The Twelve Steps for Christians

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

path of stones on the waterSTEP ONE is about recognizing our brokenness.
We admitted we were powerless over the effects of our separation from God – that our lives had become unmanageable.
“I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time” (Rom. 7:18).

What were you taught about the substance or behavior in question by your family?
List current problems.
List all the enticements of the substance or behavior in question.
List current secrets.
How was it manageable, and then become unmanageable?
What were the warning signs that it was becoming unmanageable?
How did you justify the continued use of the substances or behavior?
List all the consequences of the use of the substance or behavior in question.
What were your worst moments?
Why did it take so long to see that it was unmanageable?

Are you one hundred percent convinced you are powerless to control it on your own?

Patrick Carnes references in his books on addiction four core beliefs that can drive addiction:

1. I am basically bad and unworthy.

  • Feelings of inadequacy and failure.
  • I deserve it.
  • Hide the secret.
  • Addiction guides behavior.
  • Front of normalcy, even egocentricity or exaggerated self-importance.

2. No one would love me as I am.

  • What if the truth were known?
  • Fear of being dependent on others.
  • I am the bad one in the relationship.
  • Cannot be honest.
  • Isolated.
  • Do not need anybody and appear unaffected.
  • Family does not understand and feels pushed away, useless, confused and hurt.
  • I become unreachable.

3. My needs are never going to be met if I have to depend on others.

  • Depression, resentment, self-pity
  • Not trusting means I have to become calculating and manipulative.
  • Rules are for the loveable, not the un-loveable.
  • Try to be cared for without expressing that need.

4. (My addiction) is my most important need.

  • (My addiction) replaces relationships.
  • Afraid to live without(my addiction).
  • Preoccupation
  • Compulsion
  • Loss of control
  • Progressive
  • Cover ups
  • Resets the cycle

STEP TWO is about the birth of faith in us.
Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
“That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).

How often do you ask for help, or turn to someone you can trust? How about while you were growing up?
How do you view God? Punishing? Accepting? Noninvolved? Nonexistent?
Who or what has influenced your view of God?

How does this view compare to the story of the welcoming Father (Luke 15:11-24)?

11-12 Then he said, “There was once a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Father, I want right now what’s coming to me.’

12-16 “So the father divided the property between them. It wasn’t long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had. After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to hurt. He signed on with a citizen there who assigned him to his fields to slop the pigs. He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any.

17-20 “That brought him to his senses. He said, ‘All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I’m going back to my father. I’ll say to him, Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.’ He got right up and went home to his father.

20-21 “When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’

22-24 “But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time.

25-27 “All this time his older son was out in the field. When the day’s work was done he came in. As he approached the house, he heard the music and dancing. Calling over one of the houseboys, he asked what was going on. He told him, ‘Your brother came home. Your father has ordered a feast—barbecued beef!—because he has him home safe and sound.’

28-30 “The older brother stalked off in an angry sulk and refused to join in. His father came out and tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t listen. The son said, ‘Look how many years I’ve stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on whores shows up and you go all out with a feast!’

31-32 “His father said, ‘Son, you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!’”

STEP THREE involves a decision to let God be in charge of our lives.
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you” (Rom. 12:1).

What would prevent you from turning your life over and trusting a Higher Power?
How is God working in your life now?
How would you finish the statement, “I’m only loveable if . . .. “

“My wounds are my teachers. I am open to their lessons. I embrace my past.”

“Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,
My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

“I’ll forever wipe the slate clean of their sins. 
Once sins are taken care of for good, there’s no longer any need to offer sacrifices for them” (Hebrews 10:18).

STEP FOUR involves self-examination.
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves, positive and negative.
“Let’s take a good look at the way we’re living and reorder our lives under God” (Lam. 3:40).

Investigate my life, O God,
    find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me,
    get a clear picture of what I’m about;
See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—
    then guide me on the road to eternal life (Psalm 139:23-24).

Patrick Carnes uses an inventory called the Personal Craziness Index:

  • Physical Health. How do you know that you are not taking care of your body?
  • Transportation. What behaviors indicate your life is getting out of control?
  • Environment. What are ways in which you neglect your home or living space?
  • Work. When work is overwhelming, what are your behaviors?
  • Interests. What are you doing when you are not overextended?
  • Social Life. What are the signs that you’ve become isolated or disconnected?
  • Family and Significant Others. What are the signs that you’re withdrawing or disconnected?
  • Finances. What signs indicate that you are financially overextended?
  • Spiritual Life. What aspects do you neglect when you are overextended?
  • Compulsive Behavior. What compulsive behaviors are present when you feel “on edge”?
  • 12 Steps and Sponsorship. Which recovery activities do you neglect first?
  • Healthy Relationships. What are the signs that a relationship is becoming unhealthy or dishonest?

Next, these signs can be used to develop relapse prevention including:

  • Probable Preconditions
  • Sobriety Challenges
  • Self-Talk
  • Worst Possible Consequences
  • Probable Consequences

STEP FIVE is the discipline of confession.
Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
“Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed” (James 5:16). “My people are broken—shattered! – and they put on Band-Aids, Saying, ‘It’s not so bad. You’ll be just fine.’ But things are not ‘just fine’!” (Jeremiah 6:14). “If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God” (1 John 1:9-10). 

STEP SIX is an inner transformation sometimes called repentance.
Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
“Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6). The way is not through your own effort, it is through a broken and repentant heart (Psalms 51:17). “So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet” (James 4:10).

STEP SEVEN involves the transformation or purification of our character.
Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

A sobriety statement includes one’s personal definition of sobriety using:

  • Abstinence List
  • Boundaries List
  • Healthy Relationship Plan

Patrick Carnes also suggests the use of the following tools:

“Fire Drill”

  • Signs or Symptom of Trouble
  • Practice or Drill Steps
  • Immediate Action Steps

“Emergency First Aid Kit”

  • Symbols of recovery, including medallions, tokens, sponsor gifts, and anything that reminds you of significant moments in your recovery
  • Pictures and mementos of loved ones
  • Spiritual items
  • Letters
  • Favorite affirmations, meditations or quotes
  • Phone numbers of sponsor and peers
  • Anything else meaningful to you, including music

“Letter to Yourself”

  • What are the probable circumstances under which it is being read?
  • What are the consequences if you ignore the letter?
  • What would you really need at a time of lapse?
  • What is the hope if you don’t act out?
  • What is at stake if you do act out?
  • What is the plea you need to hear at this moment?

STEP EIGHT involves examining our relationships and preparing ourselves to make amends.
Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
“Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them!” (Luke 6:31).

STEP NINE is the discipline of making amends.
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
“This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God” (Mat. 5:23-24).

STEP TEN is about maintaining progress in recovery.
Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
“These are all warning markers—danger!—in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel—they at the beginning, we at the end—and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence” (1 Cor. 10:12).

More tools that can be used in this step include:

  • Relapse Contract (with yourself)
  • Clear Vision of Recovery including facing emotions and needs, maintaining a sense of accomplishment,  connection with God and others, and gratitude/enjoyment.

STEP ELEVEN involves the spiritual disciplines of prayer and meditation.
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.
“Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives” (Col. 3:16).

STEP TWELVE is about ministry.
Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
“Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived” (Gal. 6:1).

(Bible verses translated from The Message).

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