This is the twelfth in a series of posts in which we hope to acquaint our readers with some of the details surrounding the programs that we recommend.  There are a variety of programs, but because we and most other facilities shape our treatment plans around the 12 Step fellowships, those are the ones on which we will concentrate.

Step 12 reads: “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to (others), and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

The principle behind Step 12 is service.

“What if they had a meeting, but nobody came?”

Some of us in recovery have had that experience. We arrive at a hall where a meeting was scheduled, only to find that the time or location has been changed and the building is dark. The 12 step fellowships have no leaders, just folks who volunteer to help, and people make mistakes. Stuff happens. It’s not uncommon to find others who showed up as well. Sometimes they are newcomers, or people who desperately need a meeting. The usual thing that happens in such situations is that everyone goes for coffee and an impromptu meeting takes place anyway — perhaps not as formal, but often even more satisfying.

This sort of thing is the essence of Step 12 — immediate willingness to support another addict who needs help. “Practice(ing) these principles in all our affairs” most definitely includes helping others who are suffering what we went through. If we aren’t willing to give back what we got from others, to “pay forward” our experience and our hope, then we probably haven’t picked up the program very well at all.

There are many ways to practice Step 12, or “do twelfth step work,” as program folks often say. Early on, we do our part by simply showing up at meetings, as indicated above. Even newcomers can contribute that way. A person at their first meeting may be intimidated by (or may not even believe) some old guy who claims to be 20-plus years clean and sober, but they can certainly relate to someone with six weeks. Six weeks is something they can aspire to.

Newcomers practice Step 12 by setting up and taking down chairs when needed; by making coffee, and by helping close up after the meeting. They go for coffee or a snack afterward, with other members, and encourage that awkward first-timer to join in. Later they move on to more active service, by reading at meetings, chairing meetings, serving in group positions of responsibility and so forth. They carry the message to others by setting a good example, and eventually by sponsoring newcomers and helping them negotiate the steps the way they were helped.

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It’s not much of a stretch — in fact, it isn’t difficult at all — to take the skills we have learned and apply them to our daily lives. In reality, recovery becomes part of our daily lives. We need to live in such a way as to reduce the likelihood of wanting to use alcohol or other drugs again, and the way to do that is to live the kind of life that allows us to feel good about ourselves. We have to return to society, because we can’t hide in meetings forever, and try to live productivly according to our abilities. In time, and with practice, we become habitually clean and sober. The good habits become second nature, just as the old ones were.

Back in the bad old days.

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