Step 12 Mandate #1: Carry This Message
You know what grinds my gears?
When you ask “what’s the message?” to any member of Alcoholics Anonymous you get as many responses as there are minds to deliver them.
Some say it’s “hope” or “you can get sober too.”
“One day at a time” is another common one, and “love” is usually a fan favorite.
One of my personal favorites is “I can’t, but we can.”
I won’t go ask far to say that the message doesn’t encompass these things.
However, we are making this far too complex. The message is plain and simple.
The Message: as a result of working the steps you can have a spiritual awakening.
This is the ultimate sales pitch of A.A.
Work these 12 steps and sobriety will be a by-product.
Sobriety Is The By-Product
Yes, a by-product!
Sobriety isn’t the goal.
Bill W recalls his experience being Twelve Stepped,
“My friend promised when these things were done (The Step Work) I would enter upon a new relationship with my Creator; that I would have the elements of a way of living which answered all my problems. Belief in the power of God, plus enough willingness, honesty and humility to establish and maintain the new order of things, were the essential requirements.
Simple, but not easy; a price had to be paid. It meant destruction of self-centeredness. I must turn in all things to the Father of Light who presides over us all.”
As can be easily inferred, the goal is a relationship with God.
However, God is jealous, He wants a monogamous relationship.
If you think of self-centeredness as the toxic partner interfering with your chance at real love, then you’re picking up what I’m putting down.
Sobriety and self-centeredness are incompatible.
Of course you’ll still be self-centered, hence the proclamation:
“It is easy to let up on the spiritual program of action and rest on our laurels. We are headed for trouble if we do, for alcohol is a subtle foe. We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.
Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God’s will into all of our activities. “How can I best serve Thee – Thy will (not mine) be done.” These are thoughts which must go with us constantly. We can exercise our will power along this line all we wish. It is the proper use of the will.”
We move from a selfish heart to a servant’s heart. This is a perfect description of “fit spiritual condition”.
At any rate, let’s take a gander at the idea of a spiritual awakening…
What Is A Spiritual Awakening?
Carl Jung’s description is helpful,
“Here and there, once in a while, alcoholics have had what are called vital spiritual experiences. To me these occurrences are phenomena. They appear to be in the nature of huge emotional displacements and rearrangements. Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them.”
The appendix in the Big Book provides another beneficial definition of spiritual awakening as, “the personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism.”
Bill Wilson in the Twelve and Twelve elaborates further,
“Maybe there are as many definitions of spiritual awakening as there are people who have had them. But certainly each genuine one has something in common with all the others. And these things which they have in common are not too hard to understand. When a man or a woman has a spiritual awakening, the most important meaning of it is that he has now become able to do, feel, and believe that which he could not do before on his unaided strength and resources alone.
He has been granted a gift which amounts to a new state of consciousness and being. He has been set on a path which tells him he is really going somewhere, that life is not a dead end, not something to be endured or mastered. In a very real sense he has been transformed, because he has laid hold of a source of strength which, in one way or another, he had hitherto denied himself.
He finds himself in possession of a degree of honesty, tolerance, unselfishness, peace of mind, and love of which he had thought himself quite incapable. What he has received is a free gift, and yet usually, at least in some small part, he has made himself ready to receive it. A.A.’s manner of making ready to receive this gift lies in the practice of the Twelve Steps in our program.”
The message is, therefore, do the following steps and you too can have this gift.
Step 12 Mandate #2: Service Work!
“Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail. This is our twelfth suggestion: Carry this message to other alcoholics!”
Immune: not susceptible or responsive
Nothing so much guarantees that we won’t give in to our craving than carrying the message. The book is insistent, service provides immunity!
To be immune means to be unresponsive to a specific stimulus. For example, if I’m immune to a particular virus, this refers to the fact that my body has a high degree of resistance to it, it’s as if the virus produces no negative response in my body.
If I’m immune to my daughters complaining it ceases to aggravate me. It simply produces no response.
The Big Book assures us that working with others literally produces immunity from craving. Couple this variety of service work with the spiritual awakening as a result of the steps and the following is the promised radical result:
“And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone – even alcohol. For by this time sanity will have returned. We will seldom be interested in liquor. If tempted, we recoil from it as from a hot flame. We react sanely and normally, and we will find that this has happened automatically.
We will see that our new attitude toward liquor has been given us without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it. We are not fighting it, neither are we avoiding temptation. We feel as though we had been placed in a position of neutrality – safe and protected.
We have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for us. We are neither cocky nor are we afraid. That is our experience. That is how we react so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition”
But How Do We Carry The Message?
First and foremost, the Big Book’s format is designed to be mail-order sobriety. It’s the ultimate form of carrying the message. It’s outlined in the exact manner an Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve Step should be done.
- Doctors Opinion
- Personal Story
- The Problem
- The Solution
- The Program of Action
- Numerous Other Stories (Fellowship)
Bill provides helpful examples in the text, keep the above points in mind when reading it.
“Tell him how baffled you were, how you finally learned that you were sick. Give him an account of the struggles you made to stop. Show him the mental twist which leads to the first drink of a spree. We suggest you do this as we have done it in the chapter on alcoholism. If he is alcoholic, he will understand you at once. He will match your mental inconsistencies with some of his own”
“Continue to speak of alcoholism as an illness, a fatal malady. Talk about the conditions of body and mind which accompany it. Keep his attention focused mainly on your personal experience. Explain that many are doomed who never realize their predicament. Doctors are rightly loath to tell alcoholic patients the whole story unless it will serve some good purpose. But you may talk to him about the hopelessness of alcoholism because you offer a solution.“
“Tell him exactly what happened to you. Stress the spiritual feature freely. If the man be agnostic or atheist, make it emphatic that he does not have to agree with your conception of God. He can choose any conception he likes, provided it makes sense to him. The main thing is that he be willing to believe in a Power greater than himself and that he live by spiritual principles.”
“Outline the program of action, explaining how you made a self-appraisal, how you straightened out your past and why you are now endeavoring to be helpful to him. It is important for him to realize that your attempt to pass this on to him plays a vital part in your own recovery. Actually, he may be helping you more than you are helping him. Make it plain he is under no obligation to you, that you hope only that he will try to help other alcoholics when he escapes his own difficulties. Suggest how important it is that he place the welfare of other people ahead of his own.”
Undoubtedly, this is a simple framework to operate from but is in no way fail-proof or even remotely close to an exhaustive approach. It’s a mere example. Service is not a membership on a committee or a host of marketing and sales techniques, rather it’s a posture of the heart.
Step 12 Mandate #3: Practice These Principles In All Our Affairs
The final aspect of the Twelve Step is purely the outbreak of service into every nook, cranny, and crevice of your life.
It’s the application of this very new lifestyle to EVERYTHING, as noted in the forward to the first edition, “we are sure that our way of living has its advantages for all.”
If the concept of principles confuses you, the fellowship has curated a simple list of principles that are in theory supposed to correspond to the 12 Steps.
(AA) Step 12 Principles
These principles should inform our decision making, interactions with others, and life goals. In short, everything.
This doesn’t happen overnight, but as the step so appropriately states, “we practice.”
Observe the following definitions of practice:
- the actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method, as opposed to theories relating to it.
- The customary, habitual, or expected procedure or way of doing of something
We want definition one to eventually convert to definition two. In other words, we want to practice, and practice, and practice until it becomes second nature.
I will close with the three pertinent ideas of the Big Book, recall definition one of practice, “the application or use of an idea.”
Begin to apply these ideas and you’ll be well on your way to SOBERTOSTAY.