Q: It seems to me that the steps to should be worked in numerical order, but I know of others who jump around. Which is the correct way to work the steps?
A: Regardless of the fellowship you’re in, the “correct” way to work the steps is with your sponsor. You should find a person who is relatable and is someone you can work with. This doesn’t mean it should be your best friend. You need a sponsor who will push you and call you out on your bullshit from time to time.
Every sponsor has a different style. Typically, sponsors tend to work the steps with their sponsees in the same way their sponsor taught them, combined with various things they’ve learned along the way, either from fellow addicts or trial and error.
Some sponsors are radically different from others. It’s OK to “fire” your sponsor if you don’t like him or her. It’s OK to find someone else. This is especially true when sponsors are controlling and tell you that there way is the only way that works. The unfortunate reality is that some sponsors would make good cult leaders. Your Higher Power is God, not your sponsor. Don’t replace God with your sponsor.
Specifically to your question, I feel the steps are in the order they are for a reason. Start with Step One, end with Step Twelve. This does not mean, however, that the steps should be worked strictly from 1 – 12. In many cases, it would be wrong to say, “I can’t make amends to you because I’m only on step one.” This is especially true for a “Step Ten” mistake — where you have a quick turnaround on making amends to a recent wrong. Step Nine is more for the amends while you were acting out (eg. cheating on wife, neglecting kids to go to strip clubs), whereas Step Ten is focused on continual amends (eg, “I’m sorry I yelled at you this morning.”)
Likewise, at the time of writing this I am still working on Steps Six and Seven, but I’ve had to go back and work Steps One – Five, at least in an informal way, when I start to rely too much on myself rather than God. The steps are linear, but they’re also cyclical. You work them, but then you keep working them.
TL;DR: In short, work the steps in order with your sponsor, but don’t be so rigid that you end up hurting yourself or others.