Having Had a Spiritual Awakening - Step 12

"Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs."

Spiritual awakening? What's that? You know when you have had one, whether sudden, like a lightening bolt (hit's forehead and says, " I coulda' had a V-8", thinking, "why did this take me so long?") or a gradual and subtle infusion of a sense of...connectedness. I am reminded of the cute little saying, "Life is what happens while you are making plans." Similarly, a spiritual awakening is what happens while you are working the steps. We focus on working hard at the step in front of us, working them in order, struggling to "get a God", making ourselves write out an inventory and look at resentments, gritting our teeth and looking at our part in these old and new struggles. Then we move on, with the help of a sponsor, someone who has worked the steps and had a serious and positive change in his or her life. We look more at ourselves, at traits we want to remove; we ask for God's help in hitting "delete" on some of the stuff in our personality and behavior we find objectionable.

We change (amend) how we treat others, going to some to make a direct amend, either financially, materially or otherwise.

The "otherwise" may include something as subtle as having been disrespectful or discounting to a neighbor, friend or relative, maybe to our spouse. In the past, we were so self-centered, so intensely focused on our own little world, all we could do was desperately try to make the world 'fit' to make us happy, or at least okay. We were rude because others didn't fit into our expectations and didn't behave in a manner that made us feel okay. We were, of course, trying to fill the void. (see my article Fill the Void...). The void can only be filled by spiritual connectedness, not by drugs, stuff, jobs or other people.

Whether materially, emotionally or spiritually, we lived trying to get...to get something to fill the void. By working through the steps, we begin to discover who we were and who and how we want to be. We see how we can give...especially by demonstrating the qualities we have been wanting to get from others: kindness, acknowledgment, acceptance and so on. In the past, we blamed and criticized others. We wanted them to treat us differently, never realizing we were being the type of person we did not want others to be; we were doing harm to others. We find out that we can only change ourselves; we cannot demand that someone else change. Interestingly, we may get what we wanted all along as others change in response to our changes. We may also find we get what we need from a deeper and more real relationship with God. The void gets filled when we start changing our focus from getting to giving.

By the time we finish sincerely working the first 11 steps, we have changed! Our manner of behaving, living and thinking are different. We have a spiritual connection, perhaps with a God with whom we can have a relationship, perhaps with the world around us, other human beings, nature or our own center. However we may articulate it, we are different. We are growing, not just emotionally and in our behavior and actions, but spiritually. The journey is under way!

Keep going! Do not go back. If you are an alcoholic or addict in recovery, do not return to substance use or switch to abusing something else (see the list of process addictions on my home page). If you are codependent or just a random human being, this is for you, too. Work and rework the steps, live them, grow your healthy relationships, including your relationship with a God of your understanding. Be the person you want to be and the one God made you to be!! Continue seeking.

Contact me and let me know how it goes,

Dr. Dawn Obrecht is the only MD addiction medicine specialist on the western slope of Colorado. She is a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and her office is in Steamboat Springs. She teaches a communication course to medical students at the University Of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver info@docdawn.com.


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