I spent the month of November being grateful. Grateful for all the gifts that the program and the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous has given me. Now that December has arrived, it is time for us to give back what has so freely been given to us. We can give hope to another alcoholic that still suffers. We can offer an easier, softer way. We can suggest steps that build a foundation that allows us to never have to pick up a drink again. We can offer a textbook that has a design for a happy, joyous, and alcohol free life. This all begins in step twelve.
I really didn’t understand the concept of a spiritual awakening when first arriving in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. My awakening, however, started at step one. I was powerless over alcohol, and my life had become unmanageable. My drinking pattern had proved this. The fact is that I was insane by trying to control my drinking. My ego convinced me to continue years of research proving that my will was greater than God’s will for me.
My sponsor suggested that I turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understood him. I wasn’t really sure what this meant, but I made a decision to do it anyway. I had nothing else to lose. Taking my inventory made me accountable for my own actions. I could no longer blame others for why I drank, the way I drank, or the ensuing problems directly related to my drinking.
I was awakened by humility. I was far too proud and arrogant in my early days of sobriety to learn anything from Alcoholics Anonymous. After all, I was the one with the right answers. I was wrong. However, I was not prompt in admitting it.
Today, I like to let things happen, instead of making them happen. I no longer worry. I no longer enjoy conflict. I no longer expect things in return. I live in, and enjoy each moment. I feel connected with others. I have no interest in judging myself, or others. And for once in my life, I am no longer afraid to ask for help, I seek it out.
The core principle behind the twelfth step is that once we’ve experienced the benefits of working the steps, we will want to continue to strengthen our own recovery by helping others and by doing service work. We can then continue to practice and live by the principles in our everyday lives. We may not notice the changes in ourselves instantly, but others will.
The fact remains, anyone can do twelfth step work. I doesn’t take much recovery to make coffee, greet people, or to clean up after a meeting. Besides, it’s the best way to get to really know people whether you’re a newcomer, or you have years of sobriety. You can’t really give what you don’t have is not always true. Each and every one of us has a story, and every story is worth sharing. If I can tell my story at a meeting, and reassure a newcomer so they might find a little more hope to stick with the program, and keep coming back. And for me to hear a newcomer’s story in order for me to remember how bad it was, believe it or not, that is twelfth step work in itself.
I remember hearing “you’ve got to give it away in order to keep it.” I didn’t understand this concept either at first. After being in the program for awhile, I began to feel the gratitude, I was overwhelmed by the gifts, and by what others had so freely given of themselves to me. I began to realize how helping others revitalized and strengthened my own recovery. I need to help others as much for my own recovery as for their recovery as well.
A spiritual awakening is very different for each of us. The changes I have finally found in myself after working the steps have been deep and positive changes in the way I look at things and in the way I react to life. I am able today to live life on life’s terms. I have gone from dependence to freedom. I am now able to let go, and find peace even when everything seems to be going in the opposite direction. I no longer have to try and control everything by myself, I now have the help of God and the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Brent H. Bend, OR