Step 11 of AA
Step ten marked the first in a series of what are called maintenance steps, those that you continue working daily. Whereas step ten kept you mindful of yourself, step eleven changes the focus to God, or your chosen higher power. This step, like step seven, can be difficult for agnostic and atheist participants, but even the most devout members of Alcoholics Anonymous fumble a bit here. No one is expected to work it perfectly.
Step eleven states:
“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 is about finding your spiritual center and that will look different for each person. Because it will be ongoing, it may not be possible to work it perfectly. But, that’s OK because the act of working it and trying to find your center often produces longer lasting, more powerful effects than any other feature. After all, as the step states “God, as we understood Him.”
The following should help you to better understand step eleven and its goals. For more information about working the steps and other guidance for recovery from alcoholism, call 800-839-1686. You can be connected to treatment centers and even discuss funding.
Why Are Prayer and Meditation Important to Recovery?
They aren’t just important; they are vital if you intend to build your new life on a solid spiritual grounding. AA believes you will grow spiritually through the 12 steps and that this growth will free you from the negative emotions that ruled your life when you were drinking.
Your growing spiritual awareness must be cultivated by a persistent practice of prayer and meditation or you risk stunting its growth. If you don’t have that strong grounding you also risk instability in the recovery you place upon it. When you face stress or other triggers and don’t have a spiritual practice to help you to cope with it, you risk turning to alcohol, like you used to.
Plus, stronger levels of spiritual belief are linked strongly to positive treatment outcomes. Lower levels of spiritual belief are linked more heavily to future relapse.
What if Step Eleven’s Religious Focus Makes Me Uncomfortable?
The first thing to do when you feel yourself resisting step eleven on a gut level is to take a breath and re-read it. There is no specific theology or religious practice being emphasized. As the step allows for God as you understand him, you are welcome (as in earlier steps) to use the higher power that most speaks to your belief system and needs. This can even mean using reality as a form of God.
Studies have shown that most participants in Alcoholics Anonymous will experience a re-affirmation rather than a conversion, so you likely won’t end up adopting views you are opposed to. It is more likely that you will simply strengthen your existing ones.
Some religious people may actually find the lack of dogma off-putting. Meditation and prayer feels so general. That’s true. But, even the most devout believers fail to practice both fully. Belief in God alone won’t build a spiritual practice; you have to do the work. You must transform your belief into a full knowledge-based faith.
How Do I Develop a Spiritual Practice?
There isn’t a single method that will work for all people because spirituality is so individualized. Your journey won’t necessarily be the same as the other members of your 12 step group. Your focus shouldn’t be on racing to enlightenment and achieving spirituality. You should enjoy the journey and the spiritual practice.
You can try the following.
- Spend part of each day on a spiritual quest. Every day, at a set time, close off all outside distractions and search for meaning.
- Designate a specific sacred space where you will perform your daily spiritual practice. many people find comfort in a garden space, but you could just as easily use a comfortable chair or a mat on your living room floor.
- Create a spiritual routine. If organized religion doesn’t work for you, try a series of affirmations, mantras, guided meditation, generalized prayer, journaling, writing a gratitude list, etc.
- Seek out a spiritual mentor. Maybe you know someone whose spirituality reflects your present goal and find out what they do to maintain that connection. You can try adding elements of their practice into yours.
Over time, your practice will develop and this will cause it to change. That’s great. A changing, growing concept of a higher power is a sign of progress and that is the goal of the 12 step model.