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

Breaking Down Step Twelve Of AA Alcoholics Anonymous

Posted at March 7th 2019 | 05:42 PM

“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.” 

“Even in the midst of devastation, something within us always points the way to freedom.” 
– Sharon Salzberg

Even if you don’t realize it, if you’ve made it to Step 12, you’ve probably had a spiritual awakening. Members of AA Alcoholics Anonymous who have reached Step 12 often talk of feeling free, lighthearted and spending more of their time caring about others than on their self-obsession. The increasing ability to step outside of ourselves and to fully participate in life is just one of the many gifts of recovery that pay us back, with dividends!

It’s fascinating how change happens, little by little in incremental steps. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons that the 12 Steps work so well for us recovering addicts… challenges are easier to deal with a little bit at time. The camaraderie of our fellowship guides our actions and provides inspiration that can help us on our continued growth pattern.

The Step 12 message is that we can stay clean and sober, that we can and do recover if we are willing to give it back and that there is hope for those who are still sick and suffering. 

Working With Others: Carrying The Message

“No matter how dark the moment, love and hope are always possible.” 
– George Chakiris

“We can only keep what we have by giving it away.“
This AA saying is one of the most powerful reasons for us to carry the message and pay it forward. We are reinforcing our own recovery by sharing it with another.

I’ve always loved the expression “ put your money where your mouth is.” This is exactly how I feel when working with sponsees- it really holds me accountable to my own program of recovery.

When I tell a sponsee that people who go to meetings regularly stay clean and sober, then it’s more likely that I’m going to apply that practice to my own recovery more thoughtfully; when I say to a sponsee that “the answer is in the steps,” I am more likely to look there for answers myself; when I gently remind a sponsee that it’s good to stay in touch with me no matter what is going on, the more likely I am to reach out to my own sponsor.

This is why they call it a simple program… for very complex people. We have tricky minds that like to tell us stories that are likely untrue, and practicing the Twelfth Step keeps us on the right path of thinking.
In fact, by the time we reach step 12 and are working with others, it has likely become increasingly uncomfortable to act out on many of our character defects.

There are many other ways that we can carry the message as well:

  • Greeting a newcomer. 
  • Remembering someone’s name.
  • Talking to someone who says they’re having a rough day.
  • Taking on service positions in any capacity. 
  • Offering your phone number.
  • Sharing during a meeting.
  • Share with people when you identify with them after a meeting.

These are all ways we can approach our service to the fellowship in a caring, humbling and loving way.
Although we obviously can’t be all things to all people (and shouldn’t even try), it’s important to remember that we can only share our recovery with others who want it.

“You never have to use again, if you don’t want to.” Someone carried that message to us, and some of us believed what another person told us. Why? Because it happened to them. Someone else gave us a sense of hope when we identified with what they shared in a very personal way. Our sponsors have helped us recover with unconditional love and quiet and assistance.

When working with new Sponsees I like to use worksheets so that they have something to go back and look at as they progress in their recovery and continued sobriety. Looking at worksheets on anniversaries has helped me understand the disease of alcoholism and addiction more and also helps me to notice and celebrate my progress! 

Step 12 Questions

  • What has been my overall experience as a result of working the 12 steps?
  • What has been my spiritual awakening?
  • Are there any lasting changes resulting from my spiritual awakening?
  • How can I connect spiritual principles to the steps?
  • What does the phrase “spiritual awakening” mean in my experience?
  • What do I think the message of AA is, and how have I experienced that?
  • What kind of service work am I doing?
  • What are different ways of carrying the message, and how do I do that?
  • Do I have a personal style of sponsorship?
  • What is the difference between attraction and promotion as we’ve learned about it in our AA program of recovery?
  • What does carrying the message do for me?
  • What keeps me coming back and trusting the program of AA?
  • Why was a person in AA able to reach me in a way that no one else ever had?
  • What is my overall experience with the 12 steps?
  • Why does one addict helping another help to keep us sober?
  • How do I practice the principles of AA in all the different areas of my life? Are any of them difficult for me?
  • What am I doing to maintain my commitment to recovery?

Wow, we’re all done! We’ve finished Step 12! It’s the last step woohoo! Many of us get excited at the prospect of being “finished” with the 12 steps. 

Newsflash: Living the program means continuing to practice the spiritual principles of all 12 Steps in our daily lives, perhaps even formally revisiting each of the steps several times throughout our lives.

In fact, some of us actually enjoy working the steps again from the perspective we’ve gained on our sobriety journey.

This is really how it works. Whenever we find ourselves powerless over an addiction, whenever more has been revealed about our shortcomings or the people we’ve harmed, the12 Steps Of AA Alcoholics Anonymous are available to keep us on our path to recovery… recovering our natural state of being.

Moving ON: Practicing The Principles In All Of Your Affairs

“There are three constants in life…Change, Choice and Principles.”
– Stephen Covey

Most of us feel very proud of once completed the 12thStep, and you should absolutely feel good about what you’ve done! In most cases this will be the first time that you have followed through with something of this magnitude all the way.  What an amazing accomplishment. In fact one of the many gifts of working in AA program is finding out that our self-esteem has grown exponentially by the time we complete Step 12! We can actually join in social events without feeling less than others.

Now’s the time we join our society and do things that used to seem beyond us. By practicing the principles in all of our affairs, we begin to take on high positions and jobs and within our communities. After completing the 12 Steps most of us realize that the principles are actually completely universal- if only everyone in the world practice them what a great world it would be!

The principles of AA Step 12 are:
1. Honesty
2. Hope
3. Faith
4. Courage
5. Integrity
6. Willingness
7. Humility
8. Brotherly/Sisterly Love
9. Justice
10. Perseverance
11. Spirituality
12. Service

Thinking about what our recovery has brought to our lives we can only become filled with gratitude. Gratitude becomes the underlying force in everything that we do. As our lives become an expression of our gratitude we get to choose how to live. Each and every one of us has something very special, unique and beautiful to offer the world.

When we live a program of recovery the results show up in every aspect of our lives we are so fortunate to have a program that gives us a way to cope with life on life‘s terms. 

I look forward to seeing how you express your gratitude and would love to hear from you. Stay in touch with me on Instagram @jasonwahler

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