The following is my final entry in a series about the 12-step spiritual program of recovery.
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.”
Step 12 is found in Chapter 7 (Working With Others), page 89 through page 103 of The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. “Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking (relapsing into addiction) as intensive work with other alcoholics (others with like addictions). This is our 12th suggestion: Carry this message to other alcoholics! You can help when no one else can. You can secure their confidence when others fail. Life will take on new meaning. To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you – to have a host of friends – this is an experience you must not miss. We know you will not want to miss it. Frequent contact with newcomers and with each other is the bright spot of our lives.”
There is a whole chapter devoted to helping others in our literature. It contains much wisdom and practical advice regarding Step 12. It is very helpful to review this chapter as you journey forth with this step.
At first I was reticent about helping others. What did I have to offer someone is such a condition? What if they don’t get any better? Where will I find the time? I delayed, for one reason or another, taking action with this part of my spiritual program. It was when, once again, life became so painful that I jumped into Step 12 with both feet. All I had to do was help others work the 12 Steps to the best of my ability. I had my own experiences living the 12 step spiritual program which I could use to help another do the same.
When helping another with the steps we would start at the beginning – Step 1. I would share my experience doing Step 1 along with the struggles and challenges I had faced. I would offer encouragement, understanding, and compassion. I learned from experience to let them create their own unique path towards God. I discovered that their recovery is not my responsibility. I found out that there is no success or failure, mine or theirs. I learned quickly that saying ‘NO’ can be the most loving response in many circumstances. I also learned that what I want to happen is not important or constructive. It is simply about being of service to God. It is the act of helping, connecting, and loving that matters. My job was to simply offer my experience, strength, and hope to another who is struggling under the weight of addiction, just as I once had. It is easy to see that helping others created miracles of growth in my own life. Helping other helped me immensely!
In Alcoholics Anonymous there is a tradition of sponsorship. The sponsor is someone who has worked the steps, awakened spiritually, and found freedom from addiction. Helping new comers at meetings provided me with opportunities to do Step 12. But as I opened up more to being of service, opportunities opened up from other avenues as well. No matter what your addiction, you will find the opportunity to help those who are now where you have been.
Over the years, I have helped many in their struggle to be free from addiction to alcohol and drugs. Some have died, some have disappeared quickly and some slowly over time, but there are a few that I know are living life more fully and joyfully than ever before and helping others do the same. This experience has given me a noble purpose in life and changed me immeasurably for the better. It has led me to endeavors and opportunities that I never dreamed existed. It has given me a spiritual family where I can finally feel at home.
David Saffold is a Professional Life Coach and student at the Estuary. He has been helping people use the 12 step spiritual program to recover from alcohol and drug addiction for over 25 years.