Many years ago, (half a lifetime ago) I was privileged to get to know the wife of a man who had been sober 14 years because of his adherence to the AA program. She and her husband were members of a club that my folks were active in. We talked at some length over several months, actually, and I became aware of AA’s programs and helps. It had all started because she wore an amulet with my favorite prayer on the back of it, and my mother’s favorite art (Durër’s praying hands) on the front. I had asked her where I could purchase such an amulet, and she simply gave me the one she was wearing.
Serenity, courage and wisdom are still the most necessary attributes for me. I pray this prayer nearly every day. Through this woman and her husband, and indeed through many acquaintances and friends since that day, I have learned the value of the simple spirituality taught in recovery. Alcohol is not my addiction, though, like all humans, I have my own frailties, and their program is something i have personally adapted to the needs of my life.
These are the original Twelve Steps as published by Alcoholics Anonymous.
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- 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.
- 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.
These are the original 12 steps. Their meaning is clear and concise needing very little change to put them into effect for any difficulty where life is overwhelming and we need the help of Spirit.
- I admitted to being overwhelmed and my life unmanageable.
- I believed that a power greater than myself can restore my sanity.
- I surrendered to the Higher Power.
- I Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself.
- I admitted to God, myself, and another human being (a trustworthy soul that can hold a confidence, be sure of this, as such confession can be harmful if made to a motor mouth) the exact nature of my wrongs.
- I was entirely ready for God to remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked God to remove these shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons I had harmed and became willing to make amends.
- Made direct amends to all except where the only result would be further harm.
- I continue to submit to daily self-examination and when wrong, admit it.
- I seek through prayer and meditation to continue to increase my awareness of God as I understand God to be, praying only for understanding of God’s will for me, and the power to carry it out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening through these steps, I do my best to live my life as an open book, and when asked, share God’s blessings in a manner that lets the other person share if they choose to do so.
I do not believe in seeking converts, I feel that if I live my life praising God quietly in all things, others will see what God has done for me and ask what is the difference. Since that has happened before, (several times) and it is those who have become students of Spirit under my mentorship, I feel that this is the way Spirit wants it. Besides, I’ll never be a good door to door salesman.
As I began to work with these principles, I began to realize they were a beautiful breakdown of much larger steps found in the less generic paths. For instance, the recognition of the need for help and surrender are all one step in Christianity. Then there is the searching inventory and confession. Once you have made amends, and begun to change your ways, there is the meditation and study, (most specific in Buddha’s 8 fold path, but found in those churches that follow discipling as a way to help new believers stay on the path.) Then there is the continuing work of street ministry to seek new converts.
The steps may be broader and deeper, depending on the mentor that is teaching one, but the general gist is the same. You cannot, in fact, get to the spiritual growth without first admitting need and surrendering will. These are key. This, unfortunately is where the less scrupulous groups would segragate the new convert from family and friends, knowing that the family may not be as vulnerable as their new little lamb and would probably object to them shaving their head or some other strange thing to complete the hazing.
This can be looked upon as a measure of protection if the lamb was from an abusive family, but otherwise they are protecting themselves, not the new convert. It all gets very confusing, and can be devastating to families. It is one of the reasons that I would not choose to start a closed commune, ever. I wouldn’t want that reputation. Besides, though I know it is easier to reach the state of Serenity when you are on the mountaintop, it doesn’t do you a bit of good unless you can hang onto it when you punch the clock.