Wednesday, December 7, 2022

One Step at a Time

Mike Portnoy, former (and best) drummer for Dream Theater, due to his struggle with alcohol, went through the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous.  He decided to write lyrics that followed the 12-steps, what has become known as Dream Theater’s Twelve-step Suite.

The Suite is covered in five songs, each covering more than one of the steps, as follows:

·         The Glass Prison” contains the first three parts of the Suite (“Reflection,” “Restoration,” and “Revelation”). 

·         This Dying Soul" features parts four and five of the Suite ("Reflections of Reality (Revisited)" and "Release"). 

·         The Root of All Evil" consists of parts six and seven of the Suite ("Ready" and "Remove"). 

·         Repentance" features parts eight and nine of the Suite ("Regret" and "Restitution"). 

·         The Shattered Fortress" concludes the Suite, featuring the last three parts ("Restraint," “Receive," “Responsible").

These songs were released on five consecutive albums from 2002 – 2009, with the last album also being the last one on which Portnoy played with the band.  Sadly.

Below I capture each section of the twelve steps.  In bold and underlined is the title given to the section by Portnoy.  Below it follows the step as described by Alcoholics Anonymous.  Following in italics, I have captured a subset of the lyrics that (to me) best capture the spirit of the step.

It strikes me the steps and the lyrics are useful for dealing with any vice or harmful behavior in one’s life.

I think it is best to not comment further.



We admitted we were powerless over [pick your vice] — that our lives had become unmanageable.

Crawling to my glass prison

A place where no one knows

My secret lonely world begins

So much safer here

A place where I can go

To forget about my daily sins



Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Help me - I can't break out this prison all alone

Save me - I'm drowning and I'm hopeless on my own

Heal me - I can't restore my sanity alone



Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Way off in the distance I saw a door

I tried to open

I tried forcing with all of my will but still

The door wouldn't open

Fell down on my knees and prayed

"Thy will be done"

I turned around, saw a light shining through

The door was wide open


Reflections of Reality (Revisited)

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Hello, mirror – so glad to see you my friend, it's been a while

Searching, fearless, where do I begin to heal this wound of self-denial?


Now that you can see all you have done

It's time to take that step into the kingdom

All your sins will only make you strong

And help you break right through the prison wall



Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Your fearless admissions

Will help expel your destructive obsessions

With my help I know you can

Be at one with God and man


Hear me

Believe me

Take me

I'm ready to break through this prison wall



Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Proud enough for you to call me arrogant

Greedy enough to be labeled a thief

Angry enough for me to go and hurt a man

Cruel enough for me to feel no grief


Never could have just a part of it

I always need more to get by

Getting right down to the heart of it

The root of all evil has been running my whole life


Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Humility now my only hope

Won't you take all of me

Heal this dying soul


I can feel my body breaking

I can feel my body breaking

I'm ready to let it all go

I can feel my body shaking

Right down to the foundation

The root of it all


Take all of me

The desires that keep burning deep inside

Cast them all away

And help to give me strength to face another day



Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Hello Mirror!

So glad to see you, my friend

It's been a while


Staring at the empty page before me

All the years of wreckage running through my head

Patterns of my life I thought adorned me

Revealing hurtful shame and deep lament


Staring at the finished page before me

All the damage now so clear and evident

Thinking 'bout the dreaded task in store for me

A bitter fear at the thought of my amends



Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development

We will be amazed before we are halfway through


"You're only as sick as your secrets

But the truth shall set you free."

"The truth is the truth

And so all you can do is live with it."



Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

You're smart enough for me to trust

Go live your life now

Just keep these steps in your life

And you'll know how


If you're not sure, ask yourself

"Have I done to them

As I would have them do to me?"


Look in the mirror

What's that you see?

The shattered fortress

Fly now, be free!



Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

Keep all of me

The desires that once burned me deep inside

Help me live today

And help to give me grace

To carry out your way

I am ready, help me be all I can be

I am ready, help guide me and keep me free



Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to [others], and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

I am responsible when anyone, anywhere

Reaches out for help,

I want my hand to be there!

1 comment: