Our Final Recovery Principle: The 12th Step

As it was written in the beginning, here is the classical 12th Step of our guiding spiritual principles:

STEP 12:  “Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry the message to alcoholics+addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”
In today’s post, let’s dissect this – the final step of our 12 Spiritual Principals.”

Carrying the message in our own Experiences, Strengths and Hopes. An original illustration from http://www.livingtwelvestepsrecovery.com/index.html

 


“Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps”

So many have pondered and written as to “what” the Spiritual Awakening is – that which this principle speaks of – its real meaning. Was it locked into the unusual tale of an epiphany that the first writer spoke of having in the 1930’s; a visitation from “The God of His Understanding” in the presence of a Spiritual Wind on an ethereal mountain-top, and there cloaked in a great presence of the spiritual sensation of serenity?

Bill Wilson brews up a pot of AA Paint Strength Coffee in the 1940’s

It isn’t necessary that our experience be of that nature for a valid awareness of the first half of Step 12 is it? Well No! He actually writes himself of this clarification in his 12×12, pg106, 1952:

“When a man or woman has a spiritual awakening, the most important meaning of it is that they have now become able to do, feel and believe that which they could not do before on their unaided strength and resources alone,” (LIKE – getting clean and sober to start).

It is more of a transformation than it is a resurrection or rebirth, in which one finds themselves in possession of a new degree of Honesty, Tolerance, Unselfishness, Peace of mind and Love – of which they had thought themselves quite incapable. 

Do these traits just descend upon our members who are working Step 12 like the legendary fiery tongues of epiphany over the heads of the apostles? Once again,…unlikely. (Now THAT – is good marketing – LOL).

Those who practice or “work” these principles will more likely develop “similar” new traits over a period of time in which there is no requirement or average duration, but they will feel awakened one day to find they are developing a new sense of consciousness; one which we have come to agree is found in the term Spirituality.

“This is our Spiritual Awakening – our body hears and responds to everything we say to it in the now. How we speak to ourselves today, our self acceptance, compassion and kindness are an investment in the health, well being and happiness of our future self.”  (thanks Fionna)

It is clear that the term HUMILITY will be a part of that new perspective. It is at the foundation of all our principles both step and Tradition. Though it has little to do with it other than being the events by which we sometimes arrive at it HUMILIATION is often mis-related as a synonym.The definition I like the best is:

knowing who and what we are and what we can be if we follow these spiritual principles ( our 12 Steps) in an application of all our daily affairs.

It can then be understood that part of our spiritual awakening is a gradual awareness of each of these 12 principles and how they might better our lives in all situations.

“We tried to carry the message”  

“We tried to carry the message”

There are many ways to interpret this principle, but we need to first ask ourselves: “WHAT” — is the message we tried to carry? “HOW” — do we do so? Some thoughts thereof:
  • The Message:That there is a way out of addiction/alcoholism that we have found, one given freely to us and that we would freely give to others who sought our solution.
  • The message is found in our behavior, our example, as it is demonstrated to others; that we are constantly attempting to refine and apply spiritual principles and virtues in our lives in sobriety and recovery, to the betterment of ourselves and those who interact with us.
  • We do not become as pests in sharing the solution we have found, saving our courteous approach, unless we are asked or have good reason to believe it is sought.
  • This cliche’d business of “not being able to keep what you don’t give” is nonsense, if it is by knee-jerk reaction, untempered with good judgement and a healthy modicum for respecting the privacy of others; especially if one runs around becoming annoyingly evangelistic, a bit like passing out leaflets on the street in terms of annoying eagerness.
  • Remember, Wilson cured NO-ONE during his first year while Dr. Bob Smith and the gracious Sr. Ignatia cured over 1,000 at their Hospital. Barking the message like a public address produces attitudes like this one in a recent FB Response:

Let’s take these lessons and inspirations found in our 12 Steps and Traditions and use them like a watch. When a situation comes along where we need spiritual guidance, we know where to look and have a basis for application, but let’s not get dogmatic or fundamentalist in a narrow scrutiny of our principles,…even the original writer says they are our guidelines and as such, we are likely to find “our own” personal meaning, interpretation and application. Sometimes we will all err to the side of an attempt to be perfect, falling prey to the “preach and teach temptation”.

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2014!

One January 1st we will begin working the Steps and Traditions all over again in a monthly rotation. The idea is that if you use the book reading it slowly, pausing to take in its message, it’ll work for you.

http://www.livingtwelvestepsrecovery.com/index.html

You’ll have daily inspiration from the affirmations on each step and tradition, “as they were in the beginning” to apply to your own personal spiritual program of recovery.  I’ve been doing this myself for almost 13 years, and for me,…………it works.

Now, a short referral from the New Yorker on New Year’s Resolutions and why they don’t work. A great read which I hope you’ll enjoy. Cut and paste it, then hear is some new meditation music from Richard Maddock’s iTuine available work:

The Garden Within

You can C&P this in a new window and then listen to the music while reading. This also true of all of our blogs.

watch?v=h1525o0GbTc

Of course we can’t sign-out of 2013 without a rendition of the New’ Year’s Traditional musical wish for you (Dan Fogelberg’s Rendition of “Same Old Lang Syne” – he’s been gone for what seems so long now,….but the drinking reference has significance to all us “ex-lushes” :).

watch?v=OYIWeow6W14&noredirect=1

To you and all you hold dear, I wish you spiritual serenity, personal prosperity and contentment in your continuing recovery.

You’ll likely be seeing us change from Word Press to a whole new, much more artistic format in March of 2014.

____________________________________

Both of my books have won awards now. They are slowly finding use and understanding on a worldwide basis. Please sample them at the site or amazon:

http://www.livingtwelvestepsrecovery.com/buy.html

 

 

Recovery Resurrection: My Spirit of Christmas Present

 

My friend Randy G. from California as Santa. Thanks for the visit!

Here’s a delightful Santa Christmas Song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EO5MsZFnfJc

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!

Here’s wishing you all the Happiest of Holidays in whatever fashion you choose to celebrate, with a Santa that is whatever race you choose for indeed he represents “The Spirit of Christmas”. Oh! And let’s not forget Mrs. Claus as well!

A jolly sweet Mother Christmas!

Here’s a story I wrote in my early recovery, (it’s a wee-bit painful for the inexperienced writer I then was – but a Humility builder and gauge of growth indeed)! I hope you’ll enjoy it, thinking of your own first few Holiday Seasons in Recovery……… but first some warm-up Christmas Music from our friends at U-Tube. If you want, copy the link open in another window and you can playback while you read:

Pentatonix: Little Drummer Boy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJ_MGWio-vc

Pentatonix – Acapella version of The Little Drummer Boy

The Spirit of Christmas Present

 

WHAT IT WAS LIKE

The first Christmas of my sobriety, my spirit felt like a wandering ship with no port of call. I was meandering aimlessly and much like the ghost of Dickens Jacob Marley, I carried a crushing weight of chains formed from my deep, dark, resentments toward God, my apparent fate and the people who had so wrongfully and bitterly disappointed me. Laden with cynicism, bitterness, and anger, I lived in a state of restless, irritable, discontentment.
My body was suffering from uncontrollable weight gain as a result of Type II Diabetes, High Blood Pressure, Chronic Insomnia and a myriad of other physical maladies. Alcohol had made both my physical and spiritual life so unmanageable; I felt I’d been given a view into the abyss of death. That Christmas, I had become the very visage of Ebenezer Scrooge. “Bah! Humbug”!
   By my own foolhardy account, I had heroically saved my own life by agreeing to treatment. After release, I had bravely walked alone through the doors of my first AA meeting. I did the 90/90 meeting program. Some days I needed 2 or 3 meetings, just to stay sober. Having read the book and done the first five steps in treatment, I really didn’t need any condescending, self-deprecating old dry drunk to sponsor me in anything, “thank-you very much”! I was told that I never had to be alone again, but I was just stubbornly fine by myself, “indeed”. I was sober, “doing the deal”, and that was quite enough …or so I thought.
   The first Christmas and New Year’s I worked in the kitchen of the local Alcathon as much as I could. Though my efforts were acknowledged as service, I was really there because I lived alone, had no place else to go, and on those terms, was terrified of the compulsion to drink, mostly because “THEY” told me I would be and I believed that like a Carp on a dough-ball must think it’s lobster.
I had turned my back on my family and friends. After all, they had staged a nasty intervention, abandoning and betraying me in my hour of need. Since I was mistakenly convinced my resentments were totally righteous, I naturally deprived them of the sheer joy of my company. At least I was among the sick, like me.
Delighted with the anticipation that both Christmas and New Year’s would soon pass, I was patronizingly grateful for having somewhere to endure them. ”Good Riddance to Holiday Rubbish”!

 WHAT HAPPENED

   I despised The Promises.  To me, they were idiotically extravagant. Were they being fulfilled among us? Perhaps, but let the weak and naive have their miracles. Quickly or slowly realized, they were the morphine of A.A. as far I was concerned. Bill W. must’ve been thinking he had to create some S&H Green Stamp Program to bolster the fortitude of the inherently unresolved, and to sell his “Big Book.”
   I knew better. It was just another battle of a lifelong struggle. Dignity, Honor, Love and Respect were to be the earned rewards, achieved through the endless but righteous suffering my fate left me to endure. I would do it, but there would be only rare moments of pleasure in it. No leisure or rest for this soldier of sobriety! I accepted my lot,…. begrudgingly with the cheer of a Sober Grinch, of course.
   At each meeting I would here How It Works from Chapter V of The Big Book; someone’s voice would read, “Without help it is too much for us, but there is one who has all power, that one is God, may you find him now”. In desperation, I sought to find “the God of my understanding”.  Beginning to pray, I asked only for the removal of the compulsion to drink, and slowly, it was removed. One day, I realized it’s near daily nagging was gone. When I was least aware it would, it had simply vanished. During the few times it had ventured back into my consciousness, it would become more and more easily dismissed. I suddenly realized God was doing for me what I could not do for myself or that was what I was told to believe.
   I embraced the program, opening my heart to the sober community. Soon, I met a woman in the fellowship but on the other side of America whom I fell madly in love with.  Then, an excellent sponsor appeared for me.
I got a Big Book, 12X12, other pieces of literature, and devoured them voraciously. I was feeling alive, my emotions were responding, and my health and well-being were returning. Everything seemed wonderful…, until it all changed unexpectedly.
The love that I thought had come to complete me by God’s hand exposed her hidden side. She’d been prospecting for gold, and in an overnight reversal dropped her feigned affections, having found a better vein to mine. I felt I had not only been deceived, but had lost my best friend and lover, though she had proved to be neither and 1,000 miles away, even though I had waited the most part of a year before hooking-up.
   I clung to the program, grasping for my faith in God, but try as I might and pray as I did, I could not seem to escape the disappointment. Once again regret, remorse and resentments were finding their way back into my life. I was losing my faith in my God and had stopped praying only for the knowledge of his will and the power to carry it out. I was so afraid to “put it all on the line,” for I had felt abandoned by God again, as I felt I had once before in my life and it appeared I had fallen for the same “Kool-aid” trap again. I just knew that I didn;t want to feel so gullible that relapse would look like an escape and a viable alternative to my perceived suffering.
   Still I believed. I believed that if I asked “only for the knowledge of his will and the power to carry it out”, I would never be disappointed in the message of the 11th Step.I’d already experienced how I could depend on God for his help when my compulsion to drink had been removed. So I prayed for the serenity to accept, the courage to change, and the wisdom to know. Though struggling, I hung onto my sobriety and my sanity.
   The conditions became worse as the next Christmas approached. I became very ill. Then I experienced some financial difficulties. Though I was trying to hang on, I could feel my insane thinking re-emerging. Each morning and night, I prayed for a sign of God’s reassuring love, a strengthening power to shore-up my faith.
   A month before Thanksgiving, my sponsor left on his fall vacation. Luckily, I met a very kind woman with 23 years in the program who agreed to act as my sponsor.  She taught me how gratitude should be specified in a list, referred to and augemented when we feel there is little to be grateful for. I will always keep that list and continue to amend it, “counting my blessings”.
   Like the year before, I worked at The Alcathon kitchen on Christmas Day. While sitting down for a break, I caught site of a man walking up to the counter whom I had never seen though his face seemed so familiar. He came back into the kitchen and began talking to me, introducing himself only as Martin, (pronounced Marteen). He was a truck driver from Arizona who was just passing through. Having never been to my city before, Martin explained that he was an alcoholic in his ninth year of recovery. He had a soft voice and a gentle smile.
   While making a point of trying to help him feel at home, I introduced him to everyone that came in the kitchen. We continued to talk while I was working, covering several subjects pertinent to my life and sobriety. It seemed we had a lot in common. When he spoke, it was calmly, almost reverently to me about spirituality. Using a gesture, he would point his finger up to the sky whenever he would speak of God, never mentioning him by name. In time, we had covered most of the dilemmas that were eroding my faith.
   He was unusually kind and understanding. All during that time he was smiling, and from time to time impishly looking as if he had known me all along. I remembered a poster I had acquired in college called, “The Laughing Jesus” and it struck me odd how much of a resemblance there was.
   When I was done with my shift we sat at a table and talked of my lost love and her disappointing behavior. Martin explained to me that there were some things I would never know or understand and that that was okay. That was what Acceptance was all about. It had only been a small part of my life and not worth obsessing over. He then told me to be strong, and that he had faith in me; that he was sure that I would be all right. Tears welling-up in my eyes, it dawned on me that Martin was the miracle that I had asked God for. I had to leave then. We stood, and he hugged me like a brother. I could feel extraordinarily reassuring and unconditional love enveloping as my spirit was comforted.
   We said goodbye. I turned and left. I walked a few feet and turned to waive…, but he was gone. It seemed he had just disappeared. I was certain that he was there. Then I wondered, could it have been that he was just there for me? Not much later, I returned to look for him. He was gone and there was no truck parked outside.

Martin’s Ghost Truck in my dreams, still chalkin’ up the miles out there somewhere.

WHAT IT’S LIKE NOW

I’ve told only a few people of this story; my sponsor and some others that I am close to. He was right. I do not have an explanation for some things, and as I recall Martin saying, Acceptance meant: I don’t need one for I may never have one. I know that for myself, I had been told many times at meetings of the fellowship, “Don’t leave until you give the miracle a chance to happen”. In that chance meeting with Martin, I feel as though it may have occurred that Christmas Day. Like it had happened for Ebenezer Scrooge, the Spirit of Christmas Present had come to me in Martin, restoring my faith and giving me a chance to see life anew again.
Right now my faith is strong. When it becomes challenged again, I will think of Martin and how he came to visit me, renewing me with the message of spiritual awakening. He was doing for God that which I could not do for myself, though I had asked. Given the chance, I will try to do the same thing for others. 
I write to you in the diminishing twilight of a January night sky, wishing each of you a Happy New Year, and a visit from your own angel,… your own miracle. If you hang around long enough, you just might find enough faith and acceptance to receive it.

I wrote this in 2003, when I was not yet two years clean and sober. I want you readers to know that I left it unedited (okay, mostly) because I wanted it to be as young and innocent as I was to Sobriety and Recovery then. You see, and many of you know well, there’s been a lot of  time and water under the bridge in the ensuing near 13 years. I did stay clean and sober, continuously, as I hope all of you are able too.

My attitude and perspective on this Recovery Business has changed a great deal since then and I don’t use the boxed cliches, “alconyms” and sloganese so popular with so many still. Just make sure you understand I am not condescending, do whatever works for you and that you need to find and keep your recovery.

Now back to the present. I am most fortunate to have been recognized this year by InTheRooms.com for their December 2013 Book of the Month Award. “Tales From the Center of the Herd” was their choice and I hope you’ll read and enjoy it.Here’s a Five Star Review from a reader who posted on Amazon Kindle:

5.0 out of 5 stars,

December 7, 2013

Excellent companion to the Big Book


“Tales From the Center of the Herd” is a must read for anyone with an addiction. The stories tell of each person’s struggle with their addiction and how they worked the Twelve Steps to become abstinent. I found so much hope and inspirations from the stories. The humility and honesty of the people in this book represent the foundation to recovery, in which each person over came their struggle. This book is an excellent tool to help one stay on the path. Each story is very different in their lifestyles from one another but the common thread is how they worked the Twelve Steps to sanity. This book is a good companion to the “Big Book” and the “Twenty-Four Hours A Day Book”.

Now, you can get my new book at Amazon KINDLE BOOKS at:

http://www.amazon.com/Tales-Center-Herd-Zebra-Always-ebook/dp/B00BI1CT7W/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1387434578&sr=1-1 keywords=tales+from+the+center+of+the+herd

Until December 31st, you can get it FREE through the KINDLE PRIME LENDER PROGRAM. It’s also available in signed print through my website at:

http://www.livingtwelvestepsrecovery.com/talesBook.html

And don’t forget “Living the Twelve Steps of Recovery” One Day at a Time

http://www.livingtwelvestepsrecovery.com/index.html