This is the second of a two part column about the universal wisdom of the Twelve Steps from Alcoholics Anonymous. I want to thank all of you who took time to write in response to last week’s column and to share your own stories about your recovery or the recovery of someone you love. You are truly an inspiration to us all!!
I am writing these two columns about the Twelve Steps because September is National Recovery Month, a time when we celebrate those already in recovery, as well as a time to reach out to those who are considering walking that path
in their own lives. While the Twelve Steps form the foundation for most recovery programs, they contain a spiritual and psychological wisdom that applies to everyone.
Last week I discussed the first six steps of the Twelve Steps. In this column I will discuss steps seven through twelve.
Steps seven through nine of the Twelve Steps are:
7. Humbly asked God (as we understand God) to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make
amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do
so would injure them or others.
These three steps build on two of the themes of the first six steps. The first theme is the importance of taking an honest inventory of the mistakes we have made and the hurt we have caused people we love. The second theme is that we need a Power higher than ourselves to help us reorient our lives. Notice that the first word of step seven is humbly. The Twelve Steps are an exercise in humility, which is an essential characteristic of all spiritual and emotional wellness.
Steps eight and nine remind us that when we are truly ready to grow and change we need to be willing to be make that change and growth specific and personal. For example, if a person says, “I’ve hurt a few people in my life and I feel bad about that,” this will not usually lead to much growth or healing. In the spirit of steps eight and nine of the Twelve Steps, if this same person specifically names someone they have hurt and then takes the additional steps of making amends with that person, healing and growth are bound to occur. Some would describe these steps as not just talking the talk, but walking the talk.
The final three steps of the Twelve Steps focus on what a person needs to commit to doing to stay on the road of recovery.
10. Continue to take a personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with
God, as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us
and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to
carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our
Step ten speaks to the ongoing need for personal inventory and reflection. The practice of regular and honest self-reflection is one of the most essential practices for maintaing emotional, spiritual and relational wellness. Step eleven follows from step ten because maintaining conscious contact with God also helps us to maintain the practice of regular self-reflection.
One of the fruits of wellness is that when we are practicing the steps that maintain our personal wellness, we are in a place to spread that wellness to others. Step twelve of the Twelve Steps invites people in recovery to do just that, to offer their message of recovery and wellness to others who are in need of hearing it.
The final words of the twelfth step are “to practice these principles in all our affairs.”
These words confirm the point I have wanted to make in these two columns that the Twelve Steps provide great wisdom and guidance to help us order all areas of our lives.
The word recovery means “to regain consciousness, to regain health.” The Twelve Steps can help us to do both in our lives. In honor of it being National Recovery Month I want to thank the millions of men and women who show us the real power and truth of the Twelve Steps by living them out in their lives one day at a time.