What Is The True Purpose Of The 12 Steps?

One of the questions I’m asked A LOT when doing alcohol and drug addiction presentations is what is the true purpose of the 12 Steps. There are many answers I could give to that question, and I’m quite sure every person who’s found their sober path following the 12 Steps could answer it differently, but my answer is always the same. The purpose of the 12 Steps for me is to shift my addict’s nature of pointing the finger at what’s wrong in the world to one where I instead take a hard look at myself in the mirror at what’s wrong with me and work on changing it.

Most addicts don’t want to look in the mirror at themselves solely because they don’t like what they see. Instead, they focus on all the things around themselves they don’t like with their friends, with their loved ones, and with the world in general. I met an addict in a detox recently just like this, who didn’t think there was any issue in him having 14 children with 13 mothers and was more focused instead on the actions of his children and mothers.

It’s in Step 4 of the 12 Steps where an addict like this is meant to take that hard core look at themselves as they write out all the resentments they have in life. Just seeing on paper the hundreds of resentments I carried for years really opened my eyes to how negative of a person I had become. But, it’s in the next part of the 4th step that truly held the mirror up to me, and maybe even clearly for the first time in my life where I actually didn’t look away, where I saw all those resentments had originated from my selfish, self-centered, dishonest, and fear-based addict nature. That became even more clear when I did the sex inventory that comes at the end of the 4th step, where the mirror totally reflected the countless people I had used for my own gratification throughout the years.

Nevertheless, the 12 Steps to me have really just become a very large mirror to hold up in front of myself, to go within, and to see all those wounds that had constantly led to me always pointing my finger outward. How many countless wounds I had when I first discovered the 12 Steps that I had been projecting outward for most of my life, consistently pointing the finger at what I perceived was wrong in the world, rather than moving beyond my ego to see what was clearly wrong within me.

An addict rarely thinks that anything is wrong with them and wholeheartedly tends to believe that everything that makes them angry and upset is always because of someone or something else. The only tool I’ve ever seen that can ultimately fix that gross misconception wasn’t one I learned through therapy, or on some retreat, or at church, or in the Bible or any other spiritual book, or in any type of self-help book for that matter either. It was only through my 12 Step recovery work that I finally began to see myself in the mirror for who I truly was, someone I had come to hate because of my addict nature and someone that took that hate and constantly projected it outward, seeing the world as broken, rather than seeing myself as broken.

So, what is the true purpose of 12 Step recovery? For me, it’s to look in the mirror, to look within, to find the source of each of my pains, angers, irritations, frustrations, and the like in life, to talk about them, to write about them, and to forgive, accept, and let them go once and for all, so that I may become totally free of them, free of their burden, and free of any desire to ever project the pain of them outward upon anyone else, something addicts sadly love doing, and something I’m so thankful I do my best now to not do anymore, thanks to the 12 Steps.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson