A 12-Step Meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous: A Reaction Paper
841 WordsJan 30th, 20183 Pages
The meeting attended was the Stairway Group meeting in Decatur, Alabama. The members who attended this group meeting were of all ages, of both the female and male gender and were white, black, and Hispanic individuals. The majority of the attendees were males.
The first speaker at the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting was a woman who had been sober for more than 15 years. She related that when she was younger, and as the daughter of a preacher, there was a lot of pressure in her hometown to prove she was not a 'goody-two shoes'. She relates that her social drinking became pronounced following her divorce at which time she also began taking nerve pills and specifically Xanax that were not prescribed to her. All of this worsened until she had a car wreck one night causing great amount of disfigurement to her face. This woman suffered greatly for many years going through plastic surgeries in an attempt to correct her facial features. This woman discussed the subject of Attitude Modification during the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
The second speaker was a male attorney who had struggled all of his adult life with alcoholism. He stated that he would work the program and find success in staying sober but whenever he lost a case that resulted in someone…
Understanding the 12 Step program of AA from this perspective and using the liberal principle of freedom to choose one’s own concept in relation to God or Higher Power, enables a more humanistic or broadly spiritual interpretation of the Steps. I will give an example in relation to Step 3, which suggests “…made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” If one’s concept of God is the inner sense of right and wrong, one’s conscience or Good/Love within, one can choose to turn one’s will in this direction, or in other words practice the appropriate moral virtues one is aware of at the time. ‘Do the next right thing’ is often heard around the rooms of AA, which requires the practice of self-discipline or temperance along with any other virtues that may be required as part of that right choice (e.g. could also require the practice of love, humility or acceptance).
I will now attempt to identify the virtues inherent within the 12 Steps of AA. The first Step requires an admission that one lacks control in relation to their drinking and humility, honesty, acceptance of the truth and a surrender of the ego are needed in order to take this Step. Honesty with self and others in relation to one’s lack of control and the humble admission of one’s limitations are needed for Step One. These virtues require ongoing practice in order to maintain sobriety.
Again humility is required for Step 2 and is common to the practice of all 12 Steps. This Step requires an understanding that one is Not-God, is not the centre of the universe, doesn’t know everything and can’t control all things. Pride and the arrogant ego are the enemy of humility and therefore Step 2.
Being humble is having an accurate view of oneself as a limited, imperfect human being and also being honest in the portrayal of oneself to others – without pretence. Humility acknowledges the need for others and reaches out towards them, whereas Pride/ego denies this need and results in an inner emptiness, it cuts one off from others due to its sense of being better than in comparison and therefore lacks identification and compassion for others.
Low self-worth is the opposite extreme to pride and also prevents humility, as it cuts one off from a healthy connection with others as one feels less than in comparison. It also prevents identification and creates feelings of rejection, anger and bitterness towards others.
The humility required for Step 2 allows for an open-minded attitude, as one doesn’t assume all knowledge and power, as opposed to the dogmatic ego which is closed minded as it already knows the ‘truth’. Humility allows for the willingness to believe in something greater than the self.
In addition to humility and willingness Step 3 requires the ongoing practice of faith and self-discipline. Faith in deciding to turn one’s will and life over to a ‘power greater’ and the self-discipline to practice what one believes is a ‘higher power’s’ will. In my case, turning my will and life in the direction of the ‘Good within’ or my conscience as inspired by the principles and practices of the Steps, the inherent moral virtues they contain and the collective wisdom within the fellowship of AA.
Humility, honesty, courage, willingness, compassion, forgiveness and empathy are required for the genuine practice of Steps 4 & 5. It takes humility and courage to look at oneself honestly and to admit one’s faults and failings. The ego and its ‘defences’ always get in the way of this practice in the form of pride, arrogance, resentment, denial, rationalisation and justification. Therefore the willingness to step outside of oneself, to transcend self-centredness and be objective, is paradoxically needed to take one’s own inventory effectively.
One also requires the capacity of compassion, forgiveness and empathy in order to admit one’s faults/failings and their impact (harm) upon others. Compassion and forgiveness towards one’s own faults and failings as an imperfect human being and both empathy and compassion in relation to how one’s faults and failings affect others.
Hopefully the awareness of one’s character defects gained from carrying out Steps 4 & 5 and their effect upon oneself and others creates the acceptance and willingness required in Step 6; acceptance of the need to change and the ongoing willingness to let go of character defects, with the help of a Power Greater than oneself.
Humility and faith are the key virtues of Step 7. The humility to understand the need for change, to rely on help from something greater than oneself and to attempt to transcend oneself and reach out towards moral/spiritual growth. Active participation is essential for me in relation to Step Seven, e.g. prayer, meditation, service, work with a sponsor and actively practicing the rest of the Steps and therefore virtuous living.
I have faith that practising all of the above recovery actions can help remove my shortcomings and develop inner virtue. In relation to prayer and the removal of shortcomings, what about those who do not believe in a personal God? Can they pray for the removal of shortcomings? It’s up to the individual but for me the answer is yes. I pray in order to connect inwardly with the moral/spiritual values I aspire to live by, to affirm my conscience or higher self. The following description of Buddhist prayer in the book ‘Experiencing Spirituality’, p.228, by Ernest Kurtz & Katherine Ketcham, Penguin Group, 2014, expresses well to a large degree my interpretation of non-theistic prayer and how it can relate to Step 7.