One Day at a Time – 12 steps to Sanity (For Everyone) – Week 1 – Intro
Over the next 13 weeks or so I am going to be embarking on a new preaching series called “One Day At A Time – 12 steps for everyone” based on a book by Trevor Hudson.
The book is interestingly a reflection on the 12 step program which has traditionally been associated with Alcoholic Anonymous. But Trevor Hudson believes that the principles of the 12 step program have wider application and they are something that everyone can in fact benefit from.
He writes that the book was written especially for those who worry too much, who struggle with some form of compulsive behaviour, for those who battle with increasing levels of stress and tension, for those who sabotage their relationships with destructive patterns of behaviour; those who feel trapped by feelings of guilt, regret and self-condemnation and those who may go to church on a regular basis but feel like their faith has become empty and stagnant.
Trevor Hudson writes that if we struggle with some of these issues then there is Good News! There is available to all of us as human beings a Power greater than ourselves (one could say a power greater than our small ego driven selves) that can help us to change at an inward place; that can set us free from life-spoiling habits and which can help us to grow into better people; that can help to heal relationships, that can equip us to make a creative difference where we live and work. It is a Power he says that can help us to know the living presence of God in our lives.
In Trevor Hudson’s introduction to the book he writes:
“You may be wondering how I, an non-alcoholic, came across the Twelve Step programme?”
He goes on to describe how over the years, as he, even as a minister, preacher and pastor, has struggled with the need to change many areas of his life.
He writes how when he was younger he struggled with an addiction to gambling in the area of horse-racing. He says 25 years of marriage had also brought him the subtle depths of his own self-centredness. Moments of extreme tiredness have exposed compulsive tendencies to overwork and overcommit, and his children especially have taught him over the years to lighten up and to learn to enjoy life a bit. These struggles of the years had caused much heartache and pain and struggle for him.
He writes that some of his friends happen to be recovering alcoholics and he would often get together to talk about the struggles and joys of their lives. Whenever he spoke about his own compulsions and character defects they would point him towards the 12 Step Programme. One day one of these friends told him bluntly “Trevor, just work the Twelve Steps”. And thus he began to do so and has continued to do so ever since then on a day by day basis. It was in this way he came to discover the power and value of the Twelve Step programme and the benefits it can have for everyone.
Over the years, he says that he came to see the value of the steps in helping to keep his life of track and how much they have enriched his own life. They have given him a way of dealing with his tendency towards compulsive behaviour providing him with a practical tool kit for spiritual growth and healing.
But he says the results in his own life should not be surprising because the Twelve Step Program has over many decades helped millions of people all around the world, helping people to find a new peace of mind, a new found freedom and the joy of serving others. They have provided a solid and realistic plan for personal and spiritual growth.
What are the Twelve Steps and how did they originate?
The people largely responsible for formulating the 12 steps were Bill Wilson and Bob Smith who were founding members of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1938. And so this year should be if I am not mistaken the 85th anniversary of the founding of the AA.
The principles listed in the Twelve Steps were principles which Bill and Bob had seen were effective in their own experience and that of other alcoholics and especially from his reading of Jesus Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-8.
To state them briefly, and in a way that is more widely applicable than they way they are formulated in AA, they are as follows:
Step 1. We admitted we were powerless over some area of our lives. That our lives had become unmanageable.
For some that might be alcohol, for others it might be compulsive eating, or overwork, or shopping or an uncontrollable temper, or perhaps an uncontrollable anxiety, or inability to keep one’s office neat and tidy, a crippling sense of perfectionism, addiction to social media or to the constant approval of others… the list could go on.
What area of your life do you perhaps feel powerless over, that sometimes feels unmanageable and that undermines your well being and the well being of those around you?
Step 2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Step 3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over the the care of God, as we understood God. (Non-Subscribing)
Step 4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Step 5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being, the exact nature of our wrongs.
Step 6. We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Step 7. Humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings
Step 8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Step 9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Step 10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Step 11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.
Step 12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others struggling with compulsive and destructive behaviour, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Trevor Hudson makes a few interesting observation that all of the steps in some way or another resonate deeply with the spirit and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and many themes in the New Testament.
Steps 1-3 invite us to give up our natural tendency to want to be in total control – to be managing directors – and instead to let God be God in our lives…. To recognise that there is a greater Wisdom and Intelligence at work in life.
Steps 4 5 and 10 call us to constantly examine our lives and to admit our wrongs.
Steps 6-7 prompt us to let God (a Higher Power) a Wisdom Greater than ourselves change us from the inside out.
Steps 8-9 encourage us to mend our broken relationships wherever we can.
Step 11 encourages us to engage in practices that will enable us to deepen our openness with the Greater Wisdom and Intelligence of Life that we call God.
Step 12 challenges us to share the hope and help we have gained with others.
Trevor Hudson also points out that the 12 steps are not just a set of rules but a way of life… Not something that one does once and then ticks off the list, but a program to live by every day for the rest of ones life. As the AA’s Big Book says: The spiritual Life is not a theory. We have to live it”
And so over the next 12-13 weeks as we explore the 12 Step Program firstly it will give us an insight into a program that has helped to transform the lives of millions of people over the past 85 years. Secondly, it will be an opportunity for us to reflect more deeply on our own lives and give us a set of tools that will hopefully enable us to live lives of greater sanity in a world that can sometimes feel a little insane.
I close with a quote from 2 quotes from Scripture that seem to sum up the invitation of the 12 Step Programme:
Jeremiah 33:6 “Behold, I will bring ...health and healing, and I will heal them; and I will reveal to them an abundance of peace and truth.”
Zechariah 9:12 “Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.”
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