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 eleven, like step ten, is not a step that is worked once and then forgotten. Instead, it is part of an ongoing (usually daily) ritual of recovery. That said, recovering addicts often find “prayer” and “meditation” to be somewhat baffling concepts. And some, especially those who began the recovery process as agnostics or atheists, may still be struggling with the idea of having a higher power at all. For these reasons (and many others), step eleven can be a difficult one to work. If you find yourself struggling with this step, take heart in the fact that you are not alone. Even the most devoutly spiritual and/or religious members of twelve-step recovery groups sometimes lose their way here.
The good news is that if you’ve diligently worked the first ten steps and find yourself still at odds with the spiritual nature of recovery, that’s OK. As mentioned above, step eleven is part of an ongoing practice. As such, nobody is expected to work it perfectly. In fact, the effort of working step eleven is usually far more important in terms of lasting positive effects than any other factor. The step itself takes this into account by incorporating the words “as we understood Him.” So, however it is that you understand (or don’t understand) your higher power, that’s just peachy. You don’t have to be a devout Christian, Jew, Muslim, or anything else to work step eleven, because step eleven isn’t about religion. It’s about finding your personal spiritual center, whatever that might be.
For some folks this is relatively easy, especially those who arrived in recovery with an existing spiritual practice. In such cases, a renewed effort in that discipline is usually the way to go. The exception to this occurs when a person no longer trusts or believes in that discipline. This sometimes happens when the “religion of one’s childhood” has a scary, judgmental, punishing form of God, or when the people associated with that religion did not adequately practice what they preached. To overcome that, it is entirely acceptable to develop a completely different spiritual connection.
For people who don’t yet have a spiritual connection and for people who are seeking a different one, the mere thought of trying to find one can feel daunting. But it needn’t. The process is not so difficult. The only things required for success are open-mindedness and willingness, and by the time recovering addicts reach step eleven they tend to be at least a little bit familiar with these tenets.
The first thing to understand is that there is no right or wrong way to develop a spiritual connection. There are as many ways to accomplish this task as there are people who’ve done it. No two people will have the same journey and experience. Moreover, the goal isn’t to reach some specific spiritual plateau; the goal is simply making the journey and having the spiritual experience.
Here are a few tips that might help you find your personal pathway toward spirituality.
- Make your spiritual quest a regular part of your daily routine. Set aside a specific time each day where you will not be disturbed by family, work, or other outside distractions.
- Create a “sacred space” in which to conduct your daily spiritual practice. This may be something formal and elaborate, like a meditation garden, or something quite simple, like your favorite easy chair (with the television, stereo, phone, and other potential distractions either removed or turned off).
- Develop a spiritual ritual. This could include a guided meditation, a series of affirmations, a specific or a nonspecific prayer, writing a gratitude list, etc.
- If all else fails, find a spiritual mentor. Pick someone who has what you want in terms of his or her sobriety and spiritual connection, and do what he or she does. Eventually, you will be able to adapt elements of that person’s spiritual practice into your own.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with new ideas and to alter your spiritual practice as time passes. It is likely that as you continue to work step eleven, your concept of a higher power will change, as will your ability to connect with it. Your daily ritual is also likely to vary over time as a reflection of this growth.
In a future posting to this site, I will present suggestions for working step twelve.