Spiritual evolution – or awakening – and the demolition of our fear-based ego is the common goal of all those who attempt the 12-Step approach to recovery from addiction. The general belief is that if we begin to make changes in these areas we will be able to let go of our old ideas, our addictions, and live more prosperous and fulfilling lives. In taking action to make these changes, we naturally move away from our self-centered and negative behaviors, and towards a positive and moral lifestyle.
When we begin to practice a virtuous lifestyle and implement acts of service, we begin to take the path towards spiritual awareness and growth. Through the 12-Step approach, we also begin the practice of moral principles as part of our recovery process. Most addicts and alcoholics develop unhealthy behaviors, coping skills, and reactions in an attempt to meet their material, emotional, sexual, and social needs. Through acknowledging and setting moral principles and values in place, most addicts learn to manage their instinctual needs by incorporating self-discipline, awareness, and radical acceptance.
Many addicts and alcoholics come from a history of abuse, abandonment, trauma, and overall neglect. The individuals often cope by forming fear-based excessive and impulsive needs that ultimately cultivate chaos, dysfunction, and harm to themselves and others.
Through the gift of a 12-Step recovery process, addicts and alcoholics have the opportunity and are encouraged to become conscious of their thinking, behaviors, and harms that they may cause themselves and the people in their lives. The 12 Steps are designed in a way to mitigate emotional difficulties, relief from the bondage of self, promote spiritual growth, and restore an overall happier and healthier lifestyle.
Restoring Moral Values
Addicts and alcoholics suffer from a dis-ease that is unethical and selfish in nature. This manner of living creates inner conflict, anxiety, and a fear-based mentality. This places u sin conflict with others and cultivates harmful consequences for ourselves and others around us. As we begin to look at our defects of character such as dishonesty, selfishness, greed, envy, and the overall exploitation of others, we begin to see these unethical behaviors act as a barrier to spiritual growth and development.
Restoring moral or virtuous values and action are important to our overall spiritual growth. When we begin to lay the foundation of reestablishing our morals and values, our inner state of serenity, contentment, and gratitude is restored. Practicing moral principles requires self-awareness and discipline. The egotistical impulses and desires of the alcoholic do not fall away overnight. However, through consistently taking inventory and practicing self-discipline, overtime these behaviors are replaced by healthy, wholesome, and moral principles.
Most of us come into a program of recovery, from addiction, spiritually bankrupt and absolutely hopeless. Many addicts struggle with self-loathing, guilt, shame, and utter isolation. It would be fair to say that most addicts are void of a spiritual connection, further propelling the insanity of the disease of addiction.
A spiritual malady (as described in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous) requires a spiritual solution. Spiritual growth is a vital component of recovery from addiction. Spiritual growth requires a connection to a Higher Power, people, the world, and a sense of purpose. Trust, faith, respect, and self-acceptance are values embodied within the process of spiritual growth. The immersion of the 12 Steps includes spiritual philosophies that encourage recovering men and women to find a state of serenity, happiness, relational healing, and overall freedom from the bondage of self.
Service and Altruism
“Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail.” Big Book Alcoholics Anonymous pg.89
The literature of Alcoholics Anonymous explicitly describes the importance of service as it pertains to the individual recovering from alcoholism. Altruism and compassion are the natural byproducts of experiencing a spiritual awakening and is encouraged throughout the process of spiritual growth. Service is a common principle of all spiritual traditions.
Altruism refers to the act of giving to others without the expectation of reward. When we are practicing love with attachment, we increase the ego’s sense of identity while separating us from our true selves. The transcendence of self-centered ego and practicing love without attachment is a result of altruism. When referring to spiritual growth, the practice of love is the best way to connect ourselves to God and the good within us.
When we begin to make ourselves available to the service of others, we are expressing our empathic higher nature while connecting us with humanity as a whole. Perfect love drives out fear. Service to others takes us outside of our fear-based ego and promotes love, kindness, and compassion. Reducing isolation, comparison, and separation – service cultivates an overall sense of inner peace and purpose. The mutuality in acts of service has proven that the alcohol gains as much as he/she gives. The reciprocal nature of giving is one of the most beautiful and fundamental practices within the 12 Step recovery from addiction.
Chop wood, carry water