Take a look at the twelve steps of the recovery model of Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) and you’ll immediately see the word, “God.” Many of those who have been drinking or using drugs for a while and who are beginning to attend AA have objections to the spirituality found in the 12-step model. Some might have very strong objections that might even keep them from engaging in the program.
AA old-timers would say that they also had the same objections and that even though they did not believe in a higher being at the start, they treated the 12 steps as a daily practice rather than a religion. According to Steve Castleman, founder of AddictScience.com, part of the spirituality of AA is learning how to treat others as you want to be treated, living honestly, making amends when you inevitably fail, and helping others. Learning this new set of behaviors is a result of practicing the 12-steps. And, learning these ways of living help to heal resentment and anger, which are often at the root of an addiction.
Yet, the spirituality of the 12-step model also helps to build a defense against the disease of addiction. And one doesn’t have to believe in a God necessarily, or even any particular kind of God to participate in and receive the benefits of the 12-step model. Surfers might see the ocean as their higher power, writers might see nature as their higher power, and teens might use love as their higher power. Whichever form of God you choose, or not, it won’t keep you from experiencing a life change as long as you continue to practice the 12 steps on a daily basis. They are:
- Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood God.
- Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Step 7: Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings. (Step 7 Audio and Video)
- Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. (Step 9 Audio and Video)
- Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Step 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.
- Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Castleman points out that once you are practicing these twelve steps daily, you’ll eventually notice a change in how you feel about a higher power. Eventually, you might come to appreciate the spiritual benefits you’re experiencing. Although many people have objections and discomfort to relating to a higher power, it won’t keep you from getting sober.
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