is our own thoughts and behaviors that demand ongoing vigilance. Our character defects, sharp edges, and shortcomings are as toxic and damaging to ourselves and the people in our lives as the substances once were to our bodies. When we stop using drugs or alcohol, these flaws don't simply disappear. They are there, to be recognized, confronted and then neutralized, if not outright removed—and not just by ourselves alone. Our efforts require the help of others, including our Higher Power. This remains true as the days turn to months, the months to years and the years to our lifetime of commitment to staying well. This is the power of Step 10, to remind us that we only have to turn to that help one day at a time; when we do, the lifetime will take care of itself. When we reach Step Ten, we are no longer drinking or using drugs or overeating. But something much greater has also occurred: we've sobered up to our humanness—to our limitations. We've also sobered up to our need to grow and serve on an ongoing basis. We know that we cannot simply settle for chemical relief. We know that if chemical relief is all we focus on, we have taken the first step toward relapse. As we work Step 10, we also come to understand some subtle aspects of the Program that are not generally visible to newcomers. Our attitude toward the Steps has shifted—and continues to shift—in profound ways. On any given day, most of us make hundreds of small and large decisions, act in hundreds of different ways and say hundreds of different things to a wide range of people. Each interaction and conversation has its own Ripple Effect, and we can't control them all. What we can do is—after having cleaned house with Steps Four through Nine—relax, knowing that we now have the insight and tools with Step 10 to face each day and moment with openness and serenity. In this way, Step Ten is our touchstone for continued spiritual growth and transformation. We are are no longer learning how to work the Program. We are learning how to make the Program a way of life, moment by moment and day by day as we shift from a focus on self to a focus on service. Content includes excerpts from Drop the Rock…The Ripple Effect: Using Step 10 to Work Steps 6 and 7 Every Day by Fred H. Fred H. has worked in the field of addiction and recovery for nearly four decades. He is a popular international speaker on the Big Book and the principles of the Twelve Steps.