SPIRITUALITY THROUGH AA TWELVE-STEPS
Colin Hodge, RAS II, Primary Therapist
Recovery is a journey, and one of the most important attributes to your sobriety and the quality of your recovery is your spiritual condition – your relationship with God or higher power. In the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Big Book (B.B.) Pg. #85 it says, “What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.”
From my experience, finding that path to sobriety in the program of AA/NA relates to the spiritual principles of HOW: Honesty, Open-Mindedness, Willingness. Honesty begins with Step 1, being true to oneself with the admission that you are powerless over your addiction, that your life has become unmanageable and on your own your addiction is too much for you, and that the power is not in you to stop the vicious cycle. Honesty is paramount to sobriety and continued long-term recovery.
However, honesty is not always enough. What is important is the recognition of powerlessness over one’s addiction and behaviors. This forms the basis of surrender. The struggle for many is the word “surrender” and its interpretation being “I should be strong enough to control or change my addictive behavior, so I am weak-willed or a moral failure.” This is so untrue when we have a disease of addiction that is cunning, baffling and powerful. Surrender only happens through total acceptance of powerlessness and loss of control, therefore staying sober can become illusive without acceptance of what is true.
“Lack of power, that was our dilemma. We had to find a power by which we could live, and it had to be a power greater than ourselves.” – Pg. #45 AA B.B. In the rooms of AA, it is said that the Twelve Steps is a spiritual program, not a religious one. Step 2 – Came to Believe – is being open-minded to finding the connection to a relationship with God or higher power. Being humble to the conception or idea that God can restore our lives to sanity is not easy, but there is a power greater than me in AA/NA meetings, and fellowship of men and women sharing their experiences gives me strength and hope. The belief, by just seeing and talking with others in sobriety walking the walk, that I can do the same is hopeful. A feeling of being restored comes when the craving and obsession to use substances is lifted and the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual healing is taking place. A sense of peace, serenity and hope is filling the spirit that was long lost. God is doing for me what I could not do for myself.
Surrender is being willing, in Step 3, to let go and turn your will and life over to the care of the God of your understanding. This is the path to spiritual acceptance and to surrendering to help with faith, trusting you are not alone. Alcohol, known as “spirits”, invades our true being and distorts our values, morals and character in an incomprehensible manner. It takes courage to be fearless to look at our personal inventory in Step 4. This is a vital step in cleaning house or “spirit cleaning”. For many, unresolved trauma, grief, loss and mental disorders can be barriers to spirituality or a relationship with God. It is wise to learn all we can about our disease, being mindful that resentment is the number one offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease. We must be rid of “the things in ourselves which had been blocking us. Our liquor was but a symptom. So, we had to get down to causes and conditions.” – Pg. #64 AA B.B. That is why we must do a good job in Step Four.
A person full of anger, judgments, envy, jealousy, selfishness, hate, malice, and greed lives with a spiritual disconnect from self and others. Even persons not in addiction live this way, within which feed chaos, turmoil, and spiritual bankruptcy. Sadly, they can lack peace, serenity and harmony within. With integrity we “admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs” in Step Five. This step should not be skipped or avoided as doing so blocks our spiritual growth and healing. Do it without fear with a sponsor. Being honest and aware of our character defects and shortcomings, and asking God or higher power to remove them, takes humility. Remember that our character flaws such as ego, perfectionism, arrogance, manipulation, and the need to control others, will not all be magically removed. Just being willing to learn how our addiction acts, thinks, and feels is necessary to avoid relapse. In so doing, Slick (the voice of our addiction) has less power over us.
Taking an honest and loving look at our personal relationships with family, loved ones and friends that we harm can be painful, shameful and remorseful; but the discipline of making amends, not with words but from the heart and through our actions, helps to build trust and leads us to a deeper sense of loving-kindness, compassion and forgiveness of self and others. This is the healing of the soul. Personal inventory in Step Ten and continuing to set right any new mistakes or wrongs as we go along must be done daily. Remember, easy does it and be gentle with yourself. The spiritual life is not a theory, so working the program helps with our spiritual path. These 12-Step principles are guidelines by which we live our lives, to enjoy beauty, to live with love, to do good, to live clean and pure, and to be humble and unselfish. This allows the spiritual light within our heart to shine outward and touch the lives of those we meet. “We have entered the world of the Spirit.”- Pg. #84 AA B.B.
Spirituality is also the relationship that you have with yourself and the way you live with others. It is my personal belief that my spirit lives within my being. It is the person I truly am inside – loving, caring, compassionate, giving, selfless, humble, honest, sincere, authentic. To avoid complacency, my spiritual condition needs service and this is done through my daily prayer and meditation to improve my conscious contact with God; praying only for the knowledge of His will for me and the power to carry it out, as described in Step Eleven. It is staying present in awareness that God does not move, I do, when I cease being grateful and connecting.
I have been given the gift of sobriety by God’s grace; and truly my life, like so many, was saved through this miraculous gift from my higher power and the AA 12-Step program and fellowship. My gratitude and thankfulness have guided me as an Addiction Specialist whereby I am privileged to work with others in treatment and the local AA recovery community. I can carry the message to alcoholics and addicts and be of service through attraction to what this program can offer. My blessing is to see lives change for clients and newcomers in the rooms who are suffering and are open to the rewards of sobriety.
In my spiritual awakening, I live with 12-Step principles in all my affairs. Along my spiritual path and relationship with God, I can be quiet and hear His guidance and good orderly direction for my life. I must be mindful that change is constant; and it is spiritual progress, not spiritual perfection. By just living in the moment one day at a time I feel peace, serenity, and happiness within my spirit, and the road through recovery is a wonderful journey once I remain honest, open, and willing. I have freedom today.