When many of us think of recovery from addiction, we often picture sterile, clinical rehabs where one must live for the duration of treatment, which lasts 28 days, right? While addiction treatment centers are widely considered the premiere and most effective form of recovery treatment today, there are actually a wide variety of others. One in particular consists of the twelve-step recovery fellowships that have been immortalized with the expression: “Hello, my name is… and I’m an alcoholic.”
Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in 1935 in Akron, Ohio, by a man named Bill Wilson. Wilson was an alcoholic himself and had made the rounds in many of the treatment programs and support groups that existed at the time. One in particular—called the Oxford Group—was close to what he felt he needed, leading him to create his own, non-denominational methodology that would come to be known as the renowned twelve steps. By 1939, Wilson had begun helping hundreds of others overcome physical dependency and its emotional and spiritual effects, culminating in the publishing of Alcoholics Anonymous, which members of twelve-step groups colloquially refer to as “the Big Book” today.
The Big Book served as a sort of manual for Wilson’s twelve-step method, explaining what each of his twelve steps meant, how they could be worked, and the cumulative benefits afforded by working the twelve steps. Over the course of an individual’s progress through twelve-step recovery, he or she would achieve certain mental and emotional landmarks that would make physical recovery from alcoholism or drug addiction possible. This begins with the admission of one’s addiction and the unmanageability of the addicted lifestyle, continuing through the taking a personal inventory of one’s character defects and the making of amends to those who were wronged over the course of one’s addiction. The beauty of Wilson’s twelve steps is that each step builds upon the steps prior, allowing individuals to incrementally work their way to a place of lasting physical and spiritual recovery.
What is the Twelfth Step of Alcoholics Anonymous?
Once an individual has worked steps One through eleven, he or she can begin step twelve. According to the Big Book, the twelfth step is as follows: “Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of [the twelve steps], we… carry this message this message to alcoholics, and… practice these principles in all our affairs.” The literature states that this final step of Alcoholics Anonymous is a focus on the joys of living as a sober individual. Having achieved a state of physical recovery—and, therefore, spiritual enlightenment—individuals are to begin giving of themselves to others in need, which is a type of giving that asks for no payment or rewards in return. In essence, individuals who have overcome alcoholism begin turning to others who are suffering from the disease of alcoholism or addiction in an effort to help them working through the twelve steps so that they can also achieve a state of physical and spiritual recovery.
Fellowshipping & the Twelfth Step
The Big Book suggests that the process of working through the twelve steps is analogous to a spiritual awakening. Wilson himself implied the spiritual connotations of twelve-step recovery when he was quoted as saying that alcoholism is an individual’s searching for meaning and fulfillment at the bottom of a bottle. Over the course of the twelve steps, an individual uses the Big Book as a sort of blueprint to achieving a spiritual awakening. By the twelfth step, individuals will have achieved their spiritual awakenings as an integral part of the recovery process and are able to begin helping others to achieve the same process. In essence, the twelfth step encourages fellowshipping by having its members help other alcoholics and addicts to work the twelve steps in order to overcome physical dependency and restore a sense of spiritual fulfillment.
In Alcoholics Anonymous, the majority of members work the twelve steps while under the tutelage of a what’s referred to as a sponsor. A sponsor is a fellow member of one’s twelve-step group who has worked the steps him or herself and, due to having this experience in working the twelve steps personally, can help newcomers to fully understand the gravity and work through each of the twelve steps. Being a sponsor is an incredibly important role in the twelve-step method because it’s a position that allows individuals to help others using the twelve-step method. Moreover, the Alcoholics Anonymous literature states that an individual who has worked the twelve steps will have acquired a high degree of honesty, tolerance, acceptance, humility, and consequently, an inner peace and strong sense of love of which he or she had thought him or herself incapable while in the throes of active addiction. Many of these traits are attained as a direct result of the spiritual awakening experienced during the twelve-step recovery process and is a gift that experienced members will want to give or share with others who are suffering, which is an important tenet of fellowshipping.
Why the Twelfth Step is an Important Part of Recovery
The fellowshipping encouraged as part of the twelfth step is an important part of the recovery process for a number of reasons. One reason is that it gives individuals the sense that they are helping others and the pride and joy that comes from that; over the course of addiction, individuals often harm themselves and others, but the twelve steps are a means of helping individuals to reverse the negative effects of their addictions and begin to have a positive life while being a positive influence on others and the world around them. Additionally, having spent the preceding steps focusing inward on one’s own improvement and wellbeing, individuals turn their focus outward as part of the final step, becoming concerned with helping others who are suffering as they had suffered themselves. In short, the part fellowshipping plays is in not only helping others, but in actually wanting others to experience the peace and love of a spiritual awakening in recovery.
Find Freedom in Sobriety with the Palm Beach Institute
There are many tools with which individuals can achieve recovery. However, Alcoholics Anonymous and its numerous derivative groups has remained one of the most well-known and effective recovery tools. If you or someone you love is suffering from alcoholism or addiction and would benefit from learning more about recovery, call the Palm Beach Institute at 855-534-3574 or contact us online today for a free consultation and assessment. Let one of our recovery specialists help you or your loved one begin the journey to health, happiness, and freedom from the chains of addiction.
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