Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Twelve Steps and Jesus: Steps 1 through 5

The twelve steps are by far the most effective method of permanent recovery from drugs and alcohol ever developed. That’s why we make use of them here, in your workbooks, and that’s why twelve step fellowships like AA, NA, and GA have sprung up across the globe.

We’re going to today look at steps 1 through 5 of this process, and hopefully you’ll be able to gain a better understanding of the steps and how they function toward recovery.

Of course we must always remember that the greatest help to recovery and new life is Jesus Christ himself, as displayed in the gospels.

So let’s look at step one: "We admitted we were powerless over alcohol/drugs–that our lives had become unmanageable."

Surrender is the key
Recognition of Powerlessness
Willingness to see the reality of total brokenness 

What does it mean to make an admission of powerlessness? Its to admit that we can’t do it ourselves. We admit that we can’t overcome addiction alone. Let’s be real, many of us have tried time and again to quit, and we couldn’t on our own.

The Big Book of alcoholics anonymous refers to it this way:

“The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so called will power becomes practically non-existent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink.” –Big Book, pg. 24

So, step 1 is a difficult thing. None of us like to admit we are powerless over anything. We want to think that we have it all under control. It’s only humility after a lot of suffering in active addiction that gets us to admit step 1.

Next we consider step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

So if we’ve become powerless over the drugs and the drink, then we need to discover a power outside ourselves that is stronger. Step two is about the process by which we come to believe that God can restore us to sanity. Because to drink and use drugs until we’re near death is insanity. And this power greater than ourselves, God, is the only one who can remove the addiction problem from our soul.

We had always tried to quit on our own will power. We would swear off and say “I’ll never do that again.” And that’s how most normal people quit drugging or drinking. They just quit. But with an addict, we can’t just quit. We always go back. So the solution is to seek God and be broken free by the power of God. 

Essentially this is a realization that God can do what I can’t
Builds upon a recognition of personal powerlessness
Begins to point the key to recovery away from self and toward God

Step 3 says: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

The Big Book says pg 14: “Simple, but not easy; a price had to be paid. It meant destruction of self-centeredness. I must turn in all things to the Father of Light who presides over us all.”

There’s no way around it. If we really want to be free from addiction for life, then it means turning our will and life over to God. And that is a decision we make.

Essentially what this is, is a design for living that works in rough going. According to the big book, on pg 15. “There is scarcely any form of trouble and misery which has not been overcome among us.”

Bill Wilson, the creator of the 12 steps, thought to himself, when he had finally accepted these facts and taken his 3rd step prayer: “These were revolutionary and drastic proposals, but the moment I fully accepted them, the effect was electric. There was a sense of victory, followed by such a peace and serenity as I had never known.” Pg. 14. 

While step 1 was a recognition of our own ability to force ourselves out of addiction
And step 2 was a recognition that a force beyond ourselves is the only way to escape addiction
Step 3 is the point at which we recognize God is real, that only God can break the chains of addiction
Then we turn our will (our choices) and our life (our future) over to God

But it’s important to remember that faith without works is dead. Which is why after taking the 1st three steps we have go on into steps four and five.

Step 4 says: “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”

I’ve worked with many guys on the twelve steps. And I would always get every excuse under the sun for why they don’t want to do a 4th step inventory.

“I want to leave the past in the past.”

“I don’t need to do an inventory I’ve already talked about it with others.”

And a million excuses. But the truth is they’re afraid. They know if they open up all those memories from the past, of all the things they’ve done, it will be painful. And it is painful. But when we keep all of that stuff locked in the past, it eats away at us, and the pain of it, even locked away in our minds, leads us back to addiction.

Which is why we have to do this step thoroughly. We have to get a notebook and fill that thing up with these memories and stories. We absolutely have to, because these memories and experiences are the key to why we feel miserable when we’re sober. They affect our present mind, even though they exist in past memories. These are traumatic experiences that fill our present with pain, post-traumatic stress, intense anxiety, and depression. We have to bring them into the light, and then the pain disappears.

So on the screen here you’ll see an example of how I was taught to do the 4th step inventory, and I’ll just walk you through the process. If you’ve got a notebook with you, just jot down this diagram on some paper and use it in the future. 

Most never do this and wonder why they keep relapsing
An honest personal inventory forces us to see who we really are, good and bad
This takes guts & courage to do

If we are brave enough to do this, we will be transformed by the process

Finally we reach step 5 which states: “We Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

So very simply, this is where you take what you’ve written and share it with your sponsor, or a pastor or priest. You read through everything you wrote, and share the memories, and the pastor or sponsor provides feedback on the various resentments, fears, and harms to others.

I want to let you know that while I’m here I’d be willing to hear any of your 5th step inventories if you’d like. My office is on the 2nd floor. I’m sure others staff here might be willing to hear such an inventory as well, though you’d need to ask that person directly. Or if you prefer, go to some outside AA and NA meetings, and see if you can find a sponsor to do the steps with. That is probably the best way to go about this. 

Take your 4th step inventory and read it to a trusted individual (preferably a sponsor)
Discuss the issues involved
Leave nothing out, even talk about the very worst things that have happened
After completing this step, spend some time alone reflecting on what was said

So I’d really encourage you to work all of the steps. The truth is, if I had just started going to church, and I never attended AA or NA. And if I hadn’t worked the steps with my sponsor, I would’ve relapsed, and probably be dead today. Church isn’t enough for most of us, we need the weekly support of AA and NA meetings.

But remember, the steps are all essentially about Jesus. The twelve steps were inspired from the Oxford groups movement, which was a Christian movement. So as a Christian you don’t have to be afraid of the steps. The 12 Steps are biblical, and based on biblical principles. We can work the steps 1 through 12 but if we don’t know Jesus, we won’t stay sober in the long term.

We need the steps to stay sober and clean, but if we want forgiveness from our sins, and eternal life in heaven, we need Jesus Christ as our savior. 

The 12 Steps actually have their origin from principles taken from the “Oxford Groups” a movement of 19th century Christians
Thus the 12 Steps are biblical, and based on biblical principles
We can work the steps 1 through 12 but if we don’t know Jesus, we won’t stay sober in the long term.

We need the steps to stay sober an clean, but if we want forgiveness from our sins, and eternal life in heaven, we need Jesus Christ as our savior.