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February 2, 2019

How the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous Restored my Faith

I grew up in the stereotypical Italian-Catholic household. We didn’t talk about what happened in the home. God was a punishing God. We took pride in our stubborn successes. Most importantly, crying is a sign of weakness. All of these ideas were all so familiar, yet I rebelled again each one.

I was an open book. I found solace in sharing my pain with others and craved compassion. I resented the idea that “God” was a man in a white robe, seeking vengeance upon all of His creation. I was the most open-minded member of my family. In fact, I was willing to try anything/everything…twice. Crying was the only way I knew how to express any emotion. The juxtaposition of my innate desire to rebel and the parameters set by my parents was uncanny.

I didn’t indulge in drugs an alcohol because of any of the things I listed above. The truth is, under any circumstance, I would’ve crossed over the threshold regardless. When I first walked into the rooms of AA, and realized this was a program reliant upon spirituality, I rolled my eyes and stood in rebellion once again. I knew it all. Afterall, why would a God, that reveled in punishment, want to do anything to help a despairing soul like mine?

The women that surrounded me kept it very simple… “Don’t complicate this, keep it simple. Just follow each step, one day at a time. Do as I do.” Finally, suggestions I was willing to take. I began reading the Big Book and started working the 12 steps in treatment. All of the information flooding my brain, I took every opportunity to over-complicate and intellectualize a very clear concise set of instructions. (As many other alcoholics do) I remember my sponsor having me black out words and replace them with words that didn’t offend my rebellion. She had me literally take the action, step by step.

  1. Admit you are powerless over alcohol
  2. Believe that a higher power can restore sanity
  3. Turn yourself over to God
  4. Make a personal, moral inventory
  5. Admit to the nature of your wrongs
  6. Allow God to repair personal defects
  7. Ask God’s forgiveness
  8. Make a list of those harmed by your alcoholism and be willing to make amends
  9. Work to make amends to these people so long as doing so doesn’t cause harm
  10. Take a personal inventory and admit wrongs each day
  11. Seek God’s guidance
  12. Carry the message to others

As I began to walk through the first few steps I grew increasingly skeptical of who, what, where, when this magic would happen. I heard so many women share their experience with a “spiritual experience”. In all honesty, it all sounded like foolery to me. I knew God, went to church, and even said many foxhole prayers… all of which, to my memory, were never answered the way I wanted.

It was explained to me, pretty early on, that everyone’s journey looked different and willingness is the main key. I was willing. Afterall, I tried EVERYTHING else and nothing worked. I found gratitude in the first 2 steps. I started to pray for willingness when I was unwilling in step 3. Steps 4,5,6 helped me find a newfound humility. My spiritual experience was one of the more educational value during 7,8,9. Victimization and self-loathing slipped away. Steps 10,11, and 12 is where I started to rebuild and cultivate my relationship with God.

Seemingly without provocation, my entire life began to change. I no longer viewed God as a vindictive judge anxiously waiting to lay down my sentencing. I began to see God, so full of grace and unconditional love. The kind of love I chased after my whole life. Looking back on my less than favorable years, there was certainly an outpouring of grace covering and protecting my life. I placed myself in a position to be hurt time and time again. Through it all, I am still standing.  I work my dream job. My family has forgiven me. I have two beautiful children that love me unconditionally. I have real friends today. I have been given a second chance at life. I actually love and look forward to the future and I no longer wish to shut the door on my past. The obsession to drink again has escaped me. I finally found my purpose. Beauty for ashes, I have come to know a new freedom.

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