Twelve step groups are one of the truly remarkable phenomena of our time. Perhaps the most distinctive feature of these programs is that they are based on spiritual principles while avoiding conventional religious overtones.
Beginning in the 1930s with the advent of Alcoholics Anonymous, the same steps and traditions have now been applied to almost every facet of human experience. Millions of people have had life-changing experiences as a result of embracing this wonderfully simple, yet all-encompassing way of life.
The twelve steps can be broken down into three basic components:
There is a power in life greater than ourselves and we must find ways to contact it and surrender ourselves to its guidance.
We need to take an honest and thorough look at ourselves and make amends to anyone we have wronged.
We must continue to maintain contact with this higher power, to be honest with ourselves, and to give love and service to others.
Twelve step programs speak of a spiritual power that is greater than human understanding. It is a stoke of genius that they do not attempt to define this power. Atheists and agnostics mingle with member of every religion on Earth in these groups. All come together with common problems and a goal of finding help through the twelve steps and the fellowship of others.
As with anything in life, there are a couple of problems that sometimes arise: First of all, the term powerless is frequently misunderstood. Secondly, some people become addicted to the groups themselves.
The word powerless refers to our inability to cope with life’s difficulties on our own. Instead of saying we are powerless over our problems; it is more accurate to say we are powerless without God.
As long as we remember to follow the guidance of Divine Spirit, we are far from powerless. As Soul, we have full access to the awesome power of God, because we are atoms of God. As such, we live in perfect harmony with all creation. It is only when we let our bodies, emotions, and thoughts rule us that we run into difficulties.
The secret is to always put Soul in charge, to claim divine power as our birthright. Remember: We are Soul. While in this world we take on a body, feelings, and thoughts, but they are not our true selves. They are simply on loan to us while we are here.
The second problem is that some participants become addicted to the groups they attend. A harmful addiction may be replaced by a more innocuous one. In the case of life-threatening problems such as alcoholism or drug addiction, it may well be argued that a twelve step group is a healthy substitute.
On the other hand, there is a feeling among some members that no one could possibly outgrow the need to attend regular meetings. This is nonsense! Even the program literature advises participants to “take what you like and leave the rest.” Naturally, some people decide to make a lifetime commitment to the program, and there is certainly nothing wrong with this. Others, however, join a group that appeals to them, take what they can from it, give what they can to it, and then move on. We all need the freedom to follow a path of our own choosing.
The most important part of twelve step groups is found in the principles which can be absorbed in our hearts and used every minute of the day. In the final analysis, the purity and truth of twelve step philosophy rests in the sacred knowing of Soul.
I will close this chapter with what has become commonly known as The Serenity Prayer. It is used at every meeting and perfectly captures a vital observation in the dance of life:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.