From the 12@12 (AA book "Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions").
"Another great dividend we may expect from confiding our defects to another human being is humility-a word often misunderstood. To those who have made progress in A.A., it amounts to a clear recognition of what and who we really are, followed by a sincere attempt to become what we could be. Therefore, our first practical move toward humility must consist of recognizing our deficiencies." (end of quote)
On entering AA, the word humility jumped out to me from the 12 steps printed on roller shades.
My lifelong perception of that word was wrong. I thought humility was to drive my old van with rust holes and to wear old clothes. It took at least 8 years around AA to begin to comprehend the scope of humility as used by the 12 step program of recovery. And even more years to note the definition from the 12&12 quoted above in it's step 5.
A "clear recognition" continues to develop with continuous action such as steps 4 and 5 as a way of life.
The 12&12 and the Big Book (AA's book "Alcoholics Anonymous") step 4 and 5, also suggest down to earth level inquiry about sane ideals, principles and skills for a contented, useful life.
Humility, therefore for AA's recovery, comes from tangible work that produces a permanent transformation of thinking and acting.
--- to another AA's compilation of AA excerpts that help understand humility in regard to the the program of recovery.
"should not be equated with scrupulosity, mistakenly thinking that every detail of everything which ever happened must be written. This is another form of obsession." (Hazelden step 12 guide)
An AA open meeting speaker saved my life in 1982 with truth that the Big Book contained the clearcut directions for actual step work. He commented on each direction on page 86 (3rd ed) for starting and closing each day at a time. Directions that began with. "On Awakening....and When we retire at night", each day faithfully, calmed my racing thoughts.
That speaker's confidence drew me to the Hyannis, MA, Big Book Step Study meeting.
We early 1980's Hyannis BBSS members were frequently evangelistic. Looking back, some of us both over and under applied the wor d "thorough" during different parts of step action.
During the mid 80s, after I exuded many 4th step details, an ole timer commented, that in the 4th, we sought enough to reveal the "nature" of our wrongs. His calm secure presence intrigued me.
Some of us, sadly not all, did perceive folly of agonizing every wart and pimple of our past, far more than needed to reval the "nature" of our wrongs. Obsessive details stole time and energy from adequate analysis. We barely answered the question on page 67 (3rd ed), "where had we been "selfish, dishonest, self-seeking, frigthened?" We learned little about living sober. Perception of AA's basic defects of character was weak.
To action 12 step directions.
Hazelden's guides define Awakening and Experience more clearly and accurately than I've discovered elsewhere.
Some excerpts from Hazelden's Step 12 guide follow.
"Just exactly what is a spiritual awakening, and how do we know when we are waking up spiritually?
The opening words of Step 12 imply that a spiritual awakening is something which has occurred in the past, and is now completed. But it's important to realize that such an awakening is an ongoing, never-ending process. It may have begun sometime in the past when we took the First Step, but it continues for the rest of our lives. It is not a distinct event with a clear beginning and ending. That is the first thing to remember about spiritual awakenings.
The second is that every person's spiritual awakening is unique, that no two are exactly alike. But that doesn't mean that each is not just as real and valid.
However, spiritual awakenings have some common denominators. They often follow long periods of mental or emotional darkness. We may have felt terribly alone, as if no one understood us.
Spiritual awakenings are often described as just that, awakenings. They represent a coming to conscious awareness of ourselves as we really are, an awareness of a power greater than ourselves which may be outside ourselves, or deep within ourselves, or both. Where there was darkness, now there is light. We can see things more realistically. Indeed we can see things we never saw before. Most people experience a sense of letting go. But in addition, many of us, especially women, report a gaining of power, a coming to our true selves after surrenduring. There is a sense of grounding of ourselves in a power we didn't know before.
I like to think of spiritual awakening in terms of waking up in the morning. The process seems to start before we are conscious and awake. We may start to toss and turn in our sleep. We may dream. We may become uncomfortable, stiff, too hot or too cold. We sometimes open one eye and check to see what the weather is, then groan and fall back asleep for a few minutes. But we're starting to wake up.
Then the alarm goes off, and we're at least somewhat awake. We know we are conscious. We can see the room around us and ourselves sitting sleepily on the edge of the bed.
The beginning of recovery is like that-the beginning of our spiritual awakening. We toss and turn, become very uncomfortable, perhaps very ill or very separated from our families and friends in some way. We groan, turn over, and go back to sleep, denying that there is anything wrong with us, not yet willing to face the reality of ourselves and our condition. We put our heads under the pillow, trying to keep out the light of day that will make it clear to us that we have a problem, that we're powerless over alcohol or other drugs and that our lives are unmanageable. We fight to stay asleep spiritually.
But the alarm has, indeed, gone off. Perhaps some crisis forces us to wake up, to see ourselves as we really are. There may be an intervention by our families or employers. Or in a rare moment of insight, we may realize that we have a problem and need help. But one way or another, when the alarm goes off, we admit we are powerless. Our spiritual awakening has begun.
Once we are awake, how do we know the process is continuing? What are some of the signs that tell us we're making spiritual progress?
Probably the most practical way to tell is to look at our behavior. Is it any different than it was in the past, before we began waking up? To continue the metaphor of getting up in the morning, are we now getting out of bed right away, rather than hitting the snooze alarm for a few more minutes of sleep? Are we eager for the day ahead? If so, that's a sign of spiritual progress.
Other examples of changing behavior: do we procrastinate less? Are we getting things done more quickly? Do we admit our mistakes more readily, both to ourselves and to others? Can we even laugh about them a little bit? Are we asking for help when we need it, rather than being stubborn and thinking we don't need help? Are we more open and honest about our shortcomings? Do we accept them as part of who we are? Are we beginning to claim the good parts of ourselves? Are we more willing to let go of our resentments towards others? Do we make amends when we hurt someone else, sincerely admitting we were wrong? On a daily basis, are we more aware of our behavior and attitudes? Do we find ourselves taking time each day to be quiet, perhaps to meditate or to pray? Are we reaching out to help others who may need us? If the answer to any one of those questions is "yes," then we can say that we are waking up spiritually. And that our spiritual awakening continues.
No doubt you've noticed that the foregoing is a review of some of the 12 Steps from a behavioral point of view. The point is that if we are working the Steps, using them in our daily lives in order to stay sober or chemically free, then we are certainly making spiritual progress. And it's important to remember that we don't have to be working all of the Steps every day in order to be making progress. One is enough, for starters. But as our awakening continues, we'll probably find that we're using more and more of the Steps on a daily basis.
The behavior of others may also indicate to us that we are making progress on a spiritual level. Are our spouse and children more trusting of us? Have we regained some respect from them, or from fellow employees and friends? Are we given more responsibilty at work or at home? If so, it's probably because those around us see some positive changes in us. They may see spiritual progress that we haven't noticed until they illuminate it by their new trust and respect.
However, my own experience as a recovering person reminds me that the regaining of trust and responsibility and respect, especially from our spouses, may happen very slowly. After all, I was a pretty sick person for a long time, and I had to prove - by my own behavior - that I could be trusted by my wife. She put up with my drinking and bizarre behavior for years, and it has taken years for her to trust me again. So I had to be patient with her, as patient as she was with me. The point is that we need not be hurt or disappointed if we don't immediately receive the respect and trust we want.
What are some other ways of knowing that we're awakening spiritually? One is that we may have experiences which can be called spiritual.
A spiritual experience is very different from the ongoing spiritual awakening. It is an event that has a distinct beginning and end. That's a crucial distinction. Some of us used to think that if we had such an experience, we were "converted" or "born again," or that suddenly we "got it" and were "healed." We thought that was all there was to it. That's not the case. Spiritual experiences are merely signs along the way that we're making progress in our spiritual awakening.
Spiritual experiences come in many different forms, and not everyone has them. Although rare, some are very dramatic. Most seem to be subtle. Spiritual experiences can be, and usually are, common, everyday events which, in our new sobriety, we now see as having a spiritual element to them. And like spiritual awakenings, spiritual experiences also can be unique to the person.
What are some examples of spiritual experiences which will tell us we're making progress? The dramatic type is the one that comes to mind first. Sometimes it can happen right at the beginning of our spiritual awakening, although that's rare. One person I know said he suddenly had a visual replay of all his drinking life and behavior - in the course of just a few seconds - and realized he was alcoholic. He then went and got help. He called it "enlightenment," and for him it was not only a spiritual experience, but a mystical one as well.
Probably the rest of us may have to be content with less amazing circumstances. My own spiritual experiences usually take me by surprise. They're ordinary events like watching the sun go down over a lake, seeing a smile on a baby's face, listening to good music, and the like.
Spiritual experiences can also be moments of insight when we say to ourselves, "Aha! Of course. I'd never made that connection before, but I see it clearly now." You know the feeling - when something suddenly falls into place for you and is obvious to you. That's a spiritual experience - for me, anyway. Others may choose to interpret it differently. Such experiences are not always positive ones at the time. In fact, sometimes they can be very painful. It's only in retrospect that one can look at them as being spiritual in nature."
(end of Hazelden excerpt) - (For AA's remote to AA sources, a Google search for Hazelden leads to that efficient mail source of AA and other recovery literature)
To RogerG Home Page --Recovery main page