RA offers hope, sanity, and recovery, especially to those who, despite their best efforts, have yet to find full recoveries, no matter what their problems or behaviors may be and their family and friends.
V Broaden and Deepen Your Understanding of the Twelve Steps
12) Step Twelve
Broaden and deepen your understanding of Step Twelve.


“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.”

1. Step Twelve in the 12 & 12, takes up a chapter twice the size of the other steps in the book, which indicates the relative importance of this step.

2. The Twelfth Step is made up of three parts. The first is having had a spiritual awakening. The second is that we tried to carry this message to others. And the third is that we tried to practice these principles in all our affairs.

3. This chapter covers these three sections.

4. In the 12 & 12, on p.106, the first sentence of the first paragraph says:

“The joy of living is the theme of A.A.’s Twelfth Step, and action is its key word.”

5. People sometimes feel that they are so utterly powerless that there’s nothing they can do, no action they can take, to try to control their problems and behaviors. That’s not accurate. We can take action as a demonstration of our faith that God will do for us what we could never do for ourselves.

6. The first sentence of the second paragraph says:

“Our Twelfth Step also says that as a result of practicing all the Steps, we have each found something called a spiritual awakening.”

7. Please notice the accent on all the steps. It takes all of the steps to produce all of the result.

8. And in the middle of the fifth line of the next paragraph, it defines a spiritual awakening. It says:

“When a man or a woman has a spiritual awakening, the most important meaning of it is that he has now become able to do, feel, and believe that which he could not do before on his unaided strength and resources alone. He has been granted a gift which amounts to a new state of consciousness and being.”

9. One of R.A.'s members shares that although he’s Jewish, the reference that helped him to understand this concept was in the New Testament. He shares that before he came into program, he, like most people of whatever religion, knew rather abstractly that the New Testament says that Jesus had walked on water. What he was not aware of was that it says one of the apostles, Peter, also walked on water.

10. Peter was a grown man, a mature man, a fisherman who obviously in his lifetime had bathed and swam, who had experienced enough to know that if he tried to walk on water he was going to sink. And yet when Jesus said, “Come to me,” he stepped out of the boat. Our member wondered why.

11. Here was a person who had to know that walking on water was impossible, that it was utterly beyond his ability, and yet he stepped out of the boat. Why?

12. Our member shares that he believes it could only be because of trust. Peter had developed a trust in his Higher Power that gave him enough faith to step out in that water. He took action. He tried to do the impossible even though his entire lifetime of experience told him he should sink. He attempted the impossible because he saw somebody else doing it and trusted that person when it was told him that he could do it too.

13. Our program provides the identical situation. We’ve spent our whole lives proving that we couldn’t control our problems or behaviors. But now we have a Higher Power, we have a process that puts us into contact with that Higher Power and that Higher Power can do for us what we could never do for ourselves.

14. This means that an alcoholic can make a sane decision to try not to drink alcohol to excess. An overeater can try to eat less. Someone with any problem can react sanely and normally.

15. Taking these actions as a demonstration of our faith that God can do for us what we could never do for ourselves is a very different proposition, and produces a very different result, then taking the same actions as an attempt to demonstrate our self-control, or self-discipline.

16. As part of this process, we need to be willing to let go of the result of our actions, and trust that God’s will, not ours, will be done. This means that we’re not going to do it perfectly. God’s definition of what the result should be does not have to match ours.

17. God can do for us what we could never do for ourselves. Someone who found themselves totally unable to stop drinking suddenly finds that they can take it or leave it alone. Someone who has been totally unable to stay on a diet or, when they did stay on a diet, they immediately put the weight back, suddenly finds they can use a diet as a guide, not as a god. The weight might not come off in a steady progression but it will slowly come off. God can do for us what we could not do for ourselves. As the result of working all of the Steps of this program, we do receive this gift.

18. In the 12 & 12, on p.107, the first full paragraph says:

“A.A.’s manner of making ready to receive this gift lies in the practice of the Twelve Steps in our program.”

19. Once again, this tells us that the spiritual awakening, or the spiritual experience, or a psychic change, is the result of the practice of all the Twelve Steps.

20. It continues with the next sentence, by saying:

“So let’s consider briefly what we have been trying to do up to this point:

Step One showed us an amazing paradox: We found that we were totally unable to be rid of the alcohol obsession until we first admitted that we were powerless over it. In Step Two we saw that since we could not restore ourselves to sanity, some Higher Power must necessarily do so if we were to survive. Consequently, in Step Three we turned our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”

Skipping a sentence, it says:

“Beginning with Step Four, we commenced to search out the things in ourselves which had brought us to physical, moral, and spiritual bankruptcy.”

Skipping a sentence, it continues:

“Looking at Step Five, we decided that an inventory, taken alone, wouldn’t be enough.”

Skipping a sentence:

“At Step Six, many of us balked - for the practical reason that we did not wish to have all our defects of character removed, because we still loved some of them too much.”

Skipping a sentence:

“So we decided that while we still had some flaws of character that we could not yet relinquish, we ought nevertheless to quit our stubborn, rebellious hanging on to them. We said to ourselves, ‘This I cannot do today, perhaps, but I can stop crying out “No, never!”’ Then in Step Seven, we humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings such as He could or would under the conditions of the day we asked. In Step Eight, we continued our housecleaning,”

Skipping down several sentences, it says:

“We followed this up in Step Nine by making direct amends to those concerned, except when it would injure them or other people. By this time, at Step Ten, we had begun to get a basis for daily living, and we keenly realized that we would need to continue taking personal inventory, and when we were in the wrong we ought to admit it promptly. In Step Eleven we saw that if a Higher Power had restored us to sanity and had enabled us to live with some peace of mind in a sorely troubled world, then such a Higher Power was worth knowing better, by as direct contact as possible.”

And skipping to the next paragraph, it says:

“So, practicing these Steps, we had a spiritual awakening about which finally there was no question.”

Skipping to the next paragraph.

“Now, what about the rest of the Twelfth Step? The wonderful energy it releases and the eager action by which it carries our message to the next suffering alcoholic and which finally translates the Twelve Steps into action upon all our affairs is the payoff, the magnificent reality, of Alcoholics Anonymous.”

21. When we look at the steps as a sequence to be worked in order, instead of an entity to be worked simultaneously, the myth that we had to be sober in order to carry the message became a roadblock.

22. How could someone get sober if they couldn’t carry the message of recovery until they got sober?

23. This next paragraph highlights this discrepancy. It says:

“Even the newest of newcomers finds undreamed rewards as he tries to help his brother alcoholic, the one who is even blinder than he.”

24. As we’ve mentioned many times, these books were written as explicit instruction manuals. If they had simply wanted to say, “the newcomer will find some benefit,” that’s what they would have said. They were very careful with what they said and how they said it.

25. And the term they used was “even the newest of newcomers”—what can the newest of newcomer have to give away? And not merely a newcomer, but the newest of newcomers.

26. In other words, you obviously don’t need to have anything to give away in order to start sharing the program.

27. Just for a moment, let’s turn back to R.A.'s Multilith Big Book. In the chapter To Wives, on page 51, in the fifth paragraph, it gives an instruction to a wife about how to interest her husband in the program. It says:

“When a discussion does arise, you might suggest he read this book, or at least the chapter on alcoholism. Tell him you have been worried, though perhaps needlessly. You think he ought to know the subject better, as everyone should have a clear understanding of the risk he takes if he drinks [too] much.”

Skipping to the next paragraph, it says:

“He probably has several alcoholics among his own acquaintances. You might suggest that you both take an interest in them. Drinkers like to help other drinkers. Your husband may be willing to talk to one of them, perhaps over a highball.”

28. Here the Big Book is suggesting that the husband start working with others as a way of getting him interested in joining the program. He’s not even the newest of newcomers.

29. The act of getting out of ourselves, of becoming outwardly focused instead of self-centered, starts us on the path. We don’t have to have anything to give away in order to get out of ourselves.

30. In the 12 & 12, please turn to p.150, at the end of the next to last line, where it says:

“The unique ability of each A.A. to identify himself with, and bring recovery to, the newcomer in no way depends upon his learning, eloquence, or on any special individual skills. The only thing that matters is that he is an alcoholic who has found a key to sobriety.”

31. Please notice that they do not say “sobriety.” It says: a key to sobriety. If someone has found these books, this program, he has found a key to sobriety.

32. The Traditions discuss some doctors who find a cure for cancer, and the moral consequences if these doctors kept that cure to themselves. Picture somebody with cancer who asked their doctor, “has this cure worked for you? I’m not going to try it unless it’s worked for you.”

33. The doctor can truthfully answer that it’s worked for several million other people. Whether it happens to be working for the doctor at that given moment is irrelevant. It’s a proven, workable treatment.

34. When we recognize that getting out of ourselves, being of maximum service to God and our fellows, is an ideal place to be, then whether the program is working to our specifications or not is irrelevant. We know the program works. Whether it is working to our specifications at the moment or not is irrelevant.

35. We can share that the program works with other people regardless of the fact of whether it’s working for us at the moment or not. It is the process of getting out of ourselves, of trying to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and our fellows, which produces and then maintains our own recovery.

36. To deny ourselves the use of a vital ingredient in that process under the misconception that we need the result as a prerequisite doesn’t make sense.

37. Working with others is a vital part of your recovery process. It is essential that you immediately start to give away whatever you have gained in order to keep it. There are no prerequisites needed for working with others.

38. You no longer need be alone. Get someone to work with you, become involved in working with others, get out of yourself and be of service to others. Pass it on!

39. In the 12 & 12, turning back to p.110, in the second full paragraph, the second sentence says:

“We sit in A.A. meetings and listen, not only to receive something ourselves, but to give the reassurance and support which our presence can bring. If our turn comes to speak at a meeting, we again try to carry A.A.’s message. Whether our audience is one or many, it is still Twelfth Step work.”

40. For many of us, our original purpose in going to meetings was self-centered. We went only to see what we could get from the meeting. Remember that the Big Book says that our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us. This suggests that we go to meetings in order to give.

41. We may not always get what we need at a meeting, but we can usually give what we need at a meeting.

42. Also please note that it tells us very explicitly what our sharing should be about. It says that if our turn comes to speak at a meeting, we again try to carry A.A.’s message.

43. Our Fifth Tradition states that:

“Each RECOVERIES ANONYMOUS group ought to be a spiritual entity having but one primary purpose—to carry its message to those who still suffer.”

44. We try to maintain that focus, to adhere to the path detailed by the pioneers in order to duplicate their result.

45. The chances are that newcomers are coming from a different type of experience. It may be with an anonymous program, or it may be with a different type of group—a discussion group, conversation, or a therapy group of some kind.

46. Almost invariably, people try to duplicate what they’re comfortable with. And what they’re comfortable with is sharing about their lives. Fortunately, there are forums where people can do that. There are all kinds of discussion groups. There are group therapy sessions that are held explicitly for people to share about their feelings and relationships. In these other forums they are supposed to do that.

47. Each R.A. group has only one primary purpose—that of carrying its message to those who still suffer.

48. Within each group, we try to maintain this primary focus. When we share personal things at a meeting, we do so to accent how the program is working in our lives.

49. We may sometimes choose to share our histories and experiences on an individual basis with our sponsors and the people we work with, but not at our R.A. Literature Discussions.

50. In the 12 & 12, on p.111, in the bottom paragraph, the second sentence, says:

“What about the practice of these principles in all our affairs?”

51. One of the books they frequently read at the early A.A. meetings was The Greatest Thing in the World by Henry Drummond. This was a book that Dr. Bob used to recommend and which many people have received benefit from.

52. This book is a beautiful dissertation on love based on 1st Corinthians 13, and it mentions Christ. Please keep in mind that we are neither endorsing nor opposing the contents of the book. We are going to read a passage from it simply from a historical perspective to help us to better understand what the pioneers meant when they used the word “practice.”

53. In the yellow hard cover version, on p.35, in the middle of the page, it says:

“What makes a man a good cricketer? Practice. What makes a man a good artist, a good sculptor, a good musician? Practice. What makes a good linguist, a good stenographer? Practice. What makes a man a good man? Practice. Nothing else. There is nothing capricious about religion. We do not get the soul in different ways, under different laws, from those in which we get the body and the mind. If a man does not exercise his arm he develops no biceps muscle; and if a man does not exercise his soul, he acquires no muscle in his soul, no strength of character, no vigor of moral fiber, nor beauty of spiritual growth. Love is not a thing of enthusiastic emotion. It is a rich, strong, manly, vigorous expression of the whole round Christian character - the Christlike nature in its fullest development. And the constituents of this great character are only to be built up by ceaseless practice.

“What was Christ doing in the carpenter's shop? Practicing. Though perfect, we read that he learned obedience, and grew in wisdom and in favor with God. Do not quarrel therefore with your lot in life. Do not complain of its never ceasing cares, its petty environment, the vexations you have to stand, the small and sordid souls you have to live and work with. Above all, do not resent temptation; do not be perplexed because it seems to thicken round you more and more, and ceases neither for effort nor for agony nor prayer. That is your practice.”

54. Many of us had assigned our own definitions to this term. We thought “practice” meant to perform, as an attorney practices his profession. This context shows that practice was originally defined as doing something to get better at it.

55. As we’ve read, we see that the steps are the beginning of a lifetime practice. And that is also appropriate of the Twelfth Step—the practice of these principles in all our affairs. The doing in order to get better at using these principles in all our affairs.

56. In the 12 & 12, on p.112, the first full paragraph, says:

“Furthermore, how shall we come to terms with seeming failure or success? Can we now accept and adjust to either without despair or pride?”

57. If we have worked all Twelve Steps in our lives; if we have turned our will and our life over to the care of God as we understand Him, then it’s just that: seeming failure or success. We can no longer break an arm patting ourselves on the back or beating ourselves over the head, because whatever happens is no longer our responsibility or blame.

58. Skipping to the next paragraph, the last sentence says:

“And if these are facts of life for the many alcoholics who have recovered in A.A., they can become the facts of life for many more.”

59. On p.113, at the end of the top line on the page, it says:

“We temporarily cease to grow because we feel satisfied that there is no need for all of A.A.’s Twelve Steps for us. We are doing fine on a few of them. Maybe we are doing fine on only two of them, the First Step and that part of Twelfth Step where we ‘carry the message.’ In A.A. slang, that blissful state is known as ‘two-stepping.’ And it can go on for years.

“The best-intentioned of us can fall for the ‘two-step’ illusion. Sooner or later the pink cloud stage wears off and things go disappointingly dull. We begin to think that A.A. doesn’t pay off after all. We become puzzled and discouraged.”

60. We need to maintain the recognition that it takes all of the Steps to produce all of the result. We need to recognize that the steps are an entity; that you can no more get the end result from a fraction of them, than you can get the end result of a recipe from using any fraction of the ingredients.

61. Skipping down to the bottom of p.113, in the middle of the fourth line from the bottom of the page, it says:

“Well, we surely have a chance if we switch from ‘two-stepping’ to ‘twelve-stepping,’ if we are willing to receive that grace of God which can sustain and strengthen us in any catastrophe.”

62. Again, it is not up to us to get ourselves from here to there. All we can do is pray for direction and guidance, recognize that there is a place to get to, and ask God to get us there.

63. On p.114, in the third paragraph, the second sentence says:

“But also like others, we often discover a greater challenge in the lesser and more continuous problems of life. Our answer is in still more spiritual development.”

64. Once again, we need to go back to the definition of how to enlarge our spiritual life—through work and self-sacrifice for others. When life presents challenges, when life presents problems, that’s just life.

65. We need to recognize that being recovered, doesn’t mean that life is going to go along on an even keel. Life has its ups and downs, and is usually not problem-free. If we expect problems to happen, things we don’t like, we’re in less danger of being thrown off stride by them.

66. One of R.A.'s members shares that one day, while walking down a staircase, he was preoccupied and tried to step down one step more than there actually was, and he was thrown off balance.

67. He recognized that when he’s paying attention to where he’s walking, he doesn’t have that experience. It was the unexpected that jarred him, that threw him off balance.

68. When, by God’s grace, he maintains a level of awareness, it allows him to enjoy wherever he is. If he feels great, he knows that it won’t last the rest of his life and so he enjoys it, and savors it, because he knows it won’t be there forever.

69. If he feels low, he can now trust that, and relax with it because he knows that the last time he was low it didn’t last the rest of his life. So the chances are it won’t last the rest of his life this time.

70. Being aware that life has its ups and downs takes much of the sting out of them. Using our own history, our own experiences, as the basis for our trust allows us to get through wherever we happen to be.

71. When things occur in our lives that are not the way we would wish them to be, when we find ourselves having problems, the quote we just read states that “Our answer is in still more spiritual development.” We need to get out of ourselves, and ask God to direct and guide us to be of maximum service to Him and our fellows.

72. Moving on to p.115, in the third line from the top, starting with the last word, it says:

“Our demand for emotional security, for our own way, had constantly thrown us into unworkable relations with other people.”

Skipping a sentence, it says:

“Either we had tried to play God and dominate those about us, or we had insisted on being overdependent upon them.”

Skipping down to the middle of the fourth line from where we just left off, it says:

“We blamed them, being quite unable to see that our unreasonable demands had been the cause.”

73. When we try to dominate those about us, when we try to control and manipulate those about us, we find that, very unreasonably on their part, they don’t go along.

74. Even being overdependent is a way of manipulating, a way of controlling. It’s a way of forcing people to be there in the way that we want.

75. People are merely that—people. They are fallible human beings like ourselves, and may not be there when we want them to be. Even if they are there, it may not be in the way that we would wish them to be.

76. When we recognize that other people are just where they’re supposed to be, when we let go of our control and our demands and our manipulation, we find that we have far better relationships with those about us.

77. Again, instead of our self-centered, controlling designs, we need to seek to be of maximum usefulness to God and the people about us.

78. On p.116, starting with the middle of the fifth line on the page, it says:

“We saw that we would need to give constantly of ourselves without demands for repayment. When we persistently did this we gradually found that people were attracted to us as never before. And even if they failed us, we could be understanding and not too seriously affected.”

79. This shows that the way Bill was approached with the program, with an emphasis on the “need to give constantly of ourselves without demands for repayment,” is still the focus of the Twelfth Step today.

80. In A.A. Comes of Age, at the bottom of p.58, is an example of the way the program was originally presented to Bill, in the middle of the bottom line on the page, it says:

“I was told to practice the kind of giving that has no price tag on it, the giving of yourself to somebody.”

81. And on p.63, at the top of the page, at the end of the first line, it says:

“...you try to give of yourself without stint, with no demand for reward;”

82. This concept is still the basis of the Twelfth Step.

83. Back in the 12 & 12, on p.116, in the second paragraph, in the middle of the fifth line, it says:

“If we really depended upon God, we couldn’t very well play God to our fellows nor would we feel the urge wholly to rely on human protection and care.”

84. The program is designed to bring us to a point where we are dependent upon God, not upon any individual or group of individuals. It’s interesting to note that in the early days of program, many people recovered by getting the Big Book through the mail.

85. In A.A. Comes of Age there are many stories about people whose only contact with the program was getting the Big Book and other literature through the mail. They didn’t have a sponsor, there were no meetings for them to go to, they had no one to phone, and yet by working all Twelve Steps, they recovered.

86. However, while we see time and again that we don’t need sponsors or meetings or a fellowship in order to recover, we do need these things in order to stay recovered. We need a forum to share the program. We need other people to endorse R.A.'s experience, to validate it for the newcomer so they are willing to experiment and go through it.

87. One person sharing this process is unique. By definition, two people cannot be unique.

88. One of R.A.'s members shares how she first heard about this process. She shares how she heard one of R.A.'s members speak about the solution that’s in these books, and that she thought that he was absolutely insane. Six months later she heard this person speak again and she thought he was only crazy. Six months later, she heard this person a third time and thought he was just weird.

89. A few months later, she heard this same message from another person, and thought that if it had worked for the two of them, it might also work for her, and it did. She recovered.

90. That is why we need each other and the fellowship to support the carrying of this message of recovery to others.

91. Moving on to p.117, at the end of the fifth line of the first full paragraph, it says:

“Permanent marriage breakups and separations, however, are unusual in A.A.”

92. One reason they had this type of experience was that, as was shared before, it was a unified program. Family members and friends participated on an equal basis with the person who had a problem or behavior that brought them to the program. As this person healed, so did the spouse. And as the spouse healed, so did person who has the problem or behavior.

93. Bill Wilson once wrote that we don’t so much stop drinking as we grow away from it. And if our spouses don’t grow along with us, we grow away from them.

94. It is suggested that you encourage the participation of your family, because their support will also help in your recovery.

95. On p.118, in the bottom paragraph, the first sentence says:

“When the distortion has been great, however, a long period of patient striving may be necessary.”

96. As with all our other character defects and problems, the distortions to our family lives will not usually resolve themselves overnight. Giving the process time to heal our relationships is a vital part of being restored to sanity. Recognizing that many years of hurting others and ourselves will not be eradicated in a few days or weeks or months is simply sanity.

97. Now since the following pages basically cover the same territory we’ve already covered in the Big Book, please keep in mind that the 12 & 12 is a sequel—we are going to skip all the way to p.124.

98. On p.124, in the top full paragraph, the second sentence says:

“We no longer strive to dominate or rule those about us in order to gain self-importance. We no longer seek fame and honor in order to be praised.”

99. Being restored to sanity means that our self-centered motives are no longer our primary motives in our lives. Again, we seek to be at a point where we can be of maximum usefulness to God and our fellows.

100. Skipping to the end of the chapter, it says:

“Understanding is the key to right principles and attitudes, and right action is the key to good living; therefore the joy of good living is the theme of A.A.’s Twelfth Step.

“With each passing day of our lives, may every one of us sense more deeply the inner meaning of A.A.’s simple prayer:

“God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change,
 Courage to change the things we can,
 And wisdom to know the difference.”

101. When we understand the real purpose of working all Twelve Steps, of using this entire process in our lives, we understand that being of maximum usefulness to God and our fellows is the right action, the ideal we need to be led to. We can then take joy in our good living. We see the result that is produced and that is the theme of A.A.’s Twelfth Step — to carry that joy, that message of joy to those who still suffer, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

102. While this is the end of our discussion of the Twelfth Step in this workshop, this is not the end of the literature available for you to read that will enhance your understanding of this process.

103. In the Big Book, the chapter Working With Others guides us in working with a new member. The chapters To Wives and The Family Afterwards guide us in working with a family member or close friend. The chapter To Employers guides us in working with someone we are in a position of authority over. And the chapter A Vision For You extols the virtue of intensive working with others.

104. It is strongly suggested that you read, highlight, and share about these chapters and all the rest of our suggested literature.

105. Please remember that R.A. doesn't want to convince you of anything. R.A.'s experience has been that if you read this material, you will come to the same conclusions that we have. We want to endorse your conclusions, not convince you of ours.


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