In Part 1 and Part 2, we introduced the first seven steps of the Twelve Steps of recovery. In this post, we will see how the final steps build upon this foundation and parallel to Orthodox Christian practice.
“Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.” “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
Step Eight and Step Nine are about asking forgiveness and trying to right the wrongs of our past. In Step Eight, we write out each person we can remember hurting through thoughts, words, or actions, and then we decide how we can right that wrong. In Step Nine, we go to work by reaching out to each of these people named in Step Eight; we admit how we were wrong and we ask forgiveness. Prayer for the other person can suffice if a direct amends is not possible.
Pride keeps us from admitting our wrongs even to ourselves. In the courtrooms of our minds, we can put to trial those around us and then convince ourselves we are in the right. Steps Eight and Nine help us to see past this unhealthy way of thinking allowing us to discover a healthy humility and an ability to ask for forgiveness. This attitude of vulnerability and humility can assist Orthodox Christians in actively being the Church not just in the abstract, but in creating a more healthy community in Christ.
“Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.” “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”
Step Ten and Step Eleven are about living out previous steps in our daily lives. Step Ten is a reworking of Steps Four through Nine. In a moment of frustration or anger we take a moment to ask ourselves, “How am I in the wrong here? Which of my character defects is playing a part?” Instead of falling back on the old habit of trying to ignore our wrongs, we ask forgiveness as soon as possible. In Step Eleven, we build upon the foundation of Step Two and Step Three by consciously improving our relationship with God through prayer.
The maintenance stage of Steps Ten and Eleven are like the daily living of a truly converted Orthodox Christian. Step Ten is about watchfulness, self-awareness, and continued humility in our daily lives. Each one of us (whether we were baptized Orthodox as infants or came to faith later in life) needs to develop our faith in God (Step Two) followed by a conversion or decision to follow Him (Step Three) in order to actually live out that relationship in our daily lives (Step Eleven). It follows the heavy lifting of Step Nine because we need to first reestablish our proper relationships with our neighbors (forgiving them and asking forgiveness) so that we can have a healthy relationship with God, too.
“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics [addicts], and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”
Step Twelve is practiced by every addict who shares their story with another person. In Twelve Step programs, the emphasis is always on the solution (working the Steps) instead of the problem (the addiction). The problem is discussed only enough to show the low that the person has experienced, and how much God has worked in his or her life. Step Twelve also means working with other addicts one-on-one as a sponsor to assist them in the Steps. The wisdom of the Twelve Steps says that “you can’t give what you don’t have” but also that “if you don’t give it away, you lose it.” Each recovering addict is expected to participate in service to others as a vital aspect of their continued recovery.
After working the Steps, addicts see that recovery isn’t simply about stopping a compulsion or an action; rather, the purpose is to heal as a person and to grow closer to God and neighbor. The work of the Church is to bring us from brokenness to wholeness through unity with Christ and our neighbor. We are not Christians in order to “not do ___” or to be “be nice people”; we are Christians in order to be transformed. And as with Step Twelve, when we have found this source of transformation, Christ, how can we not want to share this gift with others?
The principles found in the Twelve Steps are neither new nor complex. They are principles already found and practiced in the Orthodox Christian Church. What many addicts find, however, is that they had never learned to put these principles to work in their lives until they worked the Steps. Most addicts come to faith through working the Steps, because they finally accept their own powerlessness and trust in God’s strength. Worked in order, the Steps guide a person to mend their relationships with others and with God, and to have a new life guided by His will.
Do you shy away from making amends with others? What keeps you from promptly admitting your wrongs? How do you share with others what Christ has done for you?
Sam is the Director of Youth & Young Adult Ministries at Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Wyckoff, New Jersey. He grew up in Powhatan, Virginia and studied International Affairs and Spanish at James Madison University. Sam received his MDiv from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in 2013. He loves food, languages and good coffee.
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