As explained in Chapter One, the 21 Steps of recovery that you are about to
embark on are designed to be adapted to your particular situation and needs. In Stage One recovery, your main task will be to acknowledge one of the reasons your life may be unsatisfying or even harmful to you your childhood abuse and then begin to regain some self-control and stability by identifying the trauma symptoms that may be left over from your past. Out of this new awareness of the long-term impact of the abuse is born a commitment to recovery. The steps in Stage One will help you begin to heal the wounds inside and thus pave the way for changes to be made later on in Stage Two and Stage Three.
As you begin to reclaim your childhood, you will also need to identify and then moderate the self-destructive behaviors and maladaptive patterns that may currently plague your adult life. If your life consists of one calamity after another, as is often the case with adult survivors, it will be very hard to work the steps. Therefore you must establish some level of calm before you begin to face your abuse.
Stage One, like Stages Two and Three, can take anywhere from one to three years to complete, depending on how severely you were abused as a child, how much of your abuse history you remember and the extent of the emotional wounding incurred. Sometimes the first stage takes the longest and the remaining two stages take less time because you can use the skills and insight developed while resolving the challenging early steps to work through the later steps. Remember that recovery is an individual process, the pace of which only you can determine. It is essential that you not race through the steps. Find a rhythm that feels right to you. You want your healing and the changes that grow out of it to last a lifetime and to provide a stable foundation for your new sense of self.
How do you know when you are finished with one step and ready to move on to the next? Listen to the voice of your newly developing self that fair, honest and objective sense inside you that is growing stronger day by day. Listen to this voice and cultivate its developing wisdom. This voice will signal when you have resolved the task or issue presented by each step. The step is accomplished if you can demonstrate the task in action with another person your therapist, partner or ASCA members and thus begin to integrate it into your new self. If you move forward to another step prematurely, simply admit it to yourself and return to the earlier step until you resolve it. Remember, too, that the 21 Steps are flexible and that you do not have to work them in a linear progression. You don't have to be perfect in recovery. Pursue your recovery your way, at your speed, but try to keep to the new standards and values that you are creating for yourself.