This is going to be the first in a series of blogs on the 12 steps.I have found that the 12 steps are an interesting topic. On one hand, I know many people that attribute many years of sobriety from a number of different addictions to the 12 step process.I also see that many 12 step meetings such as AA and NA meet in church buildings. On the other hand, I know pastors that believe the 12 steps are a work of the devil and discourage church members from participating in them. Few people though, that haven’t participated in the steps, know anything about the history of the steps and the process that’s involved. When I ask christians that reject the steps why they do they usually respond with something about the language of a “higher power” and will follow up with a story about someone they know whose “higher power” is a lamp. I often wonder if they really know someone that believes this or if it’s just something they heard somewhere. When pushed, it’s rare that they can even recite more than one or two of the steps.
The steps are best known for their use in Alcoholics Anonymous which was founded by Bill W, but where did he get the idea or inspiration?Bill W had struggled with alcoholism most of his life and had spent much time in sanitariums. At that time treatment centers didn’t exist. Bill and his wife had conclude that he would never find freedom from his addiction and questioned how much longer he could even survive in his state. Enter Ebby Thacher and the Oxford Group. Ebby was an old friend that also struggled with alcohol and he wanted to come by and talk. Ebby had become involved in the Oxford Group, a christian organization founded by Frank Bachman in 1921. The group believed “the root of all problems were the personal problems of fear and selfishness … (and) that the solution to living with fear and selfishness was to surrender one’s life over to God’s plan.”
The Oxford group professed to be made up of people from all walks of life and listed six tenets necessary for a spiritual revolution. 1) Men are sinners. 2) Men can be changed. 3) Confession is a prerequisite for change. 4) The changed soul has direct access to God. 5) The age of miracles has returned. 6) Those who have been changed must change others. Step 6 is what led Ebby to contact Bill. Ebby persuade Bill to attend a meeting and Bill came to follow the tenets of the Oxford Group and found sobriety. As Bill practiced the principles, especially step 6, he began to invite other alcoholics to Oxford Group meetings. As more alcoholics began to visit, the members of the meetings began to get frustrated. The Oxford Group was what would be referred to as a holiness movement. Many of the members Bill invited were showing up still intoxicated or suffering from a hangover. Often they would congregate at the door before and after meetings to smoke. These behaviors were frowned upon by the members and Bill’s friends earned the nickname “the drunks of the Oxford Group.”
Many of us in active recovery have experienced being a little to rough around the edges for “good people.” It wasn’t long before Bill realized the need for meetings where his friends could work their recovery without fear of judgement. Next week we will look at how 6 steps expanded to 12. In my journey, like Bill, I need community, a place where I can be accepted with my rough edges and I’m not going to be judged as I learn what it’s like to live a sober life. If this sounds like something you’re looking for, shoot me an email at RWcoaching2@gmail.com. Let’s talk.