THE TWELVE-STEP PROGRAM: STEP ELEVEN
“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.”
In working with people that are not in twelve-step recovery programs, I often hear them say something to this effect: ‘twelve-step programs are not for me…I am not a religious person and there is too much emphasis on God and religion in twelve-step meetings.’ I completely understand where they are coming from.
In six of the twelve steps, there is some explicit reference to God or a higher Power. Also, many people in twelve-step programs rely on God and their religious beliefs in their personal recovery processes. I have written this in previous blog posts but feel it is important to readdress. Twelve-step programs are not inherently religious. Rather, twelve-step programs base recovery upon a foundation of spirituality.
You might wonder, ‘What’s the difference between spirituality and religion? Aren’t those two the same?’ Well, you’re not alone. These terms are often conflated with one another. While religion or a belief in God is spiritual, spirituality does not equate to a belief in God or other religious beliefs. Religion is comprised of organized beliefs and practices, whereas spirituality is unique to the individual. No one can dictate your spirituality to you. Spirituality is simply a belief or feeling that there is something greater than our individual selves. Spirituality is about personal meaning.
When we engage with our spirituality, it could mean doing some meditation, praying to our higher Power for guidance, journaling about our experiences, or going for a peaceful walk through nature, among others. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to engage with your spirituality. Like spirituality itself, it will vary from one person to the next. The important piece is that our spiritual practices encourage mindfulness and self-reflection. We pause to recognize where we are and how we are feeling. What is working for me? What is working against me? What fears do I hold? What am I excited about? It is about self-reflection.
When we are mindful, we come into closer contact with ourselves. We become intimately acquainted with our feelings, such that we may begin to understand them. Doing so enables us to let go of some of our existing beliefs that may be interfering with living a fulfilling life. It is our spirituality that we trust to guide us forward. Step eleven encourages us to integrate spiritual practices into our daily lives.
By Jonathan Fricke, MA