Please center yourself as you are able.
- Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, from the bottom of page 85 through the end of the Chapter.
- AA 12 & 12, Step 11.
Where are we with this now?
We’ve begun a lifelong practice of step 10 in which we continue to take inventory and in which we ask our higher powers to remove our character defects as they come up in our lives, discus them with another person, and then we do something of service to other people. We make amends as needed and we practice the steps -- we keep our lives free from the wreckage that had accumulated in our past, and that we got rid of in steps 7, 8 and 9. But this ain’t easy. This requires some heavy duty reinforcements if we are going to keep doing this. Step 11 provides the reinforcements, and it circles us back to where we started:
Basically we were a wreck (Step 1), we were, and always will be, powerless over the disease that wrecked us (Step 2), and we decided to accept a higher power to recover from that disease (Step 3). Step 11 is really the last point where the rubber meets the road on this higher power thing. If we are still doubting that our higher powers will work for us, it is time to let that doubt go. The leap of faith, no matter where you have found that faith, has to now be taken every single minute, if we want to stay in recovery. And (AA BB p. 88), Faith without works is dead. We’ll see that applies a lot to Step 12, but also right here and right now to step 11 -- this requires some work, and we have to do it.
- We admitted we were powerless over compulsive eating — that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
AA Big Book, p. 83
The Spiritual life is not a theory. We have to live it.
AA Big Book p. 85. Be sure to read it out loud, substiting your name, the words compulsive overeating, and higher power as you need to:
It is easy to let up on the spiritual program of action and rest on our laurels. We are headed for trouble if we do, for alcohol is a subtle foe. We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition. Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God’s will into all of our activities. “How can I best serve Thee -- They will (not mine) be done” These are the thought which must go with us constantly. We can exercise our will power along this line all we wish. It is the proper use of the will.
AA Big Book. p. 86
Step Eleven suggests prayer and meditation...It works, if we have the proper attitude and work at it.
The Big Book on Page 86 gives us specific directions. The are multiple parts and the parts have multiple steps, and require some practice, and some habit forming. Nonetheless these are easy, easy to follow if you have a relationship with a capital G god. If not, I found it a little trickier, and I’ll share what I do.
Here’s the directions, in three parts.
Step 11, Part I -- At night
In the Big Book you’ll read this all in a paragraph, but I’ve separated them and added bullets to be easier to read, and to provide emphasis. This part has three steps. The first gives us a specific set of questions to answer. The second tells us what not to do as we answer the questions and the third tells us what to do after we answer the questions.
When we retire at night, we constructively review our day.
- Were we resentful, selfish, dishonest or afraid?
- Do we owe an apology?
- Have we kept something to ourselves which should be discussed with another person at once?
- Were we kind and loving toward all?
- What could we have done better?
- Were we thinking our ourselves most of the time?
- Or were we thinking of what we could do for others, of what we could pack into the stream of life?
But we must be careful not to drift into worry, remorse, or morbid reflection, for that would diminish our usefulness to others.
After making our review we ask God’s forgiveness and inquire what corrective measures should be taken.
Working Step 11, Part I
I have developed a writing practice. I copy and paste these questions daily, and actually intentionally and mindfully answer each one of them as they are written. It hasn’t worked to let them blend together, which is what happened when I did this without writing, and I don’t skip any of them. A serious look at my days, especially over time, has shown me that even though I may have acted kind and loving to everyone, sometimes I wasn’t, and sometimes my intent wasn’t kind and loving. This is important for me because I define my higher power as Love and Service. Being a little bit rigid about how I answer these questions has over time, shown me patterns and ways in which I can serve others better. I especially have seen where I tend to be dishonest.
There is no direction in the Big Book for writing this or sharing it, and you don’t have to do it. I actually do both -- sending the answers off to my sponsor. Nonetheless, this isn’t about my sponsor-- this is between me and my higher power -- but I have needed that external accountability.
Step 11, Part II -- On Awakening
Next we are told what we do when we wake up in the mornings. This one is can be short and sweet, and really is just a short prayer or a meditation, or , if this is easier for you, an attitude adjustment. It is lengthened by a good period of meditation.
The Big Book on Page 86 - 87
On awakening let us think about the twenty-four hours ahead. We consider our plans for the day. Before we begin we ask God to direct our thinking, especially that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives...our thought life will be placed on a much higher plane when our thinking is cleared of wrong motives.
In thinking about our day we may face indecision...Here We ask God for an inspiration, an intuitive thought or a decision. We relax and take it easy. We don’t struggle. We are often surprised how the right answers come after we have tried this for a while….We find that our thinking will, as time passes, be more and more on the place of inspiration. We come to rely upon it.
We usually conclude the period of meditation with a prayer that we be shown all throughout the day what our next step is to be, that we be given whatever we need to take care of such problems. We ask especially for freedom from self-will, and we are careful to make no request for ourselves only.
Working Step 11, Part II
For me, practicing this step varies, but it IS the first thing I do -- before I even get out of bed. Before I begin any part of my day. My first thought is that my day needs to be directed towards Love and Service. That’s my attitude adjustment. I remind myself quickly that I love my family and the rest of the people I will meet that day, and that the day will be about serving them. Then I head for the bathroom! So you can see, its gotta’ be quick, and it is.
My day begins very early and the first thing I need to do is drive my husband to his train (he commutes, I don’t), so that little bit while still in bed is how I begin. When I get back home, then I settle down for a decent meditation period. I find a place -- in the warmer weather it is outside; in the colder weather it is inside by a fireplace -- that I can relax and take it easy. I allow the time and the place to ask the questions: What will I face during the day, and what will each person in my family face during the day? I deliberately think about what each of those people need and what I can do to facilitate that. Usually it is nothing more than to send out positive thoughts. If there is something I can do, I make a plan to do it, even if it will occupy time I may have wanted for something else. If I am angry with someone, I wish for them what I would want for myself. I conclude my time, if I have time, and over time, I developed it, I read things that speak to me.
Step 11, Part III-- As we Go through the day
AA Big Book p. 88
As we go through the day, when agitated or doubtful, and ask for the next right thought or action. We constantly remind ourselves we are no longer running the show, humbly saying to ourselves many times each day “Thy will be done.” We are then in much less danger of excitement, fear, anger, worry self pity or foolish decisions. We do not tire so easily, for we are not burning up energy foolishly as we did when we were trying to arrange life to suit ourselves.
Working Step 11, Part III
I have, and do, in my disease, suffer from a lot of knee jerk reactions. These usually arise out of selfishness or self seeking character defects, and sometimes out of fear. (Often something like, “She is getting credit for something I did,” or “my boss will see that she’s better than me.” or my personal favorite, “you wouldn’t do that if you loved me.” ) Often I would snap something ungracious at people. Sometimes as I work on my Step 11 practice, the best I can do is repeat the phrase “What’s the next right thing?” [I know some folks who come from a Christian tradition use the phrase, “Not my will but thine be done] like a mantra, over and over a few times, until the old knee jerk settles down and the answer to that question, “What’s the next right thing” arises inside me. I listen for it. I don’t know where it comes from -- some say that’s god -- I think it is just the best part of me finally talking louder than my disease! At any rate, I know it is a bigger, better power than my disease. And it works. I listen to THAT voice and I do what I know serves Love and Service. Over time, I do less of this mantra-repeating because it has become habitual as I live in recovery instead of in disease. And it is a habitual relationship with my higher power, as I have defined it.
The Promises of Step 11
P. 88 -- it works, It really does.
I can say, for me, it works, it really does.
There are other promises hidden within the directions as well, and they are important. The reason that we get this concluding promise is because we realize those promises as we developed the practice of the parts of Step 11:
- our thought life will be placed on a much higher plane when our thinking is cleared of wrong motives.
- We find that our thinking will, as time passes, be more and more on the place of inspiration. We come to rely upon it.
At this point, read the AA 12 and 12, Step 11. It seems broadly written, directed at this point or that to each of us. The most important part to me is found on page 99, where Bill W writes about the Prayer of St. Francis -- “Lord, make me a channel of thy peace -- that where this is hatred, I may bring love…” etc. and then he goes on to write about the meaning of that word “Channel”... to me this embodied what I wanted to do. In a sort of new-age definition, I do want to channel peace, and love and service. I want to bring it from where it exists within me, and it does, to you.
- What part of the reading passage from the AA 12 and 12 spoke to you?
- How do you practice each part of Step 11? If you don’t practice it, what do you think your practice will look like when you do begin it?
- Are you willing to make this a lifelong practice?
The Twelve Steps
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