Step 12 states, “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. Upon one’s initial reading of these steps, it is reasonable to be concerned for the individual who works all 12 steps, but experiences no “spiritual awakening.” The absence of this experience could be characterized as a failure to work the steps “properly” and the resulting lack of spiritual awakening can be attributed to a personal failing on the part of the individual. Not only is this perspective unhelpful, it can be potentially harmful if the individual believes this “failure” to be a fault of their own inadequacies. Now of course, the spiritual awakening that step 12 speaks of is certainly real, however, it can be just as real of a transformation without the spiritual component being necessary.
From a psychological standpoint, step 12 is directing us to take the re-education we went through in the 12-step process, and to bring that message to other addicts and alcoholics who are currently suffering the same fate we once suffered. Step 12 is a maintenance step that ensures we continually orient ourselves to a higher-order purpose as a means to keep us focused away from the trap of the lower-order purpose of addiction and wanton selfishness. Utilizing step 12 essentially to remind us to stay on the path of being of service as a means to protect us from our proclivity towards self-involvement was an ingenious move on the part of Bill W. as he understood that as addicts, we will have a strong propensity to devolve back to our previously addicted state (physiologically, but also psychologically and emotionally). We often hear things like, “helping others gets us out of our own heads”, and this is certainly true, but it isn’t the complete truth. Engaging in selfless acts does provide a useful distraction, but over the long term, these acts help to solidify a new sense of who we are and what we could possibly be. It highlights the need for compassion and empathy, and it begins to create neuropsychological reward systems for this type of behavior. Although stacking chairs, providing coffee and cookies, and greeting people at the door isn’t every newcomers cup of tea, these small acts of service will lay the foundation for us to ascend towards the higher-order purpose and meaning that will act as a layer of protection against the onslaught of temptations we will experience in sobriety.
Tree House Recovery of Orange County, California is a premier men’s addiction treatment facility that uses eight different modalities to help our men become the best versions of themselves they can be. We teach our men that every day of their journey is something to celebrate, and that recovery isn’t a sprint– it’s a marathon. To get started with Tree House Recovery, call us today at (855) 202-2138.