Twelve Steps To Freedom

Aug 02 2009


For decades, the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous have been helping alcoholics, drug abusers and many others to break the cycle of slavery and selfishness and become free.

Working the steps is absolutely essential if the alcoholic/addict is serious about living an addiction-free life for good. Offenders who want to stop coming back to prison must work them, too. It is not enough to merely attend recovery group meetings; the steps require us to participate in our own recovery and healing.

They require us to take action.

The 12 steps acknowledge that the root of our problem is a spiritual condition that has physical and emotional consequences. The steps offer us a path to permanent healing.

• Step One: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.

• Step Two: Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

• Step Three: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.

The first three steps cut right to the chase. Working the first one forces us to stop kidding ourselves and accept that we have a life-threatening problem that we cannot fix. For the offender, this means to stop blaming people, places and things and accept personal responsibility for the consequences of the decisions we’ve made.

Steps two and three give birth to hope — that God knows us, loves us and wants to help us. Someone bigger, smarter and more powerful than we is in our corner, ready to help us fight and win. We must decide to trust God with our lives.

Taken together, these three steps bring us from believing the lie that we are all alone to letting one other person — God — into our hearts.

• Step Four: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Now things really get interesting. Most of us are unwilling to look at the darkness in our own souls, but it must be done with ruthless honesty if we are to live and not die. We must know the truth, so that the truth can set us free.

This is not a process that can be rushed, and it helps if we call upon God for the clarity and courage to see ourselves as we really are.

• Step Five: Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Our life got a little larger when we let God in; it is about to grow larger still. We start by confessing our sins to God. If we are willing to do so, he is quick to forgive us.

Then we confess them to another person, someone worthy of our trust. Coming clean allows us to put down the load we may have been carrying. Those who have worked this step know exactly what I mean.

• Step Six: We’re entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

• Step Seven: Humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings.

Many of us work steps five, six and seven together; after all, as long as we have repented and confessed, why wait to reap the full benefit of recovery and healing? God is always entirely ready to change our hearts and our thinking. He is simply waiting for us to respond to his invitation to let him clean the inside of our cup.

• Step Eight: Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

• Step Nine: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

We have already given up a good measure of pride by the time we reach these steps. Now we are about to humble ourselves even further, and that’s a very good thing. To admit to God and one other person how we have hurt others is one thing. To admit it to those we have harmed and ask for their forgiveness is another.

Step nine makes the point that the best way to ask for forgiveness is not with words only, but with action. We should do all in our power to make the people we stole from whole. Here is where those whom we have victimized can begin to experience true restoration and justice.

• Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

• Step 11: 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 that out.

• 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 first nine steps changed our lives and set us on the path to permanent freedom. The last three help us maintain the healing we have received for the rest of our lives.

We cannot afford to be less than honest with ourselves or to indulge in the fantasy that we can do no wrong. We must continue to rely on God to help us see ourselves clearly, as we really are.

We cannot afford to hold on to anger, let fear master us or let selfish ambition become the driving force in our lives. If it’s true that we become like the people we hang out with, then hanging out with God ought to transform us into people who look a little bit like his son.

Finally, free of those things which used to control and destroy our lives and with the joy of new life spilling out of our hearts, we begin to habitually reach out to others, giving away the good things that God has given to us — joy, hope, faith, life — and above all, love.

Richard Johnson’s organization sponsors a Christian 12 Step group every Friday night at the center, 220 Graybrook Lane, New Albany. Anyone is welcome to come for dinner at 6:30 p.m.; the meeting runs from 7 to 8 p.m. Richard Johnson may be reached at [email protected]

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