By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies and our Privacy Policy.

Emotional Sobriety

Twelve-Step Spirituality: Part Two

Emotional Sobriety
Monday, December 16, 2019

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. [1]

Making a list of the persons we have harmed is a reversal of what our ego prefers to do—make lists of what others have done to us. We are only able to do this because of the housecleaning we’ve done in the previous steps. When we’ve experienced higher states of love and transformation, we must go back and rectify earlier wrongs in appropriate ways to support the healing of those we have hurt. God forgives us, but the consequences of our mistakes remain. We must repair what has been broken, or we stay stuck in a wounded world.

Bill Wilson saw the Twelve Steps finally leading to emotional sobriety. Sobriety is not just about no longer drinking. The goal is to become spiritually awakened, to have found some degree of detachment from our own emotions. Our emotions are not bad unless we are attached to them. Emotions are helpful indicators and symptoms of what’s going on, often subconsciously, within us. However, they are primarily “narcissistic reactions.” They’re self-referential because they are actually based in our body, not easily available to conscious control. The body carries all of our shame, guilt, childhood conditioning, and past hurts.

We are all trying to get our programs for happiness met by one another and by things, when only God can really meet our longings for unconditional love and authentic joy.  Otherwise, we are going to be hurt and hurt others in the process. Steps Eight and Nine are about stopping that cycle from our end. Bill Wilson understood that we’ve got to stop depending on other people or outside events to meet our needs. We need to reverse the flow and draw it from the inside out—based on the absolute union between God and the soul—instead of from the outside in. Wilson often said, “It’s better to give than to receive” (see Acts 20:35). The union between God and the soul is the only stable, secure, and sustainable program for happiness.

Alcoholics Anonymous acknowledges that the process is gradual and in relationship with others:

There is a long period of reconstruction ahead. We must take the lead. A remorseful mumbling that we are sorry won’t fit the bill at all. We ought to sit down with the family and frankly analyze the past as we now see it, being very careful not to criticize them. Their defects may be glaring, but the chances are that our own actions are partly responsible. So we clean house with the family, asking each morning in meditation that our Higher Power show us the way of patience, tolerance, kindliness, and love.

The spiritual life is not a theory. We have to finally live it. [2]

References:
[1] “J,” A Simple Program: A Contemporary Translation of the Book “Alcoholics Anonymous” (Hyperion: 1996), 55.

[2] Ibid., 77.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps (Franciscan Media: 2011), 73; and

Emotional Sobriety: Rewiring Our Programs for “Happiness” (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2011), CDDVDMP3 download.

Image credit: La Soupe (detail), Pablo Picasso, 1902-03, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: These were moments when it all made sense and we knew we were good, God was good, it was all good. We were in touch with our true source of power, our spiritual desire, the indwelling Holy Spirit. —Richard Rohr
FacebookTwitterEmailPrint