Addictions Anonymous, 22: Continuing The Growth
This article belongs to Addictions Anonymous column.
The last three steps in the recovery program deal with
personal growth, a renewed growth that is possible after some amount of clean
and sober time. By now, if the reader has been following previous articles, the
ideas behind steps ten, eleven and twelve should be rather obvious. Together,
these three steps offer a plan for essential, continuing personality
development. I will comment on each briefly in this chapter.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were
wrong promptly admitted it.
I remember a good man who was working as a recovering
counselor. He told me that he started every day by planning out his
recovery-related activities such as calling a fellow group member, writing in a
journal, and reviewing his list of character defects. He called it his A.A. day.
Like many very dedicated members of self-help groups, work on his own recovery had
the highest priority in his life. He truly felt that if this were not the case,
then he would have none of the other good things in life he wanted. If he
discovered he had made some error, neglected a task, or ignored someone who
needed him, he could not rest until he admitted the error and corrected it.
We have many tools to help us in the task of daily
inventory. First among these would be a cultivated ability to listen calmly to
the impressions of others. If we give people the chance, they will act as
mirrors and help us see things about ourselves we can easily miss. Some of the
things we hear may actually be compliments. I never thought much about eye
color, for example, and was very surprised when my wife once mentioned that she
found my blue eyes attractive. But, if someone offers constructive criticism,
just say, "Thank you," and don't act you insulted. If someone offers a sincere
complement, just say, "Thank you," and shut up. So, we learn to correct the
faults when we can and accept with gratitude and humility the positive
judgments of others.
It is important to understand that just because an
acquaintance finds something about us to criticize, there is no reason to
consider that person an enemy. We have to remember that if we listen calmly, we
can learn a lot more from people who may find fault or disagree than we can
from those who are always nice, polite and agreeable. Honest feedback is always
more important than tears and sympathy.
It is sometimes seems almost impossible to utter the simple
words, "I was wrong, I'm sorry." This is especially true when the error was
committed far in the past. The sense of relief, however, is often huge, and it
gets easier with practice.
11. Sought through study and meditation to improve our
awareness of a higher power of our own understanding asking only for knowledge
of right and wrong and the strength to follow that knowledge.
suggests a program of continuing self-study. If you find a higher power through
religion, then I suggest that you get involved with Bible study groups, church
activities, and prayer meetings. Take a class in contemplative prayer or
meditation. It does not count if you just act religious by attending church and
giving money. Religion, at best, is something you do every hour and every
day of your life.
If religion is not
your source of wisdom, what is? Science? Art and music? Politics?
Whatever it is,
study it, learn it, and be a part of it, remembering always that words are not
actions and do not take the place of actions.
Learn how your
higher powers affect your life and your recovery from addiction. Set aside time
for study, contemplation, meetings, and classes.
If your self-help
group is your higher power, learn to listen to them and try to do what they
suggest when you ask for advice. And, never forget to ask for advice.
it's perfectly all right to have more than one higher power. That, in fact, is
the actual truth for all of us. How do you resolve differences in opinion
between multiple higher powers? For example, what if government, a higher power
for all of us, tells you to do something or forbids you to do something, but
your boss says to ignore that and just do as he tells you. How do you resolve
that? Well, not by going back to addiction or by living in emotional misery. In
such situations you may need even a third higher power to intervene so you
don't have to go it alone. That's what courts of law are for. Or, take the
problem back to your group to get advice. When you weigh the possibilities, it
may be better to lose a job than break the law, but in tough situations we all
need the support of others.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of
these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts and to practice these
principles in all our affairs.
One of the most important words in this step is carry.
I take this to mean that the ideas offered in the Twelve Steps are with you in
all your activities, in all situations and in dealing with everyone you meet. I
think it means that you exemplify these ideas in all that you do. To the extent
that this influences others, you serve as a role model, a good example. I do not
think the word carry means to preach or offer unasked for advice.
Carry the message is an ancient religious mandate given
to disciples, a command to go forth and convert the heathen. This is definitely
not what the Twelve Step asks you to do. It is a bad idea to put your ego on
the line and assume you have the gift of superior knowledge. We only know what
works for us, not what others really need. Fanatic evangelizing has led to a
lot of bloodshed and conflict over the centuries. Your task, in carrying the
message of sobriety and recovery from addiction, is to tell your own personal
story only to those who are ready to hear it. It is not your job to give
absolute judgments or dogmatic rules. It is never your job to act alone trying
to get others to give up addiction. The Twelve Steps present twelve big ideas
that can change a life. Keep these big ideas always in mind and never hesitate
to offer help and encouragement to a suffering addict. You can make
suggestions, present alternatives, tell your story, and offer all the spiritual
help you can while giving the least possible amount of material help.
Some recovering addicts mistake material favors for carrying
the message of hope. The Twelfth Step asks you to share ideas and experiences.
You may, of course, have to help someone to get to a hospital for
detoxification, find resources such as a homeless shelter, or get to a meeting.
You never offer such things as loans or jobs. It is a very bad idea to mix
financial affairs up with someone's path to sobriety. You cannot do the work of
recovery for anyone but yourself, so help consists of talking about
alternatives and letting other do the work. If the person you want to help is
simply unmotivated, there is not really much you can do except let go
and get on with your own life.
Can you think of some error or misdeed right now
which you can admit to for the first time, and are you willing to do that as
soon as possible?
If you have not already done so, write about
your personal higher power or powers, and about how you will let it or them
influence your daily life. How will you learn more about it or them?
Exactly what do you think is a spiritual
awakening? If you think you have had one, can you describe it in detail?