Introduction to the spiritual principles of recovery in the 12 Steps
First, a brief disclaimer… Like virtually everything one reads or hears from others, the following write-up isn’t completely objective, and in all likelihood it does not represent Absolute Truth. After all, no human communication is 100% objective. This material springs from the writer’s personal experiences in working the steps, some knowledge and advice received from Discovery Place (both times), input from other spiritually focused addicts and alcoholics who have worked the steps, a ridiculous number of nonfiction books and audiobooks, and so on. Readers may or may not agree with the references to a Higher Power. However, as all of us strive to remain open-minded with respect to differing worldviews, There is no friction among us over such matters (Big Book, There is a Solution, p.28)
A closer look at the spiritual principles behind the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous
Over the years we have seen two or three lists of the spiritual principles behind the steps, each list differing as to the specific principle pertaining to a couple of the steps. This is, of course, no big deal, as there is no such thing as an official list of the spiritual principles behind the 12 steps, per se. In truth, there are dozens – even hundreds – of spiritual principles that are applicable to the 12 steps, whether considered individually or as a whole.
What are spiritual principles? Spiritual principles are essentially universal truths relating to the deepest values and meanings by which people live in order to achieve genuine inner peace. Spiritual principles embrace the idea of an ultimate or an alleged immaterial reality. Spiritual practices are spiritual principles applied in daily life which define an inner path enabling one to discover the essence of one’s being.
Real spirituality and related spiritual principles are simple and easy to understand.
There is absolutely nothing complicated or hard to understand with regard to spirituality and its principles, including the spiritual principles behind the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Even so, this fact certainly does not eliminate confusion and fear. Due in general to certain factors, a person’s thinking and attitude toward spiritual principles are muddled by fear of the subject of spirituality. This misplaced fear one might have concerning spirituality is bred by such things as:
- Unfamiliarity with what spirituality really is (for increasing numbers of people, it has nothing to do with religion or any type of belief in God);
- Closed-minded ideas about spirituality, religion, and/or God (what is real open-mindedness?);
- Mistakenly equating spirituality with religion;
- Assuming spirituality requires or is predicated on a particular religion or a specific or narrow concept of God;
Thoughts and actions that are spiritual for an individual are those that move one toward inner peace, happiness, and contentedness, regardless of our specific beliefs or lack thereof. Spiritual thoughts and actions center around oneness, inclusion, and an orientation to serving and helping others and our community in general.
Here we shall do our best to simplify the meaning of the principles behind the 12 steps for those who may be having difficulty. We also seek to dispel certain preconceived notions about the nature of spiritual principles in general. “Working the steps” requires, among other things, applying and incorporating spiritual principles into every facet of our daily lives. Putting these spiritual principles into action gives us an ongoing spiritual practice, whether or not one realizes it or chooses to frame it as such. The Twelve Steps are tools for living a life of less obsession about self and increased thinking of others, leading to and improving such desired traits as self-esteem and self-confidence (via the reduction of fear by walking through said fears).
Thus we continue our quest to discuss spirituality in recovery. We are going to tackle the first six steps in this article and cover step 7 through step 12 in the follow-up article. Let’s get down to the basics of the action-oriented principles behind the steps.