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Step 12: Recovery

Twelve-Step Spirituality: Week 3

Step 12: Recovery
Friday, December 4, 2015

Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs. —Step 12 of the Twelve Steps

The real authority that changes the world is an inner authority that comes from people who have lost, let go, and are re-found on a new level. These are the people who can heal, reconcile, understand, and change others. The pattern for this new kind of authority was taught by Jesus when he said, “Simon, you must be sifted like wheat and I will pray that you will not fail; and once you have recovered, you in turn can strengthen the brothers [and sisters]” (Luke 22:31-32, italics mine). This sifting and then recovering is Peter’s real and life-changing authority, as it is for anyone. Unless a bishop, teacher, or minister has, on some level, walked through suffering, failure, or humiliation, his or her words will tend to be fine but superficial, okay but harmless, heard by the ears but unable to touch the soul. It is interesting to me that Twelve-Step programs have come to be called the “Recovery” movement. They are onto something!

The friend who came to talk to Bill Wilson when Bill was at his lowest point had the authority of one who had suffered—who had been in the place of no control over the outcome—and then come out the other side, larger and more alive, and thus able to invite others into that same Bigger Field. Bill could see that “there was something at work in a human heart which had done the impossible. . . . Here sat a miracle directly across the kitchen table. He shouted great tidings.” [1] Early in his own recovery, Bill writes:

While I lay in the hospital the thought came that there were thousands of hopeless alcoholics who might be glad to have what had been so freely given me. Perhaps I could help some of them. They in turn might work with others.

My friend had emphasized the absolute necessity of demonstrating these principles in all my affairs. Particularly was it imperative to work with others as he had worked with me. Faith without works was dead he said [James 2:17]. And how appallingly true for the alcoholic! For if an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge her or his spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others, that alcoholic could not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead. [2]

Indeed, during times when Bill was nearly driven back to drinking, “I soon found that when all other measures failed, work with another alcoholic would save the day. . . . It is a design for living that works in rough going.” [3]

In his letter to believers, James writes, “Anyone who looks steadily at the perfect law of freedom and keeps to it—not listening and forgetting, but putting it into practice, will be blessed in every undertaking” (1:25). What makes us think that we really believe in Jesus, much less follow him, unless we somehow pass it on “to the least of the brothers and sisters” (Matthew 25:40) as he commanded?

Gateway to Silence:
One day at a time 

[1] “J,” A Simple Program: A Contemporary Translation of the Book “Alcoholics Anonymous” (Hyperion: 1996), 11.

[2] Ibid., 13-14.

[3] Ibid., 14.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), 19, 29-30, 108-109.

La soupe (The soup, detail), Pablo Picasso, 1902–03, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada.