TWELVE STEPS TO SOBRIETY
by Ted LeBerthon
Sometimes there will be monuments in hundreds of public places to the anonymous drunk who prayed to God to deliver him from the despair of chronic alcoholism, and in thanks-giving wrote the now famous 12 steps.
In the seven years that have elapsed since he wrote down those 12 steps, many thousands of men and women have taken them, and have achieved sobriety after many a wife, husband, physician, cop, judge, and welfare worker had looked on them as headed for madness, suicide, or some skidrow of forgotten creatures.
The other night, while waiting to address a local Alcoholics Anonymous group, I thumbed over a pamphlet enumerating the 12 steps. I had read over the 12 steps many times, and had marveled at their economy of means, their adherence to essentials. But suddenly I saw their higher and wider significance.
Those 12 steps really are a masterful abridgment of the only possible ultimate international peace program. It has often been said the highest and clearest truth is given men only when they are at the brink of an abyss of final despair. The splendid truth given to a half-crazed drunk who fell to his knees and asked God for light may some day deliver all mankind from chaos just as it delivered him. The mustard seed may become the tree.
Just as this truth came to one man only when long and acute suffering had made him ready to receive it, SO it may come to nations of men when all are crazed with suffering to a point of such mad confusion that statesmen will fall on their knees and beg a forgotten God for light toward a true peace.
Let me set down the 12 steps of the Alcoholics Anonymous program of recovery, asking that you substitute the word materialism for the word alcohol in considering the 1st. step, and the word materialists for the word alcoholics in pondering the 12th.
Also, remember that drunks meet in the Alcoholics Anonymous groups to help one another. They remodel their lives cooperatively. They could not do it alone. Note that the word we is used and not the word I in the steps:
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. We were entirely ready to have God remove these defects of – character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. We continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. We 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.
12. Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
The anonymous author declares that these steps are guides to spiritual progress but not to spiritual perfection. Not only drunks, but any family or social group could use them by substituting the word selfishness for the word alcohol, and the word egoists for the word alcoholics.
Hence Alcoholics Anonymous is a sort of St. John the Baptist, clearing away obstructions, preparing members for the coming of the Lord. It’s membership embraces persons of Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish background. It is a democratic platform on which anyone may stand to find a new beginning, a remembering of a “higher power,” a road back to God.
Many persons in all the nations have long forgotten God in one degree or another to worship the golden calf and have gotten drunk on Satanic illusions or an all-satisfying world. All will need a democratic platform upon which all may stand after the next armistice.
This day or this night, any drunk, man or woman, any poor child of God who is lost in the dark, may write Alcoholics Anonymous and without it costing a penny, find kindly, good-humored companionship and understanding on a road home.
CATHOLIC DIGEST, Vol. 7(7): 5-6, May, 1943