“Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs…”
Sometimes I think people take this step too lightly. Maybe the reality is that for a long time I was the one taking it too lightly. There’s a joke in some of the recovery rooms that I’ve heard some people make when speaking at the podium. “Don’t you graduate once you reach the 12th Step?”, they say. For any addiction, recovery is a way of life and not a fad. It’s not something that once this step is reached that a person just moves on to the next thing in their lives. This step speaks directly to that issue.
By the time a person reaches Step 12 in their recovery work, it’s assumed that some level of spiritual awakening has occurred. In my case, that was true but not on the level it could have been. As I have mentioned in several other of my blog entries, I didn’t fully invest into Step 3 in the first several years of my recovery. I didn’t turn my entire will over to God. And I didn’t get the full spiritual benefit the steps are meant to bring because of it. This created a cascade effect in my life. Any message that I tried to carry to other addicts still had quite a bit of my own toxins and poisons involved in any help I offered. Much of the work I did with the still suffering addicts was tainted with my own selfishness and self-centeredness. As a result, I didn’t have much experience, strength, and hope to pass on to those that needed it. Even worse, what I was practicing in the rest of my life, even after doing the steps the first few times, was character defected driven and addicted related. This was all because I was unwilling to fully let go of my self will and trust in God’s will completely. That can’t be said though in the work I’ve done in my life these past 365 days.
A year ago on April 17th of 2012, I made the decision to turn my entire will and life over to the care of God as Step 3 stated. I decided it was time to try that path as the pain had become too great to handle in my life. I removed all the toxic people around me that didn’t desire a spiritual based life. I separated myself from those who were still living in addictions. I began a spiritual routine every day that involved more prayer and meditation. And I sought out greater help from a therapist and some holistic healers that got me on the track I could have been when I first got sober so long ago.
Something good happened because of that decision and those actions.
The spiritual awakening that so many had often eluded to in many meetings that I attended, started happening to me. I became less self-piteous and more positive in every area of my life. A large chunk of the selfish and self-centered ways I had been living in, slowly began disappearing. And my desire to help others started increasing on its own.
I employ this step today more naturally because of the way I’m now living with God at the center of my life. I go to detoxes, prisons, hospitals, halfway houses, and other venues to speak about my experience, strength, and hope in my recovery. I raise my hand every time I’m at a meeting when the secretary asks if anyone is willing to help sponsor someone. I make phone calls to the new people in my group to reach out and make them feel more welcomed. And I show up early and often leave last at my home group because I have found I enjoy setting up and cleaning up. There is one part of this step though that is important to highlight beyond the help I offer to other addicts today.
The 12th Step speaks of practicing these principles in all of our affairs. An easier way of understanding this is what do I do when no one else is paying attention to me? How do I carry myself in my personal life when I’m away from the recovery rooms? In the past, when I wasn’t turning my entire will over to God and not practicing the steps fully, I would gossip and backstab others because of it. I would drive recklessly and impatiently on the road all the time. I used people for what they had to offer me and rarely offered them anything in return. I hoarded greedily any money I had for my own desires. And I engaged in other addictions that weren’t alcohol or drug related but just as deadly to my mind, body, and soul. All that has changed today and then some. Who I am in the recovery circles has become the same as who I am outside of them. I realized that if I was to continue to have spiritual awakenings in my life and if I truly wanted to find inner peace, my life had to be fully vested into applying the recovery work both inside and outside the rooms.
My life is changed so dramatically now from where I was a year ago when the 12th Step didn’t mean that much to me. With God at the helm of my whole existence today, it’s become natural for me to carry this message to as many addicts as possible because I want to. It’s become natural for me to live spiritually all the time because I desire to. Because of this, it’s become natural for me to practice all of what I’ve learned in the 12 Steps, anytime, anywhere, and in any moment where God has me.
The 12 Steps of Recovery helped me to find God. They helped me to find myself. They helped me to heal. And they changed my life forever for the better. They can do all the same for you too.
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson