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franciscan - September 1999

© The Society of Saint Francis, 1999

The Twelve Steps

by Sally Martin

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol –
that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves
could restore us to sanity.
3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. We admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. We were entirely ready to have God remove our shortcomings.
7. We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. We made a list of people we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. We 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 it out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practise these principles in all our affairs.

In 1935, four years after Alcoholics Anonymous was founded, the Twelve Step road to recovery was written down. Built on very sound principles, and addressing the spiritual side of the illness, it is the single, most-effective treatment for alcoholism. Surrender, addressed in Step One, is developed throughout the others. Step Two sees the awakening of faith and hope, and introduces the concept of a Higher Power who can do what we cannot. In Step Three, surrender becomes active towards self-abandonment to the Divine Providence. Herein lies the Programme’s wisdom and strength. By not seeking Road to Damascus conversions, it allows us to grow spiritually in our own time and our own way. It is open to people of all – or no – religious persuasion. Step Three involves continual appraisal of life – with gratitude for its gifts and acceptance of the rest. Here begins that search for an understanding of one’s own God – not one imposed by others and often long since abandoned. Some start this journey by simply defining God as Good Orderly Direction.

Steps Four and Five place value on the Confessional and gaining self-knowledge. We are encouraged to identify those defects which prevent us carrying out God’s will, but also those assets which help. Honesty and courage are required here, and progress naturally on to willingness to eradicate these blocks (Step Six) followed by action (Step Seven).
Provision is made for Restitution of harm done to family and society in Steps Eight and Nine, with the emphasis on the ‘doing’ and then accepting the outcome.

Throughout Steps One to Nine, relationships with God, self and others are examined and remedied. All that is required from us is willingness – our Higher Power provides the rest of what we need to work through them if we ask Him.

Steps Ten and Eleven are called the Maintenance Steps. Here we adopt a life of constant prayer and meditation in which we may seek God in our own way. This process evolves with practice, and requires an honest evaluation of one’s own responsibility and acceptance of a daily need for the gifts of a Higher Power. On a practical level, identifying and dealing with fears, resentments, etc. prevents them from developing into ‘demons’.

Step Twelve talks of ‘carrying the message’ – spreading the Good News that there is help available for the still suffering alcoholic. It is also seen as an act of gratitude – passing on to others the fruits of the gifts that have been received. By working the Twelve Steps great Changes take place in us. It leads to a spiritual re-birth and re-building where individuals find a contact and confidence in an all-powerful, all-loving, ever-available Higher Power who liberates them from the need to drink alcohol.

So successful has the AA programme been in helping alcoholics that the Twelve Steps have been adopted by drug, gambling and sex addicts, as well as many others who find themselves trapped and dis-spirited by out-of-control behaviour.
May those who are still suffering find their Higher Power. §

Sally Martin is a therapist at the Kairos Community in Camberwell, South London.


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