What is the Twelve Step philosophy of spirituality?
All Twelve Step programs promote spirituality, rather than promoting specific beliefs about religion or God. Twelve Step programs aim to help you establish a relationship with a Power greater than yourself—however you choose to define it. The Big Book tells us that at first all we need to know about God is that we ourselves are not God. Still, some newcomers to recovery find it helpful to think of “God” as their Twelve Step “Group of Drunks” or the “Good Orderly Direction” they are now seeking.
The concept of spirituality is a very personal one. Spirituality is the quality of your relationship with yourself, your Higher Power, and the world. How do you know when you are growing spiritually? If you are beginning to see positive changes in your thinking, attitudes, behaviors, and relationships with others, you are growing spiritually.
When you were in active addiction you likely believed your ideas were almost always “right,” and you may have tried to control or manipulate others to make them conform to those ideas. But spiritual growth requires that we let go of the pursuit of control that can lead to manipulation, intimidation, anger, resentments, and so on. You still can make decisions and take action, but you know that the results are in the hand of your Higher Power. Trying to control your life—that is, trying to force certain results—destroys your spirituality. This quest for power can inhibit the spiritual nature that will protect your recovery and improve the peace, serenity, and sense of abundance in your life.
It is not possible to love your Higher Power and be at peace with yourself while you treat everybody else badly. Any improvement in one set of relationships improves the others. Any deterioration in one set pulls the others down.
For example, you may go home one night and have an ugly argument with a beloved family member. You may dig deep down for every nasty, personal thing you can say to hurt them, and by the end of the argument your relationship is severely damaged. During this argument you are not in communion with your Higher Power, and most likely you are not feeling very good about yourself. You may even feel that you hate yourself and so you push that anger, fear, and resentment outward toward others. When you do this, your relationship with your Higher Power and with others is damaged.
When you were in active addiction you may have searched for happiness, peace, serenity, and abundance, but only found a spiritual emptiness in your life. Many addicts try in vain to fill that void with alcohol or other drugs, money, relationships, material things, or compulsive behaviors of one type or another. But these external devices cannot resolve an internal need for spirituality.
How can you immediately improve your spirituality?
Begin to treat all people with the dignity and respect that belongs to all of us. Do not judge others; your choices and actions are no more right than anyone else’s. Everyone has made poor choices; everyone has acted out of selfishness. When you have turned yourself and others over to your Higher Power, your relationships will improve, your self-respect will improve, and you will grow closer to your Higher Power.
How can you continue to build your spirituality?
As you begin to practice spirituality you may quickly see big gains in your confidence and serenity. At those times, it seems easy to be spiritual, to feel light and joyous, free and forgiving. But what does spirituality mean on the Monday morning after you’ve lost your job, your dog has run away, and your child has been suspended from school?
How can you sustain your spirituality on the roller coaster of emotional and physical challenges that most of us endure? The best way to sustain your serenity is to view spirituality as a daily practice of prayer and meditation. Prayer is the practice of talking to your Higher Power, and meditation is the practice of listening to your Higher Power.
Practice prayer and meditation
Many recovering people find it fulfilling and easy to begin their spiritual practice first thing in the morning. Upon waking, ask your Higher Power to help you to be willing to let go of self-pity, dishonesty, fear, control, and selfishness and to direct you during the day ahead. At night, before going to sleep, review your life for that day. Look for traces of resentment, blaming, fear, or control. Plan to make any necessary apologies or amends tomorrow. Avoid “worry, remorse, or morbid reflection that would diminish your usefulness to others,” as AA recommends.
At times this “letting go” may leave you feeling agitated or indecisive. If so, take it easy. Instead of struggling for an answer, trust that an appropriate course of action will soon become clear to you.
Recovery action Steps
Give yourself the gift of spirituality every day by taking twenty minutes to reflect on where you are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going.
- Use a daily planner and schedule twenty minutes every day for prayer and/ or meditation. Write down this time and consider it as high a priority as a business meeting or other appointment.
- Make a list of what you’re grateful for—family, friends, a job, a roof over your head—and reread it every day.
- Tell your sponsor, recovery support group, and supportive family members about your promise to spend this time on your spiritual practice. They will hold you accountable and check on your progress.
What are the rewards of a spiritual life?
Remember that spirituality, not mere abstinence, is what grants us a daily reprieve from our illness of addiction. The Twelve Steps are not a sobriety program or relapse-prevention program, they are a program for living spiritually.
The hard reality of being addicted is that you can no longer rely on yourself to be your own best judge. Embracing spirituality and trusting your Higher Power will help you surrender your willfulness enough to allow the Twelve Steps to work for you.
When you believe in a Higher Power of infinite love, understanding, and compassion, you’ll find more than recovery from the disease of addiction, you’ll grow personally as you experience more freedom and peace. Dependence on this Higher Power, which is unlimited in forgiveness and love and can be tapped whenever you need it, only makes you stronger. Through this strength you will become more independent and confident, personally and spiritually.