“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” –Step Twelve
For some of us, embracing an attitude of service within the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous is the easy part. Even when giving our spare time for the good of other alcoholics and addicts has become second nature, the notion of “practicing these principles in all of our affairs” can remain a looming and drastic proposition. Treating friends and family with the love and respect they deserve can become increasingly difficult, particularly in the flurry of the holiday season, when so many of us unconsciously turn our focus to selfish, materialistic and worldly concerns.
As I prepare for family visits and endless parties, I have to ask myself if I am actually working the Twelfth Step of Alcoholics Anonymous, or if I am simply doing whichever part is easiest for me. Is the spiritual way of life I have been given through the Twelve Steps evidenced by my actions?
While we may be able to present the appearance of perfection to those outside of our inner circle, or even to acquainted members of AA, those near to us see our defects with precise accuracy. Most often, it is these select few that receive the brunt of our selfishness—especially when “our little plans and designs” are not held in the highest regard (Page 63). Simply put, there are times when I have placed more emphasis on getting my own needs met rather than focusing on what I could be doing to improve the lives of those around me.
Our adherence to a spiritual path should be gauged not by how we treat those we barely know, but by how we treat those closest to us. After all, those people often have a clearer vision of our lives anyway.
“The elimination of drinking is but a beginning. A much more important demonstration of our principles lies before us in our respective homes, occupations and affairs.” –Big Book, Page 19
Far too often in the world of recovery, we place our emphasis on protecting the alcoholic from alcohol, while ignoring the spiritual tenants of the 12-Step program. This is particularly true during the holiday season. How often have we heard meetings in which topics such as, “How do we stay sober through the holidays” arise? Though I am not implying that these discussions have no relevance for the newcomer in early sobriety, this is simply not the nature of recovery once we are spiritually fit. In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, we are told that “any scheme of combating alcoholism which proposes to shield the sick man from temptation is doomed to failure,” yet, at times, we carry a message in our meetings which attempts to do just that (Page 101).
In theory, it is a much less challenging proposition to tell someone to ‘take it easy’ during the holiday season, or to suggest that they simply avoid alcohol during parties. The truth is that if I am a “real alcoholic,” my external and mental defenses cannot ensure my sobriety– in the end, I will drink again. Whether I want to or not.
Though many of these topics may be born of misunderstanding, at times I wonder if offering advice and self-help techniques serves to alleviate the fear of being too direct. In my experience, it takes more courage to tell the newcomer to complete their amends so that they may live their holidays in freedom than it does to tell someone to avoid the party because alcohol will be served. It is also a much more serious proposition to hold our fellows accountable, and push them to treat their most difficult family member with love and kindness. Carrying the vision of God’s will into all of our activities is far from easy. A price does indeed “have to be paid” (Page 19).
The degree to which I am able to “practice these principles in all of my affairs” when family members disagree, or when plans run aground, is the degree to which I am experiencing the sunlight of the Spirit.
The truth is that the holidays should no longer be about us—they should be about capturing the joy of a season where love and compassion reign supreme. In order to espouse this vision of the holidays, those of us in recovery should be honored to help with every meal; we should humbly listen to our loved ones rather than spend every moment professing our own accomplishments. As travelers on a spiritual path, we do these things not out of obligation, but out of a grateful and courageous heart. Perhaps if we began to display this selfless and considerate rendering of recovery, more addicts in need of a solution would seek and find the help that they need.
As men and women who have “entered the world of the Spirit,” our job is to be of service, as well as to “practice these principles in all of our affairs.” Not just in some of our affairs, and not simply when it is convenient. After all, if we have been rescued from death, shouldn’t our lives embody grace and gratitude through action?
Kacy Ritter, Director of Alumni Services