Dissecting the 12 Steps

We struggled for years with our addiction. We tried to do things our way. It didn’t work. We found recovery by working the Twelve Steps. And in the process we…

1. “Admitted we are powerless over our addiction – that our lives have become unmanageable.”
Those of us with addictions may have many reasons for seeking help in literature, support groups, counselors and treatment facilities. Some of us are divorced, jobless, despised by our children, depressed and we have nowhere to turn. We have lied to those who trusted us the most, but they are now tired of our excuses. For months and even years, we have lost our homes and our health – we’ve lost everything. We are alone, hopeless, and our lives are completely unmanageable – a.k.a. “rock bottom”.

2. “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
A common definition of “insanity” is repeating the same thing over and over while expecting different results. Those of us who struggle with addiction fall into the category of being insane because we think we can control what cannot be controlled. People who are insane live in a fantasy world, but often fantasies are nightmares. Being restored to sanity means we live in reality – the good with the bad. Our drugs help us to escape to a world of make believe. The reason many of us cling to our addictions is that we want to escape intense pain, loneliness, and shame. The good news is that God provides us with a way to heal; the bad news is that it takes time and courage.

3. “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him.”
In step one we admitted that we need help – desperately. In step two, we turn to God to provide the help we need. In this step, we learn to actually trust someone bigger than ourselves. Addictions are sometimes compared to bondage. We feel imprisoned by our own confusion, helplessness, bitterness, and shame. We’ve tried many times to break the chains, only to discover they are too strong. We are driven further into our addiction to escape the pain. God meets us in the deepest, darkest part of our world to offer us forgiveness and hope.

4. “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”
This is the step of “repentance” – to turn away from one thing and toward another. To complete the turn, a change has to occur. We have to identify specific turning points, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that kept us living in deception. This inventory of ourselves is a challenging process that we’ve tried to avoid since our first drink, pill, toke, or hit. To take this step, we need to be courageous and totally honest with ourselves.

5. “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
We’ve lived double lives, in secret, hoping no one would discover what’s truly in our hearts. On the outside, we tried to convince others we were living normal lives, but on the inside, we were in constant turmoil. Step four requires us to recognize the realities of pain, anger, distorted thinking, lying, stealing, denying, and strained relationships; and this guilt is just the tip of the ice-burg. When these shortcomings about us remain a secret, they seem enormous and overwhelming. The simple act of sharing them reduces their power because we are now objective about them. When we admit the exact nature of our wrongs, we no longer have the need to minimize, excuse, and deny their existence.

6. “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”
In step four, we took an honest but brutal inventory of ourselves, and our lives. In step five, we confessed shortcomings out loud to God, to ourselves, and to others. The next step in the process is to prepare our hearts for God to begin cleaning up the damage we’ve caused. Our motivation is that of survival. We are past the point of being noble. We’ve done too much damage, and it’s time to stop. We are tired of hurting those who love us most, and we realize that we can’t continue hurting them. The price of continuing to live a self-destructive life is much too high.

7. “Humbly ask God to remove our shortcomings”
Step six prepared us, now through prayer and decisive action, we seek to have our shortcomings removed. We seek and pray for wisdom, courage, and strength to follow God’s will, but we also take bold action to keep in step with the spirit. Our goal is to renew the mind ? out with the old and in with the new. Some of our thoughts conflict with God’s word. This conflict allows us to identify wrong thoughts about ourselves, others, and situations, and replace these thoughts with truth and a sincere desire to change. Negative thoughts will always enter our minds, but we are aware of them, and we can choose to replace them with something positive and helpful.

8. “Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”
Hurting others is par for the course when we’re in active addiction. Sometimes we hurt others without trying to, but other times, we were so absorbed in our abuse that we didn’t care who we hurt. No matter what the cost, we wanted our way. Sometimes others would show their anger at us, and sometimes they looked the other way hoping we would change. We promised we would change, and they believed us. We didn’t stay changed for long. Many times, we would avoid those we’ve hurt in order to keep from being reminded of the wrongs we’ve done to them. When we talked to those we’ve victimized, we would avoid the subject completely. Now, our realization of what we’ve done overwhelms us with guilt and shame. We have to face what we’ve done to people around us and make amends. Making amends means acknowledging the hurt, apologizing, and taking responsibility. Also, we can’t assume that those we’ve done wrong will instantly forgive us. They will probably need time before welcoming us back with open arms. They need to be sure we’ve really changed.

9. “Made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
We need to come face to face with those we’ve wronged. When we look those people in the eyes, we can no longer escape the realities of what we have done to them. This is a tremendous step, but it possesses great healing and growth power. If we have stolen, we need to begin replacing the things taken, and ask for forgiveness. Remember that your admission of guilt will probably come as a shock to that person, and that person has every right to be skeptical until you’ve proven yourself. In some cases, you may not be able to make direct amends. We need to be wise to avoid causing additional and unnecessary injury.

10. “Continued to take personal inventory and when were wrong promptly admitted it.”
Repeating step four stabilizes our healing. We go through layer after layer of insight into our recovery. If God showed us everything at once, we would become overwhelmed with our situation. He takes us deeper and deeper into our recovery to avoid over-confidence, which is a recipe for disaster. This step encourages us to “promptly admit it” ? when we’re wrong. Any delay would allow time for doubt to emerge in our minds, and doubt formulates excuses instead of taking action.

11. “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.”
When we pray, we focus on God’s character and greatness, and we praise him for who he is and what he has done for us. Prayer allow us to look inside of ourselves; to find any attitude or action that displeases him. Prayer is essential for people in recovery. It allows us to pour our hearts out to God when we are facing troubles or relapse. We tell Him how much we need Him when cravings knock on our door. Meditation and prayer are not the same thing. To meditate means to think deeply about something. Meditation gives us a chance to walk with God. This gives us a chance to reflect on our direction and God’s purpose for us. When we walk with God, selfish motives will surface, and we learn to align our desires with His. Meditation also fills our minds with truth instead of fears. Meditating on God’s will takes effort, but it is well worth it.

12. “Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”
Addiction can be compared to a serious injury. Backing up to step one, we find ourselves with deep cuts and compound fractures. Dying and desperate for help, we are transported to the hospital where our cuts are stitched and broken bones are set. We still feel terrible, but the healing process has begun. After surgery, we begin a long process of rehabilitation. Our physical therapist knows what we need and helps us on our way to recovery, but we keep going, getting stronger everyday. After what seems to be a never-ending struggle, we find ourselves approaching a state of happiness and there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel. We have learned that life is worth living, and we understand what it takes to go through a painful rehabilitation process. By the grace of God, we are in a position to help others who complain about the struggles they are facing in rehab. We are there to assure them that they’ll make it through all the suffering and sacrifice, and you are in a position to pass out “hope’ as if it were candy out of your pocket.