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The Twelfth Step
A Life of Reconstruction

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to [others], and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, NY: A.A. World Services, 1981, pp. 106f.

The joy of living is the theme of A.A's Twelfth Step, and action is its key word. Here we turn outward toward [those] who are still in distress. Here we experience the kind of giving that asks no rewards. Here we begin to practice all Twelve Steps of the program in our daily lives so that we and those about us may find emotional sobriety. When the Twelfth Step is seen in its full implication, it is really talking about the kind of love that has no price tag on it.

To new A.A.'s this often seems like a very dubious and improbable state of affairs. "What do you mean when you talk about a 'spiritual awakening'?" they ask.

When a man or a woman has a spiritual awakening, the most important meaning of it is that he has now become able to do, feel, and believe that which he could not do before on his unaided strength and resources alone. He has been granted a gift which amounts to a new state of consciousness and being. He has been set on a path which tells him he is really going somewhere, that life is not a dead end, not something to be endured or mastered. In a very real sense he has been transformed, because he has laid hold of a source of strength which, in one way or another, he had hitherto denied himself. He finds himself in possession of  a degree of honesty, tolerance, unselfishness, peace of mind, and love  of which he had thought himself quite incapable. What he has received is a free gift.

A.A.'s manner of making ready to receive this gift lies in the practice of the Twelve Steps in our program. So let's consider briefly what we have been trying to do up to this point.

  • Step One showed us an amazing paradox: We found that we were totally unable to be rid of the obsession until we first admitted that we were powerless over it.
  • In Step Two we saw that since we could not restore ourselves to sanity, some Higher Power must necessarily do so if we were to survive.
  • Consequently, in Step Three we turned our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  • Beginning with Step Four, we commenced to search out the things in ourselves which had brought us to physical, moral, and spiritual bankruptcy. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory.
  • Looking at Step Five, we decided that an inventory, taken alone, wouldn't be enough. We knew we would have to quit the deadly business of living alone without conflicts, and in honesty confide these to God and another human being.
  • At Step Six, many of us balked -- for the practical reason that we did not wish to have all our defects of character removed, because we still loved some of them too much. Yet we knew we had to make a settlement with the fundamentals of Step Six. So we decided that while we still had some flaws of character that we could not yet relinquish, we ought nevertheless to quit our stubborn, rebellious hanging on to them. We said to ourselves, "This I cannot do today, perhaps, but I can stop crying out, 'No, never!'"
  • Then, in Step Seven, we humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings such as He could or would under the conditions of the day we asked.
  • In Step Eight, we continued our housecleaning, for we saw that we were not only in conflict with ourselves, but also with people and situations in the world in which we lived. We had to begin to make our peace, and so we listed the people we had harmed and became willing to set things right.
  • We followed this up in Step Nine by making direct amends to those concerned, except when it would injure them or other people.
  • By this time, at Step Ten, we had begun to get a basis for daily living. and we keenly realized that we would need to continue taking personal inventory, and that when we were in the wrong we ought to admit it promptly.
  • In Step Eleven we saw that if a Higher Power had restored us to sanity and had enabled us to live with some peace of mind in a sorely troubled world, then such a Higher Power was worth knowing better.

Now, what about the rest of the Twelfth Step?

Job 8:7 Though thy beginning was small, yet thy latter end should greatly increase.
Zechariah 4:10 For who hath despised the day of small beginnings?

Even the newest of newcomers finds undreamed of rewards as he tries to help his brother alcoholic, the one who is even blinder than he. This is indeed the kind of giving that actually demands nothing in return. He does not expect his brother sufferer to pay him, or even to love him. And then he discovers that by the divine paradox of this kind of giving he has found his own reward, whether his brother has yet received anything or not. His own character may still be gravely defective, but he somehow knows that God has enabled him to make a mighty beginning, and he senses that he stands at the edge of new mysteries, joys, and experiences of which he had never even dreamed

Sacrificial giving without expectation of reward is at the heart of the Christian life.
Chapter seven, "Working with Others," in The Big Blue Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, is entirely devoted to Step Twelve.

Helping others is the foundation stone of your recovery. A kindly act once in a while isn't enough. You have to act the Good Samaritan every day, if need be. It may mean the loss of many nights' sleep, great interference with your pleasures, interruptions to your business. It may mean sharing your money and your home, counseling frantic wives and relatives, innumerable trips to police courts, sanitariums, hospitals, jails and asylums. Your telephone may jangle at any time of the day or night. Your wife may sometimes say she is neglected. A drunk may smash the furniture in your home or burn a mattress. You may have to fight with him if he is violent. Sometimes you will have to call a doctor and administer sedatives under his direction. Another time you may have to send for the police or an ambulance. Occasionally you will have to meet such conditions.

We seldom allow an alcoholic to live in our homes for long at a time. It is not good for him, and it sometimes creates serious complications in a family.

He may be broke and homeless. If he is, you might try to help him about getting a job, or give him a little financial assistance. But you should not deprive your family or creditors of money they should have. Perhaps you will want to take the man into your home for a few days. But be sure you use discretion. Be certain he will be welcomed by your family, and that he is not trying to impose upon you for money, connections, or shelter. Permit that and you only harm him. You will be making it possible for him to be insincere. You may be aiding in his destruction rather than his recovery.

Never avoid these responsibilities, but be sure you are doing the right thing if you assume them.

For the type of alcoholic who is able and willing to get well, little charity, in the ordinary sense of the word, is needed or wanted. The men who cry for money and shelter before conquering alcohol, are on the wrong track. Yet we do go to great extremes to provide each other with these very things, when such action is warranted. This may seem inconsistent, but we think it is not.

It is not the matter of giving that is in question, but when and how to give. That often makes the difference between failure and success. The minute we put our work on a service plane, the alcoholic commences to rely upon our assistance rather than upon God. He clamors for this or that, claiming he cannot master alcohol until his material needs are cared for. Nonsense. Some of us have taken very hard knocks to learn this truth: Job or no job -- wife or no wife -- we simply do not stop drinking so long as we place dependence upon other people ahead of dependence on God.

Burn the idea into the consciousness of every man: he can get well regardless of anyone. The only condition is that he trust in God and clean house.

Life will take on new meaning. To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends -- this is an experience you must not miss.

Glimpses of
Twelfth Step Life

Now the purpose of the commandment is
love from a pure heart,
from a good conscience,
and from sincere faith,
1 Timothy 1:5

Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.
Acts 4:32

And when Peter had come to himself, he said, "Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and has delivered me . . . . " {12} So, when he had considered this, he came to the house of Mary, where many were gathered together praying.
Acts 12:11-12

Likewise greet the church that is in their house.
Romans 16:5

The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.
1 Corinthians 16:19

Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.
Colossians 4:15

And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house:
Philemon 1:2

For where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them.
Matthew 18:20

For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you,
Philemon 1:7

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling,
And to present you faultless
Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
To God our Savior, Who alone is wise,
Be glory and majesty,
Dominion and power,
Both now and forever. Amen.

Jude 1:24-25

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