Step 12 – 12 Step Recovery

“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

Step 11 – 12 Step Recovery

“Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out…”

Step 11 is the longest in wording of all the steps, yet I find it’s message short and sweet. I’ll sum it up in three simple phrases…

“Spend time with God. Learn God’s will. Then ask for strength to follow it.”

It has been quite difficult in my life since getting sober to spend much time by myself with God. For a long time, I thought watching TV or going to a movie alone qualified, except in both of those cases, it didn’t. My focus and interest during those things was not on being with God so much as it was on experiencing something visually stimulating. Frankly, I hated the idea of being alone as most of my childhood life was that way. The bottom line was that I was afraid to face that part of me again. Ironically following the 12 steps slowly led me back there to facing that fear and it’s the 11th Step, that has become the strongest catalyst to helping me overcome it.

Step Eleven deals with two different elements, prayer and meditation.

Prayer is simply the act of talking with God. So often I’ve made prayer a complicated action. I thought it had to be big words and filled with eloquence. I believed there was a special format on how to communicate with God. For the longest time, my image of God was one of a figure sitting on a throne where I had to bow before it and speak with Shakespearean prose just to be heard. Following these steps in all of the recovery programs led me to the same conclusions. God is not way up there. God is not way out there. God is not beyond my reach. God is right here in front of me and all around me, all the time and I can carry on a conversation with God in any given moment like I was talking to a best friend. Because truthfully, God is my closest friend. The simplest prayer I have ever said to God is just three words.

“Please help me.”

That prayer has come in handy lately when my pain is at its greatest or when I’m feeling tempted to go back to old toxic behaviors. On the other side of the coin, I have said prayers that are much longer and more complex such as the following.

“God, I want nothing more in my life than to find your will for me and follow it. Please take from me all of my self-will and guide me away from all the addictions and obsessions that have kept me apart from you. Steer me instead towards all the things that are filled with Your love and light.”

The reality is that any time I want to talk with God, I simply start by saying “God…” and start talking. In doing so, I’m praying. Many in the recovery rooms say that prayer has to be on the knees with heads bowed. While that is one way of praying, prayer can be done anytime, anywhere, and in so many more ways. It can be done when walking, when running, when singing, when dancing, or even when sitting. There is no right way or wrong way to pray. Anyone who says so is continuing to manifest that illusion. But as important as it is to talk to God, it’s just as important to listen to God and that is done through meditation.

Meditation is simply the act of listening to God. Most of the people I have met in the recovery rooms struggle with this because it can involve being still and in silence. For anyone recovering from any addiction, being still and in silence can seem next to impossible. I attribute this to how the brain of an addiction prone person is like an untamed puppy. This puppy wanders from one thing to the next, sniffing this, and sniffing that, barking here, and barking there. The brain is no different, especially for someone just coming into recovery from their addictions. Practicing meditation can help with that, but it takes time and effort, and most importantly, patience.

For a recovering addict of anything, patience can be hard to come by. When active in any addiction, there is never any patience. The only goal is to get high off of something as quick as possible. The opposite holds true in recovery. The goal is to distance oneself from seeking those highs and to become more balanced in life with its natural ebbs and flows. Meditating helps with this as well.

For some odd reason though, when people are told to try meditation, they picture Buddhist monks sitting for hours on end in silence or they tell themselves there is no way they can sit still for any length of time. But yet, most never try. Meditation can be as simple as sitting still on the side of a bed for 5 minutes and just focusing on breathing. And if that’s too difficult, one doesn’t even have to be completely still. Meditation can be as straightforward as taking a walk along the ocean and becoming aware of everything being experienced from the sound of the surf or the feel of the sand below the feet. The key is to be silent in whatever form attempted.

I started with just five minutes of sitting in silence when I began practicing meditation. During those first attempts, I wanted to give up before I started. I didn’t want to sit with myself in silence nor try to hear any inner guidance from God that may arise. My mind had a fit and gave me all the reasons of why it was stupid. Thankfully I never gave up with it. Over the years, I have done everything from being on silent meditation retreats to teaching it to others. In every case, like I do everyday now for 35 minutes, I sit in silence, initially focus on my breathing, and wait for God to speak to me. I have come to believe that God is always speaking to each and every one of us all the time in a way that we can all understand individually. The problem is that we’re often too busy in our brains or in our actions in life to hear what’s being said. While prayer helps all of us convey what’s on our minds and hearts to God, practicing meditation is like putting on a hearing aid to listen to God’s responses to those prayers.

The 11th Step takes both meditation and prayer to help to develop that closer relationship with God. It is essential to a person’s recovery from any addiction but it takes time. It takes practice. And it most definitely takes patience. Talk to God anytime and anywhere and you’re praying. Go find some silence and listen to God and you’re meditating. It’s that simple.

Pray for God’s will and meditate to learn what it is. When it comes, pray for God to gain strength to follow that path and meditate to receive it. By doing this everyday, eventually you’ll see you’re receiving it and you’ll forget you’re even doing the eleventh step as it becomes your way of life.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Step 10 – 12 Step Recovery

“Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it…”

Reaching the 10th Step is a big milestone in a person’s step work. This is mainly due to the amount of work it takes to get to this point in the recovery process.

By the time I reached my 10th Step the first time, I had a notebook filled with over 100 pages of resentments, turnarounds, sex inventory, and amends. At least a half a dozen of those amends had been completed. I was more determined then ever to stay sober and follow some path of 12 step recovery. Yet my self will was still at war with God’s will. I just couldn’t seem to let go of some of my old ways of living. I was having a hard time stopping some of my old toxic behaviors. I was struggling to fully let go of several unhealthy friendships. And I was fighting myself on trying to break old bad habits that led me to addictions in the first place. This is why the 10th Step was and still is a great tool for people like me.

Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith never intended when they wrote the steps for anyone to be perfect in their lives after making it through the first nine of them. Their hope was that a person would be feeling much lighter and more determined to stay clean from whatever their addictions were by that point in the steps. They realized, like so many of us do at this juncture, that there were still character defects within them. They also realized, like so many of us do by the time we reach this step, that there still were components of self will being acted upon and creating problems in their lives. Hence the purpose of the 10th Step came to fruition. This step brings about the ability to inventory those problems that still happen for the recovering person and provide a healing path for each of them.

Some take their own personal inventory every night before going to bed. Some may take it at the end of the week. Some may do it at the end of the month. Some have even learned how to take their own inventory in the moment. There is no wrong way to do this step. The work in it is simply to look at any resentments that may creep up and do a 4th Step turnaround on them to see where their part was in creating the resentment. The other part of the work on this step is to identify after doing the turnaround, whether they created any more harm or pain for others and if they did, they know an amends is in order.

This may sound a lot more complex then it really has to be. A good example of its simplicity could be something similar to the following. Sometimes when I am speaking and get heated in the moment, I may make a hurtful comment towards someone else. The first part of a 10th Step would be to look at why I got heated in the first place. In other words, why did I get resentful and lash out?  By writing it down just like I would have in a typical 4th Step,  I can identify my part in the resentment by turning it around on me. After making that realization, I would make my amends to that person by telling them exactly where I was selfish, self-seeking, dishonest, or afraid and end it with a sincere apology.

In the past year I have made great strides in my life to get closer to God. In doing so, I have had to take a lot less inventory on myself day to day. I find that I am making a lot less problems for myself or for others in my life anymore. The best part about this step for me today though is that when a character defect within me arises and I cop a resentment towards someone and possibly hurt them in the process, I’m able to do an inventory in my heart pretty quickly seeing where I was in the wrong, and find myself promptly making an amends.

Resentments are spiritual poison. They prevent me from getting closer to God. Any time I harm anyone also sits within me terribly today and keeps me separate from that I most desire, which is a closer relationship to my Higher Power. The 10th Step is the vaccine to that poison and one that is readily available for me to take everyday so that I can keep my relationship growing closer to God each and every day.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson