Step Twelve

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

Leader's Share and Step Questions

12—Step 12—Taking the Steps on the Road

Welcome to Week 12 of the Working the Steps study for the first quarter of 2015. I am Cindy M., a compulsive overeater in recovery, thankful to share with you in this study. All the lessons are available here:

Carrying the Message

As we come to this final lesson I find myself scrambling in my mind to bring together all the things I want to be sure to tell you. But then I stop and know that this is enough, just to cover Step 12, and to set you on your way into the rest of your recovery from here. It has been a privilege to work with you, to read all your responses posted to the list (and to respond to a few of you here and there through the study). This quarter has improved my own recovery and helped me learn how better to serve from here. I hope it has done the same for you.

Having had a spiritual awakening
As the result of these steps,
We tried to carry this message to alcoholics,
And to practice these principles in all our affairs.

So reads Step 12, and it brings us to this question: have you completed all these steps, and have you had a spiritual awakening? For many of us it doesn’t feel like the bolt-of-lightning experience Bill W. had (Big Book, “Bill’s Story,” 14), but even he says that it’s a gradual experience for most, “of the educational variety” (Big Book, Appendix 2, “Spiritual Experience,” 569). Based on the testimony of tens (hundreds?) of thousands of people’s experience, recovery DOES come with this spiritual experience, but we cannot stop there:

    Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. . . . This is our twelfth suggestion: Carry this message to other alcoholics! You can help when no one else can. You can secure their confidence when others fail. Remember they are very ill. (Big Book, “Working With Others,” 89)

And so it is with compulsive eaters—our best hope to keep away from our food compulsions is with intensive work with other compulsive eaters. I have to say it distresses me that so many who are part of this fellowship hold back from sponsoring and other involved service to their fellows. But that is not my business, is it? Instead, I would point you to the promises of this amazing chapter, “Working With Others”:

    Life will take on new meaning. To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends—this is an experience you must not miss (89).

he rest of this chapter focuses on different ways of approaching people who might need recovery, displaying our “toolkit” for their inspection, as if we were door-to-door salesmen (I’m dating myself here!). The most we can do is offer our own stories and the hope that we’ve found, and for those who want to get into the steps, our experience doing them ourselves. So many resources for recovery abound—The Recovery Group website and loops, sites I’ve linked to throughout this study, excellent books and podcasts, and of course the traditional local meetings—that people can fine-tune a plan of recovery to best meet their needs. Our job is to make ourselves available to them in telling our stories and offering sponsorship.

My History of Sponsorship

I was asked by someone to sponsor her when I was just a few weeks into recovery. I knew enough to know that I should take all such questions to my sponsor, and she thought I could sponsor up to the level of recovery that I already had, so I did. I don’t remember who that first person was, but one person stuck with me from those early days and is doing well on her own now, and several fell away. I think one reason they fell away is they saw me struggling with my food and behaviors via my messages on the loops, and they perhaps lost confidence. For that reason, I think it is best to wait to sponsor until we’ve finished Step 9 or are in the midst of finishing it, making our amends. And you’re there now!

But if you get a list of people to sponsor that you feel is all you can handle and know someone desperate for a sponsor who cannot find one, suggest that that person consider getting a “recovery buddy,” someone who can go through the steps along with him.When I came to The Recovery Group, I was grateful to find a sponsor within a week or two, but if I hadn’t I would have had to forge ahead without one—I was that eager! We can recover with just the Big Book and these myriad other resources, though a sponsor is a lot of help, I hope you’ve found!

Some have suggested that if we do not sponsor we will lose recovery. One of our fellows helped me track down one source for this idea, in the chapter “A Vision For You,” pp.156-158, concluding, “They had to give to others what they had found, or be sunk.” I know that I have been very much helped by sponsoring others—for one thing, I’ve learned a lot about my own recovery! And teaching others reinforces these vital truths for us. On the other hand, my sponsor, who has been in recovery for multiple issues for decades, looks at it this way:

    The whole purpose of the AABB and recovery is to find a power greater than yourself who will solve your problem, p. 45. [People lose] their recovery when they make a choice to pick up the drink, the fork, the drug, etc. Even then they don't lose what recovery they have obtained, and as long as they keep coming back, get back in harness, their recovery will not only continue but [become] even stronger. . . . Sponsoring isn't for everyone, having a sponsor or being a sponsor, and to imply they won't find recovery or lose what they [have] is like saying we know something that only God knows.

Consider sponsoring the way I have done in the past – piggybacking on someone else’s step study. Or just read through the Big Book with your sponsee(s). I heard of one sponsor who meets on the phone with her sponsees every week or every few days and they read aloud from the Big Book, then she deals with them on their step work separately. And of course there’s the old-fashioned f2f method.

  • How do you feel about sponsoring? Talk about it a bit.
      Your job now is to be at the place where you may be of maximum helpfulness to others, so never hesitate to go anywhere if you can be helpful. You should not hesitate to visit the most sordid spot on earth on such an errand. (Big Book 102)
  • Can you see how you can be of maximum benefit to others in your life? Did you ever think that that might be the goal of recovery?

  • Now that we’re at the end of our study of the 12 steps, please share any realizations or reinforcements you’ve experienced, that you will carry with you from here.

Please write me privately at if I can answer any questions for you as you complete the study. I want it to be as helpful a study as it can be, and your feedback helps me do that!

For Those Who Have Time: Reading and a Little Meditation

We’re now at the end of our study based on portions of the Big Book, in the chapter “Working With Others,” and Step 12 in the 12-and-12, but don’t stop there. Read all of the Big Book and the 12-and-12 as you are able. In particular, read the beautiful promises and benediction (good saying, or blessing) at the end of the Big Book chapter “A Vision for You”: “Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize we know only a little. God will constantly disclose more to you and to us. . . . Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. . . . We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit. . . . May God bless you and keep you—until then” (64).

I have a little story related to the idea of “maximum helpfulness” in the chapter “Working With Others.” The context particularly directs people in recovery to seek out those who need recovery, but I think it has a more general application, and I hope it will expand your own thoughts, too.

I have a generous-hearted friend in a West Coast City who is a mom of several mostly-grown children, and she was the first person I thought of when a friend in the Middle South had a young adult son relocate to West Coast City to find his fortune, and then wind up in the hospital with a dangerous infection. I connected Middle South Mom with West Coast City Mom online, hoping for some kind of comfort with a local contact. Later that same day West Coast City Mom was at the hospital giving Middle South Mom’s son some good cheer, some candy, and some mama-bear hugs. I was so grateful to have been able to network these two--I realized that they have other children with similar unusual life challenges and could really become good friends and resources for one another. West Coast City Mom is a zany one who will talk your ear off, but she’s willing to be of maximum helpfulness to others, and Middle South Mom—and her son—needed just such a person.

Am I now, in recovery, more willing to do such a thing myself? I hope so. In fact, I have done some things along those lines to be of “maximum helpfulness to others.” And so I look for opportunities as I daily grow in connection to my Higher Power. We are not to have regrets for the past but to move on from there, from here, into whatever HP has next for us.

Thank you for trudging this little way with me on the “Road of Happy Destiny” (Big Book, “A Vision For You,” 164). May we meet again along the way!

Blessings in Recovery,

Cindy M.

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