Lately, with the world not ending on 12-21, but going into a shift for greater awareness and healing, I got to thinking about the 12th step in AA.
“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.”
For those who are in any recovery based program, it is this step where one goes out into the real world and begins to try to make it a better place for not only themselves but more importantly for all others.
In the first part of this step, a person emerging from all their hard work within goes out and helps others who are still suffering from the same condition the steps helped them with. Whether it’s alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling addiction, overeating, smoking, sex and love addiction, etc, the first part of the 12th step is for those that have found recovery to go out and share their experience, strength, and hope to others still suffering from the throngs of their addictions.
But, I have found that the second part of this step is one that is often overlooked, “…and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”
What does that exactly mean? I wondered that myself for a long time.
When I finished the steps in AA, I thought the only actions of the 12th step were to reach out to the still suffering and sponsor them, offer them hope, get them to meetings, and go speak at places of recovery about my experience, strength, and hope.
There’s more than just that. Look at these words for a moment. “All our affairs.” Is the still suffering “all our affairs.” Is staying only in the arena of that addiction all that is necessary.
I compartmentalized the 12th step in my life and had my work with recovery and those still suffering and then I had the rest of my life. What I discovered is that Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob had a bigger purpose in writing the steps. It was their hope that God or a Higher Power would become the center of a recovered person’s life and that upon their recovery they would emerge a new man or woman and bring more light to this planet in everything they did both inside and outside the halls of their recovery.
Sometimes it’s painful when I see someone speak at the podium or working with another because it’s those same people that I see when not in the recovery mode harboring resentments and being open about them, gossiping, throwing trash out their windows from their car, snapping at those on the highway that aren’t driving the way they think they should be, driving recklessly and endangering others on the road, swearing profusely amongst their friends, diminishing deep intimacy with sexual jokes and perversion and well the list goes on and on.
I only see this because I was guilty of all of those I just listed and more. Each of them was a part of me when I was living partially in self will and partially in God’s will. The point of the 12th step is to be a better God centered individual in everything one does in their life from their words, to their thoughts, and finally to their actions.
It’s my deepest belief that Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob established a foundation for all of recovery based programs to have individuals become more spiritually centered in their whole lives once they were brought fully through the steps.
Back in 2008 with over 13 years at that time of continuous sobriety, I was on the one hand helping alcoholics and speaking in meetings about how great my program and life were and on the other hand I was in adulterous based relationships, driving on the highway at super speeds, watching vast amounts of pornographic material on the web at night, swearing at the drop of a dime, character assassinating people behind their back, and tearing apart my life from within without even realizing it.
“All our affairs” means just that. In every affair of my life from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed, I live today with God directing me in everything during those periods. I try to be courteous to others emerging in on roads and let them in ahead of me. I pick up garbage that is in parking lots and bring it to the nearest trash cans. I take shopping carts that are left in the middle of a parking lot to the nearest collector of them. I hold the door open for people behind me when walking into stores. I smile at those who seem to be having bad days. I do extra things around my roommate’s house that he might have on his list of things to do, so as to help him and his burden out. I surprise my partner with doing some of his chores to ease his day. I tell people that I’m proud of them when they achieve something even if its relatively small in their own minds. Sometimes I even buy people in line behind me their coffee’s and donuts. The list goes on.
There is much more that I can do and everyday I ask God to guide me how to serve His needs. Every day is different and every day brings new challenges to me. Sometimes my ego gets in the way. I’m not perfect, but I do try to do those things that even my ego says it doesn’t want to do for someone else.
All in all, I learned that just because one is a good speaker or a good sponsor in recovery, doesn’t mean that they are living the fullest 12th step they could be. Appearances are often deceiving. It’s my hope that I can achieve with every waking breath, a life of servitude to God’s needs and wants, as I know that I’ll be a far happier man in my life then any of the years where I lived in any amount of self-will.
If you have experience in any recovery based program and are out there helping others in your program, please realize that it’s just as important to reach out to the rest of the world in all your thoughts, words, and actions and make it a better place to live.
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson