Once we’ve worked through the first 11 steps in recovery, we feel like its time to sit back and take a deep sigh of relief. After all, the hardest parts of the 12-step program are over, including the dreaded amends process and surrendering to a Higher Power. Many hope to simply continue going to meetings and talking with their own sponsor after working through a very emotionally difficult program such as AA.
Step 12 is probably one of the most important steps in terms of ensuring that sobriety is maintained. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous defines Step 12 as, “Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” This step centers on taking action and being an involved member of the AA community. Founder of AA, Bill Wilson, writes, “The joy of living is the theme of AA’s 12th step, and action is its key word. Here we turn to other alcoholics who are still in distress.”
Step 12 also focuses on the importance of emotional sobriety. Emotional sobriety differs from physical sobriety in that it recognizes a spiritual change as the key to staying sober, versus simply a physical, willful act. Psychology Today defines emotional sobriety as, “less about the quality of the feeling (“good” or “bad), and more about the general ability to feel one’s feelings.” In other words, emotional sobriety is achieved when we are completely honest with ourselves and those around us about what is really going on within.
So why is emotional sobriety, working with other alcoholics, and carrying the message to others so important in maintaining sobriety? What is it about Step 12 that resonates so strongly with so many of us, and why many recovering addicts who have quite a few years sober, push the importance of it on newcomers? Here are 3 reasons.
1. Step 12 is about being a part of a community. Imagine the alcoholic as a man on his own island, who chooses to stay on the island when rescuers come. We love to be alone; we think we can handle whatever comes our way. Furthermore, we don’t want to admit that we can’t be alone and maintain that we can solve our own problems. Step 12 crushes that notion. It forces us to be a part of a community, regardless of how much we don’t want to be, in order to stay sober. The founders of AA recognized that isolation is one of the key causes for relapse, and that community is its antidote.
2. Step 12 reminds us where we came from. When we work with other recovering alcoholics and addicts, we are reminded that we are really no better or worse off than anyone else. Many times, it’s easy for those with years of sobriety to become overly confident in their ability to remain sober. When working with other recovering alcoholics and addicts, we are reminded of how close we are on a daily basis to going back to drinking. We are just one drink away from being a drunk, unless we follow the steps and “practice these principles in all our affairs.” In other words, Step 12 forces us to be humble.
3. Step 12 is crucial to helping other alcoholics stay sober too. Yes it’s not just about us! Step 12 is about working with others so they can stay sober. While we grumble and complain about getting a phone call from another alcoholic in the middle of the night, we may never realize how helpful that conversation is to the person on the receiving end. It reminds us of where we started, and how the community of AA initially helped us get sober.
Helping others is the key to maintaining emotional and physical sobriety. Bill Wilson writes, “Even the newest of newcomers finds undreamed rewards as he tries to help his brother alcoholic, the one who is even blinder than he.” In other words, there is always someone more helpless than we are. The founders of AA were somewhat new themselves before they started to help other alcoholics; there was nobody else to take charge of the situation. Sometimes the person with 30 days of sobriety can be more useful to a person with 1 day then a person with 30 years can.
We all come from different experiences that our Higher Power uses to help us work the 12 steps with others. Finally, the alcoholic and addict will no longer simply be physically sober from working the 12 steps, but will be able to maintain emotional sobriety. It is only in emotional sobriety that we can be “happy, joyous, and free,” as the program frequently alludes to.
Do you want to be a part of a community that can help you maintain physical and emotional sobriety? Are you struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol? Contact Linda Rose at Footprints Behavioral Health today at 949-558-4723. Don’t wait any longer to start your roadmap towards recovery.