As I pointed out in the Initial Thoughts post, Vogler divides the Inner Journey into 12 stages, as well as Campbell’s original Monomyth cycle, or “outer” Journey. And so I compared the 12 Steps to those stages as well in that post.
And as I said in the Crossing the Threshold post, the next swath of posts are concerning my own 12 Step work.
It’s interesting that this stage is “Tests, Allies, and Enemies” in the Outer Journey, and “Experimenting with new conditions” in the Inner. There really was a lot that I learned during this time. I’d worked the Steps before, but this was the first time I wrote down a lot of thoughts in a place I could come back to. And these Outer/Inner Monomyth stages seemed to fit, because I learned more who was supporting me, and who wasn’t, or, at least, where the limits of that support were.
I didn’t work the Steps in a conventional way. I worked through two books that used a workbook format: He Did Deliver Me From Bondage and Clean Hands, Pure Heart. They are very specifically written for an LDS (Mormon) audience like myself, using LDS scriptures (the first book focuses on the Book of Mormon exclusively). And I’d done it within a support group. The structure of such a group is very different from a 12 Step group. But by the time I was writing these posts, I’d attended a 12 Step group online.
And my long-distance sponsor was the author of Clean Hands, Pure Heart himself.
Phil did not like the idea of me blogging my work at first. He thought that I was leaning to the attention-seeking aspects of it. I can’t disagree that blogging can be that way, especially if bloggers post things just to get attention, i.e. to increase their traffic. But I wasn’t doing that. I persuaded him to allay his worries, since I was keeping these posts locked away at the time, and for the most part, they still are.
I was slowly moving away from LARP and the Camarilla, but it was heartening that a blogger I met through the “Cam” had done 12-Step work, and so I decided to show a few posts to her.
Phil was a good sponsor, up to a point. He’s married to Colleen (the author of the other book), so it was very nice to get a more personal insight on both books. But… there were limits. I’d met him before in a different context, in an addiction recovery e-mail list that was run by the guy that introduced me to the support group I mentioned above, a man named Rex Goode.
Phil and Rex were often at odds. Basically, much of the matter lies in how 12 Step groups operate, and that is the rule of “no crosstalk”. During meetings, members are forbidden to interrupt others, or to advise them at any time. Talking is done one person at a time. Support groups generally operate much more informally, with the usual back-and-forth exchange you might expect from everyday conversation. Phil and quite a few others that participated in Heart ‘t Heart, which was their 12 Step group at the time, really hated the informal approach and wanted the e-mail list to be run more like a 12 Step group.
I found that Phil also believed in a very strict interpretation of the 10th Tradition:
[Heart ‘t Heart] has no opinion on outside issues; hence the [H’tH] name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
What that meant, when the group adopted a phpBB-style forum, was that he would quickly censor (as an administrator) any reference I made to outside resources. I thought this was terrible– because of worries that such resources might appear to be endorsed by them, we couldn’t even speak of anything that wasn’t within the realm of 12 Steps?
He also didn’t believe in a token reward-based approach I was using for addiction recovery, something I had gathered from my support group. His argument was something like “Victor Kline has determined this approach is doomed to failure.” (Victor Kline was a psychologist in Utah specializing in pornography addiction at the time.)
I’d heard of Victor Kline before, and not in good terms. In the year I was accused of rape (1992), the assistant dean of student life at the church college I was attending was ranting that I had to see him. How did he know? He must have seized my dorm phone call records. There was no way I was able to see this Kline guy– I had no family in Utah. Certainly I was not going to go on the recommendation of a guy that looked to me like an evil Mr. Rogers.
So Phil and I had a falling out as time went on. I definitely learned that there were limits to 12 Step work. I would meet people that would get caught in the structure, limited by the “letter of law”, more so when it was restricted to their interpretation of it. Specifically, I remember Cimmy telling me about the “program” Colleen proposed to her as a sponsor– she was uncomfortable with how rigid and structured it was, when we both had read and seen her chat about the dangers of “white-knuckling.”
I’ll write a little bit more about Steps 6 and 7 in the next post, to talk a little bit about how 12 Step work was helpful to me, and realizing that the process was important, not the methodology– or rather, the ends do not always justify the means.
Next post in the series: 12 Steps Into The Special World (A Closer Look)