Once we have decided who is to be in our group, what time and day to meet, and the frequency of the meeting, the next step is to have a ‘dry-run’. Establish the time keeper and start promptly at the agreed upon time. A copy of the .pdf file format should have been already printed out and copies handed to each of the members. A short passage is read from the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book. This is to remind us of ‘what the problem is, who causes the problem, what the penalty is for leaving the problem unchecked, what specific decision we made in Step Three, why we are here, and who makes our recovery possible.’ The reading comes from p. 62, which ends with the 3rd Step prayer. I recommend all members reciting this prayer together. If a member has not already memorized this prayer, saying it together in unison should encourage that person to now do so.
At this point the time keeper will start the clock for a moment of silence and meditation. This is an attempt to clear the air and empty our minds. The format suggests 10 minutes. I have used 2 minutes, which appears to be adequate. Whichever time allotment is agreed upon the group as a whole should be used. After the moment of silence, usually the same person who read the BB passage will also invite God into the meeting by reciting the ‘Set Aside Prayer’, which is also included in the .pdf file format. Something my SOS group does is alternate who leads the group and reads the passages at each meeting. This setting the tone of the meeting shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes total, leaving the remaining 50 minutes to the inventory process. As I had mentioned earlier, time is of the essence in a Steel on Steel meeting. It is important to begin on time and end on time. If followed stringently, the suggested format should allow more than enough ample time to complete the process. There is power in the number of 4. If only three members are present, there doesn’t seem to be the dynamic when coming to the considerations part of the meeting. More than 4 members does not allot for enough time, and the meeting will surely run over an hour. The magic number is 4 members.
Next, starting around the room, each member reads and answers each question on the inventory aloud to the others. The time keeper starts the clock and keeps time for ten minutes. This should be an unshakeable time limit. The reason being, ten minutes allows only enough time for each member to thoroughly and honestly answer each question to the best of his or her ability. We do not want to leave any time to justify or rationalize our behavior (or lack thereof). Much like a 4th step inventory, this is a quick appraisal of one’s own personal program. It is a fact-finding and fact-facing process. Some of the questions may surprise people. In the list are some awfully forward and sometimes prying questions. For example, in the Relationships category, one specifically is asked whether or not they have been ‘lusting or coveting after a neighbor or a neighbor’s things.’ In the Home/Sex Life category, the member is squarely faced with the question of intimacy problems and masturbation.
Let us be clear at this point. These questions are not meant to embarrass anyone. I think it is obvious that the people who designed this inventory knew without a shadow of a doubt how personal problems with our sobriety program stem directly and indirectly from issues we do or do not deal with in our everyday lives. If I am spending much of my spare time searching the internet for porn, or my business life at work is being dominated by impure thoughts of a fellow employee, these are problems that should at once be discussed with a sponsor. It is unspoken issues like these that can sometimes cause us to implode, and if left untreated, could easily lead us back to wrong thinking, and indefinitely wrong acting. Among these more personal questions are more centrally focused inquiries into our program: How many meetings have we been to since we last met? Are we sponsoring anyone? Do we have a sponsor? Are we of service to others?
It is important to note that during this personal inventory process, at no point should any of the other members speak to comment. Instead, each member should be armed with a pen and paper. This is for writing down considerations for each person who is answering the questions. After everyone has had their opportunity to complete the inventory, the meeting then shifts to the feedback session. We go around the room again and offer our suggestions and advice to the other members of our group. These considerations are best received if they begin with a statement such as, ‘Have you considered…?’ or ‘I recommend you…’ or ‘What stood out to me was…’ All of our offerings and suggestions to the other members should always be given in a spirit of love, kindness and careful consideration. We shouldn’t be servile or scraping, neither judgmental nor spiteful. The member who is receiving this feedback is given no time to retort. They should simply reply with the answer of ‘Thank you for your considerations’, and leave it at that. Something I like to do is to keep a journal, in which I write these considerations down. That gives me something to pray and think about before the next meeting.
After the considerations are all handed out, the meeting is over. I think you will find the first meeting to be awkward, especially if you aren’t especially close to one or two of the other members. However, it is my experience that as time goes on, and more meetings are attended, people begin to open up more. Revealing these close and personal facts about our lives enables us to intimately know the members of our group on a level reminiscent of the sponsor/sponsee relationship. Again, I think you will find yourselves speaking to one another more frequently than had you not joined together for Steel on Steel. Your conversations with the members of SOS will be substantively more fulfilling. Remember, the message that must hold us alcoholic types must have depth and weight. Another benefit of SOS, is recounting the considerations between each meeting. There is nothing more embarrassing than showing up each time with the same unresolved issue as the time before. It is my observation that the entire goal of Steel on Steel is for us to reach further for that perfect ideal that is outlined in our 12 step program of emotional sobriety.