Maintaining Our Recovery

Dave’s Page

There are many roads to recovery but by far the one most practiced is the 12 step approach. The Twelve Steps were written by Bill Wilson and became the basis of the book Alcoholics Anonymous which has become known as “The Big Book”. The twelve steps outline a program of action which takes its practitioners through the process of change felt necessary to maintain continuous sobriety. Over the years the 12 steps have been used as the basis for over one hundred programs of recovery from a variety of addictions and behavioral problems.

The first nine steps concern the admission of the problem, the belief that a higher power can alleviate the problem, taking inventory of ourselves, sharing the inventory, looking at our personal character defects, turning the defects over to a higher power for removal, and the making of amends to persons we have harmed. This is the hard work necessary to bring us to the point where the promises of the program can and will be realized. The Promises can only be realized on a daily basis through the constant vigilance and effort required in Steps 10, 11, and 12. These steps have come to be called TheMaintenance Steps and are the key to continuous recovery and the peace of mind that we all desire.

One of Webster’s definitions for the word maintain is “provide with the necessities for life or existence” and its hard to believe that our founders weren’t aware of this when they defined these steps as Maintenance Steps. My sponsor taught me in the early days of my recovery to keep a dictionary next to the Big Book so I could look up words as I went along. I think Bill must have made great use of the dictionary when he wrote.

Using this definition it is easy to draw the parallel between the twelve steps providing the necessities for life and existence for those in recovery. This is especially true of these three steps for without them we are unable to hold on to the progress we have made in the earlier steps and our very life becomes threatened. The last three steps of the twelve step program are applicable to all those wanting to hold on to the progress and promises received from the first nine steps as well as anyone who wants to enhance the quality of their life.

So what are these maintenance steps?

Step Ten suggests that we “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.” As with all of the steps there are spiritual principles attached to each step. The spiritual principles associated with this step are Acceptance, Patience, Perseverance and Vigilance. The step reminds us that selfishness, dishonesty, resentment and fear are still daily problems that can be dealt with effectively by taking a daily inventory. By promptly admitting our mistakes and harmful thoughts and actions we do not let them fester and carry over and accumulate. The step is like a pressure relief valve keeping us right sized.

Step Eleven says that “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.” The spiritual principles behind this step include Knowledge, Attunement and Awareness. The step becomes an anchor for our continued recovery by assuring our reliance on and deepening our relation- ship with a higher power. As this relationship grows we become more and more aware of our Higher Power’s will for us. We become more aware of the fact that we do the steps not so much for us as to be of maximum service to our Higher Power.

Step Twelve tells us “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. The spiritual principles behind this step are Service and Gratitude. Having brought about a personality change sufficient to remain in recovery we are empowered to demonstrate the new principles by which we live, in our daily life through example. We seek out and are available to help others in need.

We often hear it said that we cannot keep our recovery unless we give it away. By the daily practice of these very important maintenance steps we manage through constant vigilance to keep ourselves in right spiritual condition. When we are in right spiritual condition we can give back what has been so freely given to us. By doing this we are able to maintain our recovery. The maintenance steps truly provide us with the necessities for a rewarding and meaningful life as well our very existence.

——– Dave F.

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