Reflections on the Twelve Steps
The twelve steps are the basic principles of living the right Life. The right Life is not a thing we do, but a Person we are. We are the containers of this Life that has His focus in the 12th step, "… to carry this Message to those who still suffer." My happiness will not be found searching for it as a thing that I want for myself. It is a natural consequence of focusing on being for others. That is the Life of Jesus Christ. "Greater Love hath no man than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends" (John 15:13).
As I walk the twelve steps daily in my life now, I think of how they have changed my life and how they continue to make my life work in ways I never thought possible. I have received so many of the promises of the scriptures a thousand times over. I think of the abundant life (John 10:10) that I now live, and I am aware of the death I walked in before (Ephesians 2:2,12). I compare the disease of addictions, (which I know now to be Satan misusing a person) to any disease which is fatal if left untreated, and yet so painful to treat that some will still choose to die rather than walk out a right recovery.
It is not easy to look at the works of Satan that were accomplished by us with our permission. The body count is high and hellish. Our most intimate loved ones are the severest casualties. But to continue on with the addiction is simply to add to the toll. The only way out is through, and the only way through is Jesus Christ. I am reminded daily that my program is a Person, and He is eternally responsible for me, as I choose to believe and live out of that truth.
I now know that my past will always be my future if I don’t deal with it in my present. The steps are God’s gift to me to clean up the past and turn it to His glory. I can never change the damage I did. I am powerless. I can only keep my past forever before me (Psalms 51:3), thanking God for His mercy to turn it all to good for His own glory and honor. I am grateful to share my 12th step in the hopes that it will touch someone else in the same way that the first 12th step I heard started my own recovery in motion.
As crazy as it may seem, my high in living was life itself. No time for God, no time for family, no time for time – only time for a selfish self. A self that loved his work. A self that loved to be tough and thought of as tough. Only after sobering up, did I find out I was only a legend in my own mind. Meaning, the bar didn’t go broke; no one called needing me to rescue them; the bar stool didn’t even get cold. I was never even missed.
I had to take a look at changing myself or lose any opportunity of regaining the things I had lost and desperately wanted to get back. I could see others making life work, and although on the outside I ridiculed and made fun of them, on the inside I was dying to believe that I could have a chance at that kind of life.
For me fear of working the 12 steps was the fear of letting someone know my past. Sure there were lots of things in my past I didn’t care if people knew all the things that made me look tough, bad, just a good ole successful boy. I didn’t want anyone to know all the under-the-table things I had done. Things like selfishness, lying, stealing, abusing my family, and financial problems. Things that I now know were sin. But I had no choice. Nothing was working any more and I had to find a way to either make life worth living or to give up and die. I had run out of options and hated it. I was finally ready for the first step. I hated admitting powerlessness, but I had nothing left to feel powerful over.
God in His faithfulness had removed all of my arguments by giving me the things that I had thought would solve my problems. I had always thought if I only made as much money as other people I wouldn’t have all these worries and reasons to pity myself. Then God in His faithfulness gave me the opportunity. I was landed in a job that tripled my income. I had thought that money was my problem. I had hought that if I had more money, then ny problems would disappear. I found )ut that I was waiting for my paycheck sooner than ever before. I found not )nly did my salary triple, but so did my problems.
This is when living started going sown hill rapidly. I very quickly )ecame resentful, angry and mean, linking every chance I got trying to %cape failure. After all, I was supposed o be living life to its fullest. I had all the noney I had thought would make me sappy. I had a farm that was supposed o be the answer to my feelings of being ess than others, and a failure in my lather’s eyes. Needless to say, it had not worked.
I was living out the life of the weak, vet dishrag that I had always seen oth.rs to be and hated. But I was out of iptions. I lost my family, my land and ny self. I saw that everything I had worn I wouldn’t do, I had done to stay 1 my addiction (Romans 7:19). I was ,lady to admit powerlessness. I was esperate to admit it if this would bring n answer. I no longer cared if I looked leak and pitiful.
When first looking at the steps, I ‘anted to change my mind. I thought, Vo way!" There wasn’t any way I )uld do all that. I was no longer so sure at I even wanted to try. It looked like e longest list of rules I’d ever seen.
There was so much God stuff! I was nally getting a picture of conseiences and I was no longer comfortile with the thought of facing Him inestly in the light of what I was see that that I had done. But I kept going to k meetings. I thought, "I’ll do this for vhile so I can stay in the house"…as if ad a say!
The more meetings I went to, the more I heard, even when I wasn’t wanting to hear. God has a way of doing this, of putting you where you need to be to get the information He wants you to have. From that point on, I had no excuse (Hebrews 6:4-6).
The steps were always read and discussed, and then there would be sharing of personal stories. In the beginning meeting, after I’d heard a few stories, I had to have my own stories, if for no other reason than simply to top theirs. This is another place where Satan loses out to God. I was admitting I was as bad as they were. I definitely belonged in that group and with those people, and I had a problem, or I had lied. (I never did like being called a liar, even when it was true.)
After a while, and having a good sponsor I began to realize that the steps were not a list of rules, but a list of principles to live by. This was a big difference, the biggest being it wasn’t a bunch of don’ts as I had thought but a bunch of do’s. If you don’t learn about the do’s in life, you will almost always do the don’ts.
The big problem for me now was letting go of all the little special things that I wanted to keep for myself, all of the little identities that gave my life a feeling of value despite the misery that drinking helped to cover. If I gave my life over to the care of God, then I could no longer complain and pity myself over my bum deal. It would be God’s deal and I would have to accept it no matter what it looked like. I would no longer have anything to pity myself over, no right to be angry over a raw deal I may have thought that I had gotten because things didn’t go my way. No right to do what I wanted to do. (Forget the fact that I had given up my right to live my own life because I had used it to abuse others to get my own way.)
This is where grace came in. God knew that we would take the path of least resistance. When we couldn’t take it anymore because all the outer things we used to make life work had failed, we would have to reach from within. Then, we would have to have something that would cover our sin.
Grace is like an umbrella, it covers them all. If there were one thing grace didn’t cover, then all the shame would be put back on Christ. That would be saying that there was something that He should have done differently. I always knew that no matter how nuts my behavior had been, the Cross was good enough to take care of it. I knew that Christ had taken care of it all. I just hadn’t found out how to keep that good life going. I now know that the steps have cleaned up the insides, and Christ Himself will live the good life out for me as me (Jude 24-25). The wrong person has been thrown out and His (Christ’s) Life is now my life (Gal 2:20).
I have found the steps to be very thorough, but so basic that everyone can understand (Romans 1:19), and live the abundant Life. Through working the 12 steps, I have realized that I had nothing to be fighting for, no right to hang on to anything. Jesus had already given everything for me on the Cross. He had fought all the fights, suffered all the suffering, carried all the burdens, and carried all the shame for me. So what did I have to complain about? I’ve never been asked to do anything like He did for me.
I think of my recovery like any other illness. If I were suffering from cancer, and certain steps would cure it, and if I refused to take those steps I would die, I wouldn’t think twice about it and would do them all, and then some. Well, I’ve been diagnosed as having a disease. That disease is alcoholism. It is a killer, and it will progress and be fatal if left untreated. So should I balk at working and living the 12 steps? I think not. After all, since I have been in recovery, I have never gotten a ticket for working the steps. I have never abused my family, never been in any kind of legal trouble as a result of working the steps. So what is the problem with working the Steps?
I no longer fear looking like a wet dishrag. Neither am I running anymore; I’m not even breathing hard. Still, I am accomplishing more than I’ve ever dreamed. God is definitely faithful.
God has shown me a toughness I could never imagine. It’s like God has said, "you want to be tough, I’ll show you what tough is." I now live a toughness that dares to call someone to their highest and to expect nothing less from them or myself. A toughness that says do I dare to practice these principles in all of my affairs regardless of the cost. I now dare to say I’m a Christian in public (that was always scary before). To say "God" in public was the worst. Now I love it. It’s like I carry a full lifetime warranty and don’t have to worry about self-destruction. The Self that now lives out His life by me is indestructible.
Anonymity is a fundamental tradition in AA. However the writer welcomes any questions or comments, which may be sent to the magazine office.
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 10 No 2
- Questions & Answers
- To All Believers…It’s As Simple As This
- Editor’s Note
- Excerpt from The Intercession of Rees Howells
- No Grey For God
- The Nature of Faith
- Moments with Meryl
- A Look at a Book
- Word of Faith
- Just Say the Word
- A Life with a Purpose
- Reflections on the Twelve Steps
- The Mailbox
- Words to Live By
- Christianity’s Lost Chord