Step 11 of AA: Deepening Your Spiritual Connection
Spirituality runs deeply throughout the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, like a stream to which you return to refresh your strength and sobriety—Step 11 of AA is where you’ll focus on this. In Step 2, you defined and embraced the idea of a Higher Power greater than yourself. In Step 3, you turned your life and will over to that Higher Power, and Step 5 through Step 7 asked you to go through the work of admitting and surrendering your shortcomings so that your Higher Power could cleanse you of these character defects.
With Step 11 of AA, you’ll lean even more intentionally into that place of mindfulness. Step 11 focuses on maintaining a spiritual practice that grounds you to your path of sobriety and deepens your connection to your higher power.
What is Step 11 of AA?
“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 11 of AA is meant to deepen your spiritual foundation by establishing a daily practice of prayer, meditation, or other connection to your Higher Power. It’s also a reminder of your commitment to turning your life and will over to that larger governing force.
One of the biggest tenets of Alcoholics Anonymous’ ethos is that your connection to your spiritual guide is what will keep you strong in your sobriety. As the Big Book states, “There is a direct linkage among self-examination, meditation, and prayer…when they are logically related and interwoven, the result is an unshakeable foundation for life.”
AA Step 11 formalizes the routine of making conscious contact with your higher power through a practice of your choice. For many, this is daily prayer and communication with the power you’ve identified as greater than yourself. The act of routinely checking in with God as you understand Him keeps you rooted in the process of honesty, humility, and acceptance that you’ve established throughout the 12-step journey.
Yet, there’s more to AA Step 11 than just meditation or prayer. It’s also another siren call for humility. Often, prayer can be a very selfish endeavor—we pray for things that we want or situations to go our way. Even when we pray for the benefit or health of others, we’re still asking God to bend His will to our own.
Step 11 ensures that we’re not putting our egos at the forefront of our spiritual relationship. Instead, all we ask is for the awareness to recognize our higher power’s will for us and the strength to listen and act accordingly. Just as we exhibited the humility to admit our wrongdoings, we must again have the grace to set aside our own wants for our greater spiritual good.
There’s a good chance you already began praying or meditating at the beginning of your 12-step journey. But it’s easy for this practice to slip from day to day or even fall off entirely as life gets in the way. Step 11’s placement near the end of the 12 Steps of AA is a reminder to consistently come back to your spiritual practice, especially if it’s fallen by the wayside. You may find that your daily conversations with God or your higher power are what help keep you moving forward through your sober life.
Practicing Step 11 of AA
Like any spiritual practice, working Step 11 of Alcoholics Anonymous will be intensely personal to you and reflect your relationship with your higher power. Many members choose to practice Step 11 by participating in traditional expressions of prayer, be that a vocal or mental communication with your higher power.
Not everyone engages in traditional prayer, though, which is why Step 11 also centers on meditation. Meditation can be an excellent bridge as something more terrestrial rather than a God-like figure. Connecting with your inner voice and creating a quiet space in your mind for reflection is a powerful way to look internally and be open to where your higher power is guiding you.
In fact, perhaps the most benefit comes from combining these practices into a holistic spiritual foundation. It’s often said that prayer is communicating with your higher power, and meditation is listening for the response.
Here are just a few ways you might put Step 11 of AA into practice:
- Set aside time for a daily prayer or meditation practice that’s practical for you, like when you first wake up or before you go to bed.
- Find a mantra or affirming statement that you repeat to yourself for strength and guidance.
- Keep a journal and write your “conversations” with your higher power.
- Find an activity in which you feel focused and centered, where your mind goes quiet (like drawing, knitting, or hiking, for example).
Regardless of how you choose to practice Step 11, one important principle remains true: avoid making requests or demands during your practice. It is no longer your own will or ego in the spotlight. Instead, mindfully open yourself up to receiving whatever lessons are there for you and humbly accept the work you must do to maintain a peaceful life of sobriety.
Myths and Misconceptions of AA Step 11
Like with many of the steps of AA, the biggest misconception of Step 11 stems from the words “God” and “prayer.” Though Alcoholics Anonymous was founded on spiritual principles, it is not a religious organization. The original text of the 12 Steps often refers to a Christian God but also takes care in many places to specify that it’s a God “as we understood Him.”
You aren’t required to pray to any specific God or deity. Your higher power is the force that holds you accountable to yourself and inspires you to keep on the sober path.
Prayer, for you, could be connecting with the universe at large, feeling the undercurrent of energy that connects all of human life. This myth is also why “meditation” is an important word in Step 11 and an excellent alternative for those who balk at any inference to religious practice.
After AA Step 11: What’s Next?
Like Step 10 before it, Step 11 is considered a “living” step, meaning it is one of continuous, ongoing work. There’s no timeline for “completing” Step 11 because you won’t ever really stop practicing it.
As you work through Step 11, you’re nearing the end of the formal 12-step journey. There’s just one left: practicing and carrying the message of your spiritual practice to other alcoholics. Step 12 of AA asks you to take the lessons you’ve learned and the work you’ve done and use them to help others on their own journeys to sobriety and a better life.
Connecting with Alcoholics Anonymous
If you’re ready to embark upon a life of peace, health, and sobriety, an AA meeting is waiting for you. You’ll find a support system of members who have stood exactly where you are and who can offer grace, perspective, and strength as you reclaim your life. There’s nothing special to do to join Alcoholics Anonymous—all you need is a desire to stop drinking and do the work.
There are also specialized treatment options for yourself or a loved one in need, like rehab facilities and detox centers. You can call 800-839-1686Who Answers?, and a specialist will offer information and help connect you with the right facility for your needs.