Spiritual Simplicity From a 12 Step Perspective

Many who reach the jumping off point for recovery are at a loss as to how to get started.  For years they’ve tried to quit but were unable to.  Now that a crisis (physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual) has precipitated a desperate need to stop using, they feel alone and lost.

If they are fortunate enough to enter a recovery fellowship (12-Step, etc.) or treatment program, they may be presented with a proposition:  are they willing to accept that they are powerless over their substance/their illness, and their lives have become unmanageable?  For many, this is a foregone conclusion.  Jobs have been lost, relationships shattered, and finances are complicated.  This is actually great news to realize or apprehend, as it sets us up to take the first step of acknowledging our powerlessness.

We may recognize that we are powerless and unmanageable.  But then what?  Where do we go from here?  Without further work, we are likely to return to drinking and drugging.  This is where the concept of a higher power is suggested.

Clearly, we can’t stop using and stay stopped by our own will-power.  We have to have help.  For many, the idea that a power greater than self can and will help if asked, is a new idea.  (Afterall, for many they have had no spiritual connection or religious upbringing).  There are also those that enter into recovery and bring their religious background – for better or worse.  For all, this process of defining and relying on a Higher Power is a journey.

Those who are new to recovery may rely on the connection with their peers in recovery to begin this journey.  After all, here are people who have done what they themselves have been unable to do.  There is power and the beginnings of hope in their example.  The spiritual path continues as they hear from these friends the sometimes horrible, sometimes hilarious stories of alcohol and drug use.  Courage, identification and an ability to laugh at ourselves is born as the newcomer realizes, “If they can do it, so can I.”

It is important to emphasize that a higher power in recovery is not defined by anyone except the individual.  We get to decide what that looks like for us.  There are as many definitions of a higher power as there are individuals.  Some may be starting from scratch with no preconceived ideas.  Others may decide to abandon the religious teachings of their upbringing to embrace a more spiritual, less dogmatic way of believing.  But still others are comforted by the religious practices they’ve been taught and dig deeper.

The details don’t matter.  What matters is accepting that we are not in control, that there is a power greater than ourselves (Step 2) and that power will help us if we ask (Step 3).

Recovery may be obtained without adopting a spiritual practice but the breadth or quality of that recovery may be impacted.

As the journey of recovery continues, spiritual practices may be adopted.  Early on, that practice may simply be a prayer, “Please help me”, repeated many times a day.  Many a newcomer is amazed when that prayer helps.  This is the beginning of asking for and receiving help.  An acknowledgement that our power is finite but we have the ability to access an infinite power that can do for us what in the past, has been seemingly impossible. A simple daily reliance on this power gives us the strength, hope and courage to put one foot in front of the other down the road to recovery.