Jason Wahler on AA Step 12, The Icing on the Cake

The Icing On The Cake: The 12th Step Of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

Posted at January 31st 2017 | 10:37 PM

Step 12: 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.

The 12 Steps are kind of like a recipe for a special cake, one that brings about a personality change sufficient to allow us alcoholics to recover from our alcoholism. When we’ve baked the delicious spiritual experience cake, as directed and arrived at step 12, it’s time for my favorite part: putting the icing on the cake!

The 12 steps of A.A. in simplest terms are a solution to the disease of alcoholism. They are a set of universal guiding principles that merge the traditional boundaries of religion, history, culture and wisdom traditions. They outline a course of action that, when followed, will remove the obsession in the mind, connect you to a Higher Power and as you continue to grow, show you how to help others who still struggle.

The principles of AA Step 12 are:

  1. Honesty
  2. Hope
  3. Faith/Action
  4. Courage
  5. Integrity
  6. Willingness
  7. Humility
  8. Brotherly/Sisterly Love
  9. Discipline/ Justice
  10. Perseverance
  11. Spiritual Awareness
  12. Service

AA Step 12: Spiritual Awakening

The concept of “spiritual awakening” has many meanings. Keeping it simple, a spiritual awakening is really just a psychic change that, among other things, eliminates our obsession to drink. For some it can be quite a powerful and immediate experience, for others it is an ongoing co-current part of working the 12 steps.

The co-founder of AA, Bill W. mentions in his autobiography that for him it was a sudden, strong “white light” and life-changing event: “I stood upon a summit where a great wind blew. A wind not of air, but of spirit. In great, clean strength it blew right through me. Then came the blazing thought, ‘You are a free man.'”

It gives me chills every time I read that, because after that moment, Bill never took another drink. Thanks to him there are many more free men and women today. For most of us, the “aha” moments, that may not be a white light, are regular events and part of the spiritual awakening that happens over time in a subtle and gradual way.

AA Step 12: Carrying The Message

I am responsible when anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of AA always to be there, and for that I am responsible.

The second part of the 12th step is about carrying the message of recovery to other people. This is not because AA is a cult, it’s because “we keep what we have by giving it away.” To keep it simple, when we work with others, our lives change. So, we don’t help another alcoholic because they’re sick—we help another alcoholic because we are sick, and part of our recovery is that we need to be helping others.

The most important things to remember about this part of the AA Step 12 are:

  • The Twelve Steps are a program of attraction, not promotion. We lead by our own example, so talk to people when they are ready and when the time is right they’ll ask: “How can I get what you’ve got?”
  • Keep your message for the person who’s dependent on alcohol (and/or drugs) to what is was like for you, the result of your steps, and that you have not gotten drunk or stoned.
  • When talking to a newcomer, let go of labels and referring to them as alcoholics or addicts. Truthfully tell your story and let other people decide if it rings true for them.

Sometimes carrying the message can be as simple as making sure that there is a warm, caring, non-judgmental place for other alcoholics to come back to and a hand shake or hug that says “We’re here for you—come on in—and keep coming back!”

The beauty and eloquence of AA Step 12 is part of many promises of working the A.A. program.  Life really does take on new meaning when watching people recover, seeing them help others, and watching loneliness vanish. Frequent contact with newcomers, and with each other, is the bright spot of our newfound lives.

The Icing On The Cake: Practicing The Principles

When we have had a spiritual awakening as a result of our efforts we are finally able to do, feel, and believe that which we could not do before. This gift, which is a new state of consciousness and being, is really the icing on the cake of sobriety.

On a daily basis we have the opportunity to put into practice things that we are finally in possession of: a degree of honesty, tolerance, unselfishness, peace of mind, and love. Practicing the 12 steps in all our affairs, trusting a higher power, cleaning house, sharing our experience strength and hope, staying active in service one day at a time, for the rest of our life…is like eating cake, with icing, everyday.

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