As a person in recovery, I am invited to develop self-awareness. Starting with Step 1 of the 12-Steps, I am asked to recognize and admit my addiction over alcohol and other drugs and the behaviors that I approach addictively. This insight usually comes through pain, suffering and defeat in one form or another. When we come to the end of ourselves, a new life can begin. Some of us have lost everything except our lives in the process.
Some addicts and alcoholics have been able to use treatment facilities to “raise the bottom” so that they could develop self-awareness through education and interaction with others in a safe and controlled environment. Most people do not have the luxury of this treatment alternative. In fact, most addicts and alcoholics never participate in treatment or attend an AA meeting. They die in their addiction, never having met a group of recovering people.
What do we do after the realization that we are powerless over our addiction and our life has become unmanageable (Step One)? After looking for help from a Higher Power (Step Two) and trusting that Power to care for our souls (Step Three), we continue the adventure of self-discovery with a searching and fearless moral inventory in Step Four.
There are a number of ways to approach the fourth step, some are superficial and not very effective, and some are rigorous and can change your life because this begins the process of changing how you see yourself. I have had that experience using an approach to the fourth step which was taken directly from the Big Book and the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. The inventory, combined with a thorough confession as outlined in the fifth step, peels away many of the defenses that blind us to the truth about ourselves.
In fact, the entire 12-Step process is about discovering more and more of the truth about who we are and how we see the world. In Appendix II of the Big Book (pages 567-568), we are informed that most alcoholics as they complete the twelve steps, experience a slow-building spiritual change “of the educational variety”. As a result of this spiritual experience, we see the world differently and so we respond to the world differently. We are transformed. What has changed is our awareness of our self and our Higher Power. This is often accompanied with a complete loss of the desire to use drugs, alcohol, or addictive behaviors.
We are no longer desperate to change the way we experience the world or the way we feel. That’s a miracle. Instead, we can share how we feel with people who care enough to listen. That’s the fellowship of AA. We are often also inspired to help those who still suffer. That’s putting the Twelfth Step into action.