When we first enter the rooms of a twelve-step fellowship, some of us are overwhelmed by the incessant talk of spirituality and the “G” word. It can seem like a lot at first because for so long many of us have gone to irrevocable measures to obtain the drugs or alcohol we needed to keep us afloat.
Rest assured, these spiritual principles do have a purpose and they aren’t as complicated as some make it seem. In fact, the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous based their program of action off of a few basic principles that were used in the Oxford Groups. By a few basic principles, I mean four. The four spiritual principles that twelve-step recovery grew and flourished around are known as the four absolutes – and they aren’t as scary or complex as they may seem.
Although most of our addictions have revolved around lies and manipulation, the first and most basic spiritual principle we must practice is honesty. Absolute honesty means asking the question, “is it true or is it false?”
The question of honesty or deceit is black and white. When we speak about ourselves, whether it is about our day, our past, or our thoughts, the things we say are either true or they are false. While the concept is simple, those who have suffered from addiction may struggle with honesty. Sometimes, we are dishonest with ourselves simply to protect our ego. Other times, honesty is difficult, because it can mean getting vulnerable with others and letting down the walls that we have built so high around us.
Whatever the case may be, honesty is the first step in our journey of healing. We must be honest with ourselves if we are to truly accept our past, present, and future for what it is. We must also be honest with others in order to build genuine relationships with other people in recovery. If we are struggling, the only way to overcome our hardships is to be honest and accept the help we need.
Absolute purity isn’t as black and white as absolute honesty, but that doesn’t mean it is less important. Practicing purity means honestly taking a look at our morals before we act. In doing so, we ask ourselves, “is it right or is it wrong?”
One of the most important parts of recovery is that of having a support group. When you have a support group to turn to before making any important decisions, you have an opportunity to confide in others and seek guidance as to whether or not the decision you are about to make is the right one. Sometimes, the right thing to do may be difficult and emotionally taxing. Over time as we recover, it becomes easier to do the right thing. It really does become second nature.
Undoubtedly, we will make mistakes. We are human, and we are all embarking on this journey of sobriety together. However, our mistakes are merely lessons learned if we are standing on a foundation that is morally pure.
When we take the third step and say the third step prayer, what we are really doing is asking our higher power to remove selfishness from our actions and show us how to carry out God’s will. This is where absolute unselfishness begins, by asking ourselves, “how will this affect my fellows?”
It is no secret that we are usually pretty selfish people while we are held tightly by the grips of addiction. When we get sober, we begin to learn that our purpose in life may very well be to help the next addict or alcoholic get sober just as we did. If we are constantly thinking about ourselves, we are only diminishing our usefulness towards others.
If something I am about to say has nothing to give towards the recovery or happiness of another person, it shouldn’t be said. If something I am about to do is going to hurt somebody else, it shouldn’t be done. In practicing absolute unselfishness, we must give freely of ourselves, without expecting anything in return. The action of giving freely is pure, and helping another person recover is our primary purpose.
Each of the four absolutes seems to set the foundation for absolute love. Absolute love is honest, it is pure, and it is unselfish. It is the basis upon which we will begin to live once we have begun to see the gifts that recovery can bring and how we can benefit others. Absolute love means inquiring to ourselves, “is it ugly or is it beautiful?”
Dishonesty is ugly because it is deceitful. Doing the wrong thing is ugly because it is harmful. Being selfish is also ugly because it is egotistical. Love, on the other hand, is beautiful. Love means taking action and responsibility for our own lives. Love is correcting the damages of our past and changing the way we act. Love is reaching out to somebody who is suffering and exchanging a deep belly laugh with them.
Love is an action word, and recovery is all about action. Without action, we are doomed to fall back into a cycle of drug abuse, fear, and possibly death. If we have completely surrendered to the fact that our lives need drastic change, we begin to love deeply and fearlessly. Absolute love reaps bountiful emotional and material benefits to us if only we practice it long enough to see the beauty in each and every small component in life.