What I Learned from Alcoholics Anonymous

Categories Foundations of Leadership4 Comments

In 1935, two guys started a group to help people make character changes in their lives. These character changes were the tools needed to help broken people make a new and successful way in the world. Today, the organization these guys started is active in over 160 countries. It’s called Alcoholics Anonymous.

The twelve principles Bill Wilson and Bob Smith wrote down over 80 years ago have, at their core, the same principles Jesus taught 1,900 years before.

What I learned reading AA’s book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions is that Alcoholics Anonymous is not just for alcoholics.

It’s for us all.

We’re all either lost or recovering, because each of us has wandering off the path. Being followers of Jesus means we’re receiving from the addiction of our own selves.

Here how it works:

Have a Clear and Present View

Without a clear and present view of where we are, we’ve got nothing.

Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Jesus said, “unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in” (Matthew 18:3, Msg).

Later the Apostle Paul reminds: “Examine yourselves…test yourselves” to see where you stand (2 Cor 13:5, ESV).

This is a daily–sometimes hourly–process.

Your Life is About More Than You

Your destination is your purpose.

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 to the care of God as we understood Him.

Your life is not merely about you. When you’re the best thing you’ve got going for yourself, you’re on a free fall. It’s not going to end well.

Jesus said, “Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met” (Matthew 6:33, Msg).

Don’t Hide Your Faults

Don’t hide your faults. Instead, focus on fixing them.

Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Step 7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Jesus told the story of two men who went to worship. The self-indulgent holy man. And the sorry sinner. It was the second who was honest about who he was. And it was the second who “went home made right with God” (Luke 18:9-14, Msg).

Relationships are Golden

Proactively start fixing the things you’ve broken.

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.

To the feisty Corinthians, Paul wrote: “The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! …All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other.”

Follow the Truth…Everything Else is a Lie

Follow truth, wherever it leads.

Step 11: 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.

God is fair and just;
He corrects the misdirected,
Sends them in the right direction (Psalm 25:8, Msg).

To his followers, Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32, ESV).

Pass It On

Spread the word. People need it.

Step 12: 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.

Upon leaving this earth, Jesus gave us our work: “Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life” (Matthew 28:19, Msg).

In the end, we’re all dealing with different versions of the same problem.

For alcoholics, the key is focusing on the truth, building up a support structure, and then reaching out to help others.

And, for the rest of us, it’s exactly the same.

4 thoughts on “What I Learned from Alcoholics Anonymous

  1. Joe, I think you are right about the parallels between Christianity and A.A. I believe the AA “Big Book” as its called even says that the goal is to get folks back into a church, indicating that the original founders never meant to leave the faith. Unfortunately, in practice, AA becomes an end unto itself, meaning growing beyond the AA “program” is discouraged (in some settings – I am sure there are exceptions). No doubt having a “god of my understanding” is helpful for some, especially those hurt by the church in life, but at some point the journey needs to go beyond the god I imagine to meeting the true God. Getting sober is only part of the journey and sometimes, perhaps because sobriety makes life better by itself, the yearning for more is not encouraged. Do not mistake me, I am a fan of AA. I recommend it to folks when I encounter someone struggling with addictions. It has saved many lives that I know of. There is just a caution there to not make AA meetings your church long term and remember living sober and dying lost is not a great outcome.

  2. Amen and Amen! This is what Recovery Care is all about, but we do it through Life’s Healing Choices and shrunk down to 8 principles – but very similar to the 12 steps. We are starting a study coming up on April 12 – Life’s Healing Choices – the 8 principles of healing. Welcome any who would like to come. Rose 

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