We all need to recover from something; it’s a universal God-given task. And if it’s not recovery, it’s about rediscovery. Usually it’s about both at different points along the spectrum of life.
The 12 Step Program has helped millions worldwide, primarily in overcoming addiction. But its simplicity and structure can help us all as we recover and rediscover within the phases of change in life.
Step 1 – We admitted we were powerless on our own
There is always something we cannot do on our own; indeed, there are many things. We might deny this fact, but the longer we do the more we delude ourselves.
Real power comes into our lives when we admit we are powerless on our own; that rediscovery and recovery rely so heavily on admitting we are powerless without God.
Step 2 – Came to believe God could help
For many, believing in God is no simple transaction. Prayer and seeking through open-mindedness brought them to the Lord—to give God a chance to prove his power.
Having seen God’s power we cannot help but believe. It is the help we all need.
Step 3 – Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God
Here comes the traction. Making a decision is linked with the will to act. And we must act if we are to prove we are committed to recovery and rediscovery.
“Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point. We asked His protection and care with complete abandon.”
— Alcoholics Anonymous (“How It Works”)
Having understood there is no halfway land where we can escape life, we go on by trudging forward, having committed ourselves to the way.
Step 4 – Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves
This is the first test of our commitment. Have we got the courage to be further humiliated? Can we delve deeply into our failures, weaknesses, and patheticness? We all have them.
When we take to this task with rigorous honesty, God gets beside us, and we are carried, no less.
The Spirit of God highlights more information than we thought there was, but within us is a strange spirit of acceptance. We are encouraged by our courage and we acknowledge God is giving us power in how he is redeeming us, even now.
Step 5 – Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to someone else the exact nature of our wrongs
With Step 4 the precursor, our courage extends into the actual practice of confession. This need not be humiliating, and indeed may prove powerful, as we turn on ourselves and see our past for what it is in the sight of God.
There is a better reality than having God judge us; that is that we judge ourselves. But we best do it fairly.
Step 6 – Became entirely ready for God to remove these defects of character
I believe Steps 4 and 5—having made such a brutally honest confession—naturally lead to Step 6. Simply in the transaction of confessing something God convicts us all the more to go all the way, drawing on the spiritual power to expunge such issues.
Step 7 – Humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings
This is a prayer of the utmost sincerity.
Upon such conviction to ask God to remove our shortcomings there is a blessing of a miracle. Some miracles are instant, whilst others are more gradual. But having committed, perhaps tearfully, we are given power to move on beyond those things that once trapped us. We learn to surrender; we learn a momentary surrender.
Step 8 – Made a list of persons we needed to make amends to
This is where some of the rubber hits the road. Step 8 is crucial in giving Step 7 traction. If we are to have our shortcomings removed we need to continue along the path of humility. It takes a great deal of humility to make a list of persons we intend to make restitution towards. And we don’t hold back.
Step 9 – Actually made amends, unless to do so might injure them
With nothing of us, and everything of God, we pray for the right opportunity to make amends, but we do something that is so crucial by a very cautious method.
If we aren’t careful we will hurt people.
Making amends is always about the other person, not us. When the other person is head of the agenda our eventual amends is right. It brings healing, but not because we did so; more because God paved the way and we obeyed with diligence.
Step 10 – Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, we admitted it
The 12 step program is initially a program of humiliation, in strangely teaching us the noble art of humility. We are all so commonly wrong. When we acknowledge that truth we understand admitting our wrongness is just about interpersonal integrity.
Being wrong and admitting it is no big deal, yet there is the power of God in it as we rest within our humility to do such a thing.
Step 11 – Sought through prayer to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out
Prayer is simple. All we need to pray for is the knowledge of God’s will and the power to carry out. Knowledge is about awareness and the power to carry something out is about courage.
We are blessed to keep it simple.
Step 12 – Committed, as part of our transformation, to carry this message to others it might help
This step, along with the previous few, sustains us in our recovery and rediscovery. It’s so important others have access to this power for healing and transformation, and the only way they will see is via our testimony.
God has a plan for all of us in terms of recovery and rediscovery. Let us not limit the power within that plan. Let us instead take proper steps in constantly recovering and rediscovering our divine purpose in this life.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.
For more information, visit 12Step.org.