Powerless Over Alcohol and Life: Step 12
Step 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 affairs.
As I experience recovery in my own life by working steps 1–11 of the AA 12 step recovery program, my focus changes from myself and my problems to others and their problems. I begin to carry the message of recovery to others. This is the 12th step.
Understanding the 12th step is only possible if you have sincerely worked the other eleven. That is the promise of the 12th step, that you will awaken to an understanding of the spiritual meaning of the steps. It tells me that, having worked these steps, I will have a spiritual awakening.
Now I wondered, "Just what is an awakening? What would it require of me?" I was scared to death that an awakening might not be very comfortable. It might ask me to do something that I didn’t want to be caught dead doing.
So just what is a spiritual awakening? I had been in church and Sunday school every Sunday for as long as I could remember. Surely I had all the awakening I needed.
Definitely I had all that I wanted. Anything else that was needed was the preacher’s job, not mine. I didn’t really believe that I needed to be "awakened." The 12 steps showed me just how asleep I had been to every one else but myself. I desperately needed to wake up. I was the only one who didn’t know it.
What working the steps taught was (in a nutshell) what Jesus had commissioned His disciples of all ages to do: carry the message to those who still suffer. I awakened to the needs of others instead of just myself. I became aware of the "love one another even as I have loved you" commandment that Jesus told His followers. That is the message of the 12th step.
I AM WHAT I AM
The first thing I awakened to was myself. I was awakened to facing all of the things I had believed about myself, good or bad. Then I had to accept what Paul talks about in his letter to the Corinthians. In 1 Cor. 15:10 Paul makes the statement, "…but by the grace of God I am what I am." I realized from this that there is no such thing as "that’s just the way I am" rather it is "I am what the grace of God has made of me." That was a huge difference. If I were "just that way" then the way I behaved would be a permanent condition, a reflection of my behavior to the present day that could never be changed. It would be just the way I was, and I would be of no use to anyone but the bartender.
Paul’s message, however, was, "I am what I am by the grace of God." This means what I am is what God is walking out deliberately by me, a perfect part of his perfect plan. The glory of this verse is that when I am operating in God’s will, then I am God’s will going on perfectly in His (fill in any name) form. ("…I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I , but the grace of God which was with me," 1 Cor. 15:10). I am used of God. He has triumphed over my past and has used it to glorify Himself by demonstrating the power of His grace over my sin and it’s horrible consequences. (Job 5: 17–19) The testimony of my recovery is a testimony to God’s goodness, not to a self that could do anything right or wrong. It is by the grace of God that I am what I am.
This now means that I belong to God, that I am free from sin, free from my addiction, free from other people and their reactions, and free to carry this message to others. I see that it is "…no longer I that liveth, but Christ that liveth in me." (Gal. 2:20) This isn’t a step that you get to do and then breathe a sigh of relief and say ‘I’m finally finished." If this happens to you, then you need to start all over and look at the steps again.
I MUST GIVE IT AWAY
This is where the truth of the new life that you have been given through God’s grace becomes seen, because it can be replicated. In science, a theory is not truth until it can be replicated exactly by someone else doing what you did and getting the same results. This is where the steps become a proven fact to me, for I see others repeat them with the same results of abundant recovery, if they will follow them exactly as they are written. This step is Acts 20:35 in action. It is not only more blessed to give than to receive; giving is essential to keep what you have. You cannot keep your own recovery unless you are willing to be constantly giving it away to others. Timothy 1:16 sums up what we are giving away. "However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on him for everlasting life." That is the purpose of sharing the 12th step.
There is a confusing side to step 12. It can be joyous or painful. Some that we share with will hear, accept and begin to heal and recover. Others will take this message with hope and excitement only to fade and fall away when they realize that sobriety means that they can no longer drink any alcohol at all, or engage in whatever compulsive behavior they used to blot out reality. The last group will take the message, accept the reality of it, try to do it, but in the final choice will choose to drink over the pain of staying sober and just feeling their pain and facing the consequences of their choices. It is the parable of the sower. (Luke 8:5–8)
The confusion comes when I start trying to make the choice for someone to believe or not. I feel confused when I forget that God knows and is running the show by me. Sometimes I start thinking that the problem is how I am talking, and if I could only say it better, everyone would hear. Then I realize that if that were true, when Jesus preached truth firsthand, why were there still some who did not hear? So, even though I can share my twelfth step honestly with anyone who will listen, that is no guarantee that they will respond. After all, the step says "tried to carry the message" not "carried the message." If I were carrying someone, I would be carrying them no matter what they thought. That would take away their choice about where they were going or how fast or whatever. But reminding myself that I simply try to carry the message takes me continually back to Step One. I am powerless. Powerless over people and their choices.
I used to think that I would get to choose whom I would carry the message to, and I would only pick someone who seemed like a sure thing. (It is a painful death to see someone you have grown to love, and a friendship you have treasured get trashed by someone’s choice to ditch their recovery.) But thank God that the steps do not work this way! I may never have gotten chosen by someone relying on feelings and appearances to guide them in their choice.
THE PRINCIPLE OF ADDICTION
This is where the last part of the step comes in: practicing these principles in all of our affairs. Principles are the laws by which a thing operates. If there were no principles by
which our behaviors brought about consequences, there would be no reason to fear God. I thought I knew just enough about God to get by. I knew God loved me, so why would I fear Him? I had never faced any consequences that stood out to me. After all, I was getting my own way, doing what I wanted, and staying drunk.
Then I started losing things. I started abusing my family, so I lost my family. I thought, "Well, I’ll just win them back." After all I always had before. Then it was money. I thought I could come up with that one big deal that would bail me out. I always had before. But none of this happened this time, and Iliad to take a look at why.
This was my first encounter with the principles of how drunkenness and addictions work. You abuse it, you lose it, one way or another. If it doesn’t physically leave, it stops meaning anything to you in the face of the need for alcohol.
What I saw was a look at wrong, Satan operated self. I discovered the first principles: no matter how good things might feel, I always knew in the pit of my stomach I was wrong. Every time I abused my family, every time I got drunk, I swore I would never do it again. But having power is not one of the principles by which an addiction works. It’s principle is powerlessness. I have no power. I have to have a higher power in Jesus Christ. Not just a higher power, but the only power. That is the principle of the thing.
Under these principles, sure enough, before the day was out, I was right back into whatever it was I had sworn off a few hours before. This was the endless trap of principles. This is how an addiction works, the principle of selfishness. The consequences of my drunkenness was over–all bankruptcy. I was spiritually bankrupt, family bankrupt, financially bankrupt. But best of all, I was finally self bankrupt.
This is where the first 12th step entered into my life and helped me make the choices that would save me. Someone who had been where I had been sat down and shared with me about his experiences. He was proof that through God’s grace, I could recover and live the abundant life. (John 10:10) The abundant life was a Person that I contained, the person of Jesus Christ who was the power to fill my powerlessness. That was the good news. I had to be an empty powerless, vessel for Christ to come in and live out His power by me. (Gal. 2:20) I decided to letdown my guard, open up and try what he had.
It’s been through God’s grace that I have my family back. I am recovering financially, and have a past that has been turned to good use. Best of all, I have discovered the principles of how these things work. I walk twenty–four hours a day out by knowing I have total safety in my powerlessness, because it is a container for the power of Jesus Christ in me. I have a real fear of God for which I am eternally grateful. I don’t question it. It’s not a fear that keeps me on edge, but a fear that keeps me straight and knowing I am eternally safe in Christ Jesus.
NOW — A DRIVE FOR OTHERS
Now I am constantly driven to see this life formed in others who still suffer. My recognition has become the recognition of Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, "…I die daily" (I Cor. 15:31). I die to the selfish desires of "I want what I want" without consideration of others. I want what God wants, and I am willing to go to any lengths to give it. That is the intercession of step twelve. It no longer feels like a burden or an inconvenience to go to my meetings, stay up late with someone in trouble, be on the phone at anytime of the night if it is necessary. I also don’t allow myself to take the easy way out when someone I know needs correction. This may not be easy as the person in need may be resistant to change. If they receive what I say, I also see my responsibility as following through to see that the behavior changes.
This is a sacrifice that moves my recovery into a realm beyond the AA meeting room. My recovery is God’s glory, and as a vessel I am now at his disposal "for it is God who is at work in you both to will and to do for his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13).
Paul speaks of the intercession of the 12th step "Yes and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I’m glad and rejoice with you all, for the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me" (Phil 2:17–18)
Moses was a great intercessor. In the 32nd chapter of Exodus, he went to God and told Him, "Oh these people have sinned a great sin, and have made their gods of gold, yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sins and if not blot me I pray thee, out of thy book which thou has written." God had already promised Moses that He would raise up unto Moses a great nation after he wiped out the disobedient children. But Moses offered his own life (eternally) instead to give the children of Israel another chance to do right by God. In chapter 34 Moses prays, "If now I have found Grace in thy sight, 0 Lord." Moses had worked His program and found grace in God’s eyes. This was the sacrifice he could offer up to intercede on behalf of the Israelites. His own program well walked out in faith. And God listened and the entire nation was saved. That is the reason for working my program. It gives glory to God to show what he desires for His people and is capable of doing for them. Paul says, "to the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." (1 Cor. 9:22) "Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body (12th step) and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:26, 27) The man healed of demon possession in Mark 5: 18–20 was a laid down life for others. He wanted to stay with Jesus, but Jesus sent him home to live out His recovery so that others might be healed. Jesus said "Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how he had compassion on you."
This is the intercession of step 12. I lay down my life so that Jesus Christ might live out his life through me for others.
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 10 No 1
- Romans Six to Eight, Part Three
- Editor’s Note
- Autumn England Conference
- Our Mission and Identity
- Moments with Meryl
- Excerpt from The Intercession of Rees Howells
- A Look at a Book
- Questions & Answers
- The Working of Soul and Spirit–Temptation and Sin
- The Nuts and Bolts of Living
- My Story
- To Think About
- Powerless Over Alcohol and Life: Step 12
- The Mailbox
- The Real Thing
- Words to Live By