Dear Fellow Travelers,
Step Eleven Essay
It is at this point that some people start to get upset. They usually
cannot distinguish between a spiritual program and a religious one. The
Twelve Steps espouse no religion whatsoever, but make the claim that it
requires the maintenance of a certain spiritual depth in order to recover.
The concept of a Higher Power does not require any metaphysical explanation,
any belief in the supernatural, espouses no dogmas, and requires no rites or
rituals. It does require that we come to understand that we are not the
center of the universe, and a meditative practice that keeps us conscious of
the difference between ourselves and that wholly other that somehow is,
whether it be the group, the sponsor, the Steps themselves, or any kind of
religion we may find helpful, if we do.
I think that meaning comes from metaphor, and the making of metaphor is
not easy. Most therapy consists of finding a picture or finding the words
that make a better sense of reality than we had. This is metaphor. Metaphor
begets story, and story is all we have. Repeatedly, I have tried to share
with you my own Experience, Hope, and Strength. I have a Higher Power, not
because any proof of one was ever offered to me. I have a Higher Power
because the Steps said I needed to have one, and when I agreed to that, and
invented my own version of a God I could understand enough to live with, I
found that recovery became a possibility for me.
At first, I needed a place to surrender. That enormous ego that had
mired me in my addiction, and which ruled (or ruined) the entire universe,
had to go down in inglorious defeat before a Higher Power who could deliver
me from my addiction one day at a time, if sought. Surrendering that ego is a
hard thing to do, from my experience. But somehow I had to let go and let
God, for the miracle of my recovery to begin.
Now, however, I am asked to go beyond that stage of development and to
grow and unfold further -- indeed for the rest of my life. And to do so, I
have to improve my "conscious contact." I will note that every Twelve Step
organization I know of has some kind of daily meditation book. The Recovery
Group is actively writing our own even as we speak. And they are good. So
the wisdom of recovery suggests spending a few moments consciously every
day reflecting on what the God of my understanding is like, and is doing for
me. Please note that the God of MY understanding is able to do good things
for me. I wouldn't have one that couldn't or wouldn't. Mine does. The
present experience is to me something like floating down the river on a raft.
The current is not God, but God uses the current to take me where I need to
be. I don't have to struggle to get there, I only have to quit struggling
against it, and I am taken there.
All of life's problems used to be major crises, something to eat over. Now
the problems seem to have some purpose in them, taking me to a place I need
to be. When there is sorrow, it provides me with a definition of joy, and I
can remember being joyful. When there is anxiety, it provides me with a
definition of serenity, and I am serene again. And so on.
The really big thing is that there have to be channels open in the river
for me to float through on my raft. Those channels are kept open for me by
staying conscious of the Power that is in these Steps, in these recovering
people, in whatever else I may choose to believe is there. In the beginning,
I was a cynical unbeliever. I came to be something else -- a spiritual person
at the least. I have no problem talking about God, especially the Higher
Power one I have come to experience in these rooms. I want to be there in
the stream with this God I have come to know and to love.
The key, of course, is to raise and maintain a consciousness. When I was
in my addiction, I was truly blind to all that went on around me. I was
unconscious. Now I have awakened, and strive through the meditative
practices to keep that consciousness alert and aware, and above all, there.
It is this consciousness that keeps me out of trouble without being afraid of
anything. I don't find my HP to be the author of fear, anxiety, sorrow, or
pain. I don't have to go to the mountaintop to find the causes of those
things. Many of them are in me, and the rest are in the world itself. I am
reminded of the story of a person I know who went to Thailand to study their
concepts of the healing arts. He said that in nutshell, the Thai believe
that healing occurs when people are able to stay in their spiritual center,
and not when they merely recover from a disease.
In the West, medicine fails if the patient dies. In the East, death is seen
as a natural phenomenon which comes to all. Healing is to be able to face
whatever comes grounded in the center of our being, where our God connection
lies. I think there is a great wisdom here. When we stay centered and
conscious, through the practice of "conscious contact," our disease loses the
ability to lead us into the refrigerator, and we don't have to white knuckle
the abstinence, either.
There are many ways to a Higher Power, and many definitions that work for
people. I will tell you of mine, and I hope you will tell me of yours.