In 1992 I joined a Christian Twelve Step group at my church. We worked through the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. I learned, personally, that these are Twelve Steps to healing. Twelve Step groups offer a healing process that works, a process that even transforms. This process has been the basis of Alcoholics Anonymous success. The Twelve Steps were adapted by Alcoholics Anonymous from the Oxford Group, an early church fellowship that used similar steps to enable spiritual growth.
The Twelve Steps to healing are powerful. They heal our wounded selves. They heal us spiritually and emotionally. Many of us are in denial about addictions that are not obvious. We are addicted to work, to shopping, to eating, to exercise, to being in control.
The Twelve Steps to healing provide a way for us to face inner pain and shame and make things right. They provide a way to let down our pretenses and drop our role playing. We learn in the group that we aren’t the only one who has felt unworthy or has done shameful things. We aren’t the only one who has had difficulty being authentic.
The Steps Described
The first three steps are steps of surrender. Since we deny our addictions, our codependence, or our inner pain, these steps are essential to break through our denial, to break through our pretensions.
Step One: We admit we are powerless and that our lives have become unmanageable. We are powerless over our addictions, our codependence, our shameful pasts, our emotions. We have tried over and over to change and have been unable to do so. Your first reaction may be, “This isn’t me.” Read it again. Think and pray about it. It took me a while to see that I was powerless over my emotions at times and over my need for control.
Step Two: We come to believe that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity. This helps us let go of control. We don’t have to do it all ourselves, in fact, we can’t. We can turn our problems over to “a Higher Power.”
Step Three: We make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him.
Steps Four through Seven are growth steps. In these steps we prepare a “searching and fearless moral inventory” which helps us see ourselves honestly. This inventory reveals issues we have denied. We explore resentments, fears, control, addiction, approval seeking, frozen feelings, low self esteem, repressed anger and so forth.
Steps Eight and Nine are restitution steps. In Step Eight we make a list of all the people we have harmed - in our entire life. We also list the ways we have harmed ourselves. In Step Nine we make direct amends where this would not be harmful to anyone. We do this with the assistance of a leader, sponsor or counselor and with God’s guidance and help. These are scary steps for most people but also very freeing.
Steps Ten and Eleven are maintenance steps. In Step Ten we continue to take an inventory and admit our wrongs on a daily basis. In Step Eleven we seek to improve our contact with and knowledge of God through prayer and meditation and seeking his will for our lives.
Step Twelve involves sharing with others the spiritual awakening we have experienced. Unless we help others and unless we share what we have learned we will lose it.
For more information about the twelve steps read CodependentsGuide to The Twelve Steps by Melody Beattie. For a Christian perspective on the twelve steps read
A Hunger for Healing by J. Keith Miller and The Twelve Steps: A Spiritual Journey published by Recovery Publications. Twelve Step groups are available in every community sponsored by Alcoholics Anonymous. Celebrate Recovery is a Christian version of the twelve steps available at local churches. The twelve steps to healing are powerful.
God, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I can’t change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Reinhold Niebuhr