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April 17

“Most of us know that we caused harm in one way or another, but in the past we chose to feel guilty without doing anything about it.”

Sex Addicts Anonymous, page 45

For centuries, doctors the world over took the Hippocratic Oath. In modern times, the surgeon Thomas Inman is reported to have encouraged a version of the oath distilled by a surgeon several centuries before: primum non nocere, “First, do no harm.” It seems to me that this idea is embodied in the Twelve Steps.

It starts in Step One when we finally decide to get off the merry-go-round and stop destroying our lives and the lives of others. First, do no harm. In Steps Four and Five, we look at the painful areas in our lives with an eye toward gleaning our part in creating the pain. From there we take steps to stop contributing to the cycle of pain. First, do no harm.

In Steps Eight and Nine, we become willing to make amends to anyone we have harmed, and then make amends directly whenever possible. But, we must not make direct amends to people we have harmed if it could injure them or others. First, do no harm.

In the Tenth Step, we continue to take inventory, and when wrong, promptly admit it. We take this inventory because we are still addicts, boundaries are not our strong suit, and we will make mistakes that can injure relationships. This step allows us to repair any possible harm that might have occurred. First, do no harm.

First, do no harm. Is there a better way to inform my actions?