The Twelve Steps for Zombies

By Michael Showalter 04/11/12

Is it possible to live a program of recovery if you're not technically among the living? With these revised 12 Steps, it's worth a shot.

Program fellowship is crucial to success. Illustration by Danny Jock

Alkies, sex addicts, gamblers, pillheads, debtors—the Twelve Steps are so dynamic and adaptable they can reach sufferers of seemingly any affliction. They can even be rewritten and adapted by people who've never actually been to a twelve-step meeting. So why should zombies, those the lurching, groaning reanimates with an uncontrollable taste for human flesh, have to miss out on the gifts of sobriety? According to this radical new program of recovery, even the undead can live in the solution. Bill Wilson, eat your heart out.

1. We admitted we were powerless over needing to eat people—that our lives had become unmanageable.

Who cares to admit complete defeat? No one. Not even a zombie. It is truly awful to admit that, arms hovering in front us, shuffling around empty streets in tattered clothing, covered in blood, rotting flesh and dirt, we have warped our minds into such an obsession for destructive people-eating, that only an act of providence can remove it from us. Some of us exclaimed, “What an order! I can’t go through with it!” Many of us exclaimed, “Brains!” And the vast majority of us simply murmured incoherently. Do not be discouraged! We are not saints! To the contrary, we are soulless human shells with no other waking desire other than to eat your face! The point is, we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. We’re also going to die (again) if we don’t eat human flesh but that’s besides the point. The principals we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.

2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves, and possibly a special serum being kept secret by the CIA and Interpol, could restore us to sanity, or even better, make us not be zombies anymore.

Let’s be honest, we’re zombies. All of our reasoning skills have been replaced by a primal urge to wander around in a big group of other zombies looking for non-zombies to devour. Our total lack of intellect has rendered us so stupid that we can’t even tie our shoes! So asking of us to contemplate the existence of a higher power is a pretty tall order. But if we truly want the freedom that comes with not being a terrifying monster, then we must prevail!

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

Many of us said to our Maker, as we understood him: "GGGHGGGGGHHH!” If that didn’t work, we might recite this prayer, “I offer myself to Thee—to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self and especially relieve me of the bondage of these dirty and crusty clothes I’ve been wearing for the last six months, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of tasting like chicken. May I do Thy will always!”

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

A business which takes no regular inventory will usually go broke. We did exactly the same thing with our lives. We took stock honestly. First, we searched out the flaws in our make-up which caused our failure (examples: we ate people, we precipitated the end of humankind as we know it.) Being convinced that self was what had defeated us, we considered its common manifestations (e.g.: groaning, lurching, stalking, feasting.) For us, the “searching” part of the inventory was easy. We’re zombies. Searching is what we do. One time I walked forty miles without stopping just to eat an elbow! It’s the “moral inventory” that drives us crazy. Zombies aren’t exactly known for their moral fortitude—or their writing skills.  

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

Admitting our bad behaviors to God and to ourselves is normally not a problem, but when we admit the exact nature of our wrongs to that other “human being”  referred to in this step, be warned, we must not eat him—doing so would be a huge set back for us and our attempts at recovery.

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

Yes, we were ready to have Him remove our defects. We were also ready for Him to remove this branch that’s been hanging off my leg since I chased those Yuppies through the woods the other day.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

When we were ready, we said something like, "My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, and truth be told, I’d like to have all of you too, because I’m starvin’. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you, and in turn, I would like to remove from you, your appendix and your small intestines. Grant me super-human strength, unflagging determination and really bad breath, as I go out from here to do your bidding."

8. Made a list of all persons we had eaten and/or infected with the zombie virus, and became willing to make amends to them all.

This one was really hard for us because we didn’t know how to write anymore, now that we're zombies and have no consciousness. As such, making a list was next to impossible. In light of that, let’s move on to Step 9!

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others—or they were already dead.

This step completes what was started in Step Eight. We reached out to those that we have harmed and made amends. Sometimes, like when we’ve eaten that person, or part of him, this can be very tricky business indeed. “How can I give him his nose back?” you might ask. In instances such as these we say we are sorry simply by not eating the next person’s nose (this is known as an "unliving amends").

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it (or at very least grunted and moaned suggestively).

Most zombies are of the “slow-moving” variety. This means that doing anything promptly is extremely rare. Truth be told, in all matters other than relentlessly stalking prey, we’re a pretty lazy bunch. But as we stated in Step One, we aim for progress and not perfection, take the action and let go of the result!

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only to come across a log cabin in the middle of the woods filled with plump, unsuspecting teenagers having a party.

And finally…

12. Having had a spiritual re-animation as the result of these steps, we tried to carry, or in most cases drag, this message to other zombies, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

The joy of not being a zombie anymore is the theme of the Twelfth Step, and “One Really Long Fucking Day” is its motto. The motto used to be “One Day At A Time,” but we got rid of the “At A Time” part and added the “Really Long Fucking” part after we became zombies, because now that we’re undead, we don’t sleep anymore. So chronologically speaking, everything is just one big blur for us.

Michael Showalter is a writer, director, actor. His work includes TV shows The State, Stella and Michael & Michael Have Issues. Films include Wet Hot American Summer and The Baxter. His book, Mr. Funny Pants, is available in stores and on-line now. Follow him on Twitter at @mshowalter.

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Michael Showalter is a writer, director, actor. His work includes TV shows , The StateStella and Michael & Michael Have Issues. Films include Wet Hot American Summer and The Baxter. His book, Mr. Funny Pants, is available in stores and on-line now. Follow him onTwitter.