Blog Entry

12 Step Recovery Programs

Posted on: July 25, 2008 7:57 pm
The 12 Step Recovery Programs have been around for a long time and have helped countless numbers of people deal with a wide variety of addictions, obsessive/compulsuve behaviors, and life problems.  I will present a Bible-based 12 Step program, but understand that secular programs are useful and successful, and I have participated in both.  I am presenting one option for those who want to undertake the challenge of recovery.

Since: Dec 7, 2006
Posted on: July 28, 2008 12:17 pm

12 Step Recovery Programs

Step 9 Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Step Nine: A Closer Look

Made Direct Amends

Direct amends are those we make to people whom we can contact personally. This includes family members, friends, creditors, coworkers and others. The kind of contact we make will vary from situation to situation. Meeting in person is the best way to make amends when this is possible. A letter or phone call is appropriate if a meeting is not possible. In some cases a personal meeting may be all that is required to complete the amends. In other cases, a personal meeting may be the beginning of a long process during which we seek to undo the damage we have done.

The importance of making amends is stated clearly in Scripture:

"When a man or woman wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the LORD, that person is guilty and must confess the sin he has committed. He must make full restitution for his wrong, add one fifth to it and give it all to the person he has wronged." (Numbers 5:6, 7)

Wherever Possible

What if direct amends are not possible? A person we have harmed may have died, moved away, or for some other reason become unavailable to us. If that is the case, it doesn't mean we do nothing. If we caused economic harm to someone who has since died, we can still make restitution to his or her family. Or if that isn't possible, we can donate the money to an organization that might have been helpful to the deceased. The important thing is to find a way to undo the harm we have done--or at least to make it clear by our behavior that we would undo the harm if it were possible to do so. Step Nine recognizes that it is not always possible to make amends, but for our own sakes, we need to be creative and persistent in our efforts to make amends before we decide that a particular amend is not possible. Indirect amends and partial amends are appropriate when full, direct amends are not possible.

Except When to Do So Would Injure Them or Others

It is possible for amends to cause additional injury. In these situations, we must carefully consider how to make the amends. Sometimes the potential for additional harm will be obvious. Our need to make amends does not justify interfering with other people's relationships. Another kind of additional injury we need to be aware of is potential harm to ourselves. If the person on our list is actively abusive toward us and we have had to maintain strong boundaries to keep from being harmed, then making direct amends is probably unwise. If you are uncertain about what to do in a relationship that has been abusive, seek wise counsel before proceeding.

In addition to obvious kinds of additional harm, there are more subtle ways in which we can do harm by making amends. Suppose we go to a person we have harmed and say this: "I apologize for my part of the problem. I have confessed my sins, turned it over to God, and received God's forgiveness. Now to make progress in my recovery I need your forgiveness, and I'm asking you to forgive me." Can you hear the manipulative and controlling elements in this effort to make amends? It could easily communicate "I've done my part. Now it's up to you. You must forgive me or suffer the consequences." That sounds more like a threat than an amend! This kind of controlling behavior is another example of the way in which the poorly planned and premature making of amends can result in additional injury. We are not responsible for how people respond to our amends, but it is our responsibility to pay attention to the potential for additional injury that amends can cause. If we prepare ourselves poorly--or if seek to make amends before we have really "become willing"--then additional harm will result.

The bottom line is this: Step Nine invites us to develop empathy--the capacity to anticipate how others will be affected by our amends. This is exactly the quality of character that we lacked at the time that we did the harm we are now seeking to undo. The principle involved here is a biblical one: "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Philippians 2:4).

Since: Dec 7, 2006
Posted on: July 28, 2008 12:13 pm

12 Step Recovery Programs

Step 8 Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

Step Eight: A Closer Look

Made a List

The first part of Step Eight is based on the work we did in Step Four. In Step Four we made a moral inventory of our lives. In Step Eight we revisit this inventory in order to make a list of the people we have harmed. As we start to make the list, our tendency may be to rationalize, minimize, or avoid some of our actions. We may think, Let bygones be bygones, or That was a long time ago, or Don't make such a big deal out of it. We may think that people have forgotten about what happened. Regardless of our resistance or rationalizations, we need to make the list anyway.

It is important to include ourselves on the list of people we have harmed. The harm we have done to ourselves because of our behavior has an impact on how we feel about ourselves today. As we get a clearer picture of the harm we have done to ourselves and become willing to make amends to ourselves, we will grow in compassion for ourselves and in our capacity to respect and value ourselves.

Of All Persons We Had Harmed

It is normal in Step Eight to think about the people who have harmed us and what they did to hurt us. The spiritual growth that Step Eight makes possible, however, will come only if we focus on the behaviors for which we are responsible. For our own spiritual benefit we must focus our attention on how we have harmed others--not on how they have harmed us. The only sins we need to focus on and make amends for are our own. We can't change what others have done to us, but we can become willing to make amends for what we have done to others.

A list of people we have harmed is not the same thing as a list of people who don't like us, or a list of people we would like to please. The goal of the first part of Step Eight is to make a list of the people we have harmed. The focus on harm in this Step is important. It is intended to protect us from making a list of "people we would like to see changed." Our focus needs to be on our actions that caused harm to others, not on how to get other people to like us or to feel good about us.

Became Willing to Make Amends

The second part of Step Eight is similar to Step Six, in that it involves a time of preparation. In Step Eight we don't actually make amends; we focus on the willingness to do so. What does it mean to be willing to make amends? We know that some people will respond to our amends with gratitude and support. In these cases, willingness to make amends may be relatively easy. In other situations, however, willingness can be quite difficult. For example, we need to be willing to make amends to people who have harmed us. When the harm done to us seems much larger than the harm done by us, willingness can be much more difficult.

Becoming willing to make amends will be easier if we work toward forgiveness for any harm done to us. Offering forgiveness to people who have harmed us is a good thing. The Bible puts a high value on forgiveness: "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (Ephesians 4:32). But forgiveness is often a long and challenging journey. We do not need to be at the end of that journey before we become willing to make amends. We need to remember that the task of Step Eight is not to forgive others for the harm they have done to us; it is to become willing to make amends to others for the harm we have done to them. This is something we can do even if our forgiveness is still in process.

In addition to working on forgiveness, we can increase our willingness to make amends by preparing ourselves for the kinds of responses we may receive from others. Some people will welcome our amends. Other people, however, may reject us when we try to make amends. In such cases, willingness to make amends will be much easier if we prepare ourselves by gathering a supportive community of people around us who can encourage us when we experience rejection. Supportive friends and companions can encourage us to do whatever is necessary to make amends.

We need to make amends even if our forgiveness has not yet proceeded to completion and even if we expect to receive responses that will be difficult for us. It is not reasonable for us to expect that all of our amends will be easy. Sometimes we need the willingness to make amends to people who have profoundly mistreated us and who are not likely to respond in healthy ways to our amends. The Bible is, however, clear about such situations:

"Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." (Luke 6:27, 28)
In difficult cases, becoming willing to make amends may require us to "do good to those who hate" or to "bless those who curse." We need, in such circumstances, to remind ourselves that we are not making amends to change someone else. We are not doing this for someone else. We are doing this for ourselves. We are making amends because we want to move on in life, to become saner people, and to find more serenity in life.

Since: Dec 7, 2006
Posted on: July 28, 2008 12:10 pm

12 Step Recovery Programs

Step 7 Humbly asked Him to remove all our shortcomings and forgive all our sins.

Step Seven: A Closer Look


Humility is the spiritual foundation of Step Seven. But what is humility? The prophet Isaiah provides a helpful image of the humility we seek in Step Seven. He said, "We are the clay, you are the potter" (Isaiah 64:8). The clay can become a useful pot only with the help of the potter. This is the biblical theme of God as Creator. We are God's creation. God is the potter. We are the clay. We deceive ourselves completely if we try to be the potter. Practicing humility teaches us to accept the role of the clay and to let go of attempts to be the potter. We are a lump of clay that can become a magnificent pot if we have the humility to let God take charge of our lives!

Humility is the opposite of grandiosity. But it is important to emphasize that humility has nothing to do with humiliation. It has nothing to do with thinking that we are bad or unworthy. There is no shame in humility. The humility we seek in Step Seven is based on an honest and accurate assessment of who we are. With humility we are able to stop trying to "look good." We can stop trying to manage how other people perceive us. With humility we are able to think and feel about ourselves more accurately--with less grandiosity and less shame. Humility contributes significantly to our serenity, because it frees us from so much of what causes us to feel anxious and burdened. Jesus summarizes it well when he says, "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted" (Matthew 23:12).

Asked Him

The idea of asking for something may feel awkward to us. There are many reasons for this. As children, our requests may have fallen on "deaf" ears--so we learned not to ask. We may see no reason to ask God because he already knows what we want or need. After doing our fourth Step inventory, some of us feel a sense of shame at the thought of asking anything of God. But asking is a necessary part of the process of change. Jesus talks about the benefits of asking for help:

Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:9-11)

To Remove Our Shortcomings

The Twelve Steps use a variety of words to describe the problems we face. Some of these words are unmanageability, insanity, wrongs, defects of character, and shortcomings. Each description emphasizes a slightly different aspect of the problems we have created for ourselves. The word "shortcomings" in Step Seven is similar to one of the words translated as "sin" in the Bible. It means "to miss the mark," as an archer might miss a target. We have definitely missed the target, as our work in Step Four made very clear. Now in Step Seven we ask God to change us so that we can be "on target".

What we ask for in Step Seven is the removal of our shortcomings. We don't ask for help in adapting to them or for help in managing them. We don't ask for help in continuing to live with them. We want them removed. And that's what we ask for.

We have spent many years developing the character defects that we are now asking God to remove. As a result, some of our requests for the removal of character defects may be granted promptly, but others may require patience and perseverance. When we become discouraged or frustrated with God's timing, we may be tempted to take back control of the process. But it may help us to sustain hope if we review the work we have done in earlier Steps. Seeing our progress may help us remember how much better off we are in God's care, even if change sometimes seems unbearably slow. The removal of our shortcomings is now in God's hands. A master craftsman of souls is at work. God can be trusted to do a good job, because he cares about his work--and he cares about us:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:6, 7)

Since: Dec 7, 2006
Posted on: July 28, 2008 12:08 pm

12 Step Recovery Programs

Step 6 We were entirely ready to have God remove all these sins and defects of character

Step Six: A Closer Look

Were Entirely Ready

After all the work we have done on the first five Steps, you might think that we would be ready--if not eager--for God to remove our defects of character. So why is a whole Step reserved for getting ready for this to happen? Unfortunately, the character defects that we identified in our inventory are often behavior patterns that we think are important for our survival. When we were children these behavior patterns may have protected us, given us some sense of control over our lives, or helped us to stay at a distance from intolerable circumstances. For example, silence and isolation may have helped us to feel safer in a frightening home environment. But that same strategy, which once seemed so helpful and necessary, is now part of our problem. Part of becoming "entirely ready" for God to change us is to admit that we have become attached to these behaviors and that letting go of them may not be easy.

The process of becoming "entirely ready to have God remove all of our defects of character" is similar to grieving. We are losing something that once seemed valuable to us. Grieving will take time and may involve some sadness. But grieving is a necessary part of letting go. As we go through the grieving process, however, we will find comfort and peace. We will learn healthier, more productive, and more joyful ways to live! Jesus put it this way: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted" (Matthew 5:4).

Notice that the goal in Step Six is not speed; we do not seek to get ready as fast as possible. The goal is thoroughness; we seek to become entirely ready. Step Six allows us the time necessary to grieve the loss of the defects we must give up. It is a time to prepare for God to do spiritual and psychological surgery on our character.

To Have God Remove

We get ready, but it is God who removes our character defects. We do the asking. God does the work. As we learned in Step One, we do not have the power to do what needs to be done. Our focus needs to be on becoming ready. If we think we can make the changes by ourselves, we will find ourselves trying harder and harder--and getting more and more frustrated by our inability to change. When it comes to change, our task is to "let go and let God," or as God says through the psalmist "Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10).

All These Defects of Character

Having God remove all of our defects may sound like a huge task. It is a big task. But God's plans for us involve more than just a superficial makeover. The changes we are preparing for are fundamental ones. Changes in character go down to the core, to bedrock, to our foundation. God's intentions are to do a heart transplant: "I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 11:19).

This change process will require patience from us. We cannot expect everything to happen overnight. Deep and lasting changes in patterns established over many years will take time. God understands that we will not be "entirely ready" to have him remove "all" of our defects of character all at once.

Since: Dec 7, 2006
Posted on: July 28, 2008 12:05 pm

12 Step Recovery Programs

Step 5 Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to one other person the exact nature of our wrongs.

Step Five: A Closer Look


Both the Bible and Christian tradition emphasize the importance of confession--of admitting our wrongs. Unfortunately, there are many people who have minimal experience with confession. There are also many people whose experience with confession has been shaming and hurtful. Step Five provides an opportunity for us to practice this spiritual discipline in a way that is respectful and healing rather than shaming and hurtful.

To admit that we have done something wrong is not easy. Many of us have concealed the truth and have been afraid to admit our wrongs to ourselves or to anyone else. We are experts at blame, evasion, deception, and denial. It will be a challenge to reverse these patterns. But learning to admit our wrongdoing can lead us to a richer and more satisfying life.

To God

Many of us are reluctant to tell God the truth. We may want to pretend that God doesn't know about our faults. We may not want to confess our sins to God because we don't know how God could love someone who behaves as we do. We may think that silence is the best course of action. But there is no real freedom without confession. Silence about our wrongdoing only makes the pain worse. The psalmist describes the depression, insomnia, and stress that can come when we keep silent about our wrongs:

When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, "I will confess
my transgressions to the LORD."
(Psalm 32:3-5)

When we admit our wrongs to God, a great weight is lifted. Remember that there is nothing you can do or confess that would cause God to stop loving you. The Bible is clear and explicit about this; nothing can separate us from the love of God. If fear and shame get in the way during this part of Step Five, you might read Romans 8:38 several times to remind you of this fundamental truth.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38)

To Ourselves

We are the principal victims of our lack of honesty, and eventually we pay a high price for our self-deceit. We may try to convince ourselves that we can bury our wrongs and never have to admit them. But eventually we will have to face the fact that dishonesty does not work to our advantage. The Bible says it like this: "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8).

In Step One we started to see the truth. We admitted our powerlessness and the unmanageability of our lives. In Step Four we made an inventory and accepted the truth about our past behaviors. In Step Five we take full ownership of our Step Four inventory and accept the painful realities we identified. This may take some time. It is painful to allow the truth about our wrongs to "sink in" to the point where we can say that we have "admitted" them.

An important element of this part of Step Five is to respond to our own admission of wrong. Many of us have learned to respond to our own failures, shortcomings, and wrongs with judgmentalism and shame. Now we have an opportunity to show mercy to ourselves. We can face our failures with compassion--the same compassion that God extended to us in the first part of Step Five. This is one reason why confession to God comes before confession to ourselves; we can learn something about how to respond to ourselves by experiencing God's grace-full, compassionate response to us.

To Another Human Being

It is possible to work through the first four Steps in isolation from other people. It is not a good idea, but it is possible. However, Step Five requires us to talk to another person. Scripture is clear about this: "Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed" (James 5:16). The idea of sharing our faults with another person can be threatening, because we may anticipate experiencing guilt, shame, and rejection. Sharing with another person makes it real in a new way. When we confess to another person it prevents our inventory from becoming a private little secret between God and ourselves. Experience has shown that we can manage to hold on to much of our denial if our confession is only to God and to ourselves. Making a full confession to someone who understands, who is compassionate, and who shares experiences similar to our own helps keep us honest and on track.

The Exact Nature of Our Wrongs

One way that we protect ourselves from the full impact of Step Five is to fall back on generalities. That is why in Step Five we admit the "exact nature" of our wrongs. If we say, "I have a problem with time management," that is a general statement. It is more useful to say "I missed my son's soccer game last week because I lost track of time. I placed more importance on my work than I did on my promise to attend his game." The specifics are what connect us with the full emotional reality of what we have done--with the pain that our actions created for ourselves and for others. Acknowledging the specifics opens our hearts to what Scripture calls "godly sorrow," which is a form of grief that causes us to take seriously the impact of our actions:

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. (2 Corinthians 7:10)

Since: Dec 7, 2006
Posted on: July 28, 2008 12:02 pm

12 Step Recovery Programs

Step 4 Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Step Four: A Closer Look

Made a Searching

"Searching" implies that we are looking for something that may be hidden or that may be difficult to identify. Therefore, we will need to be diligent and thorough in our search. For many of us, making an inventory will be a new experience. Many of us have worked hard to avoid this kind of disciplined self-searching. We will need to recognize our tendencies to avoid painful truths and to blame others for our problems. A wholehearted effort to look honestly at ourselves will be necessary if we are to be successful in Step Four.

Step Four does not suggest that we are responsible for everything that happens or that we are the sole source of all our problems. We may have been harmed in many ways. Although this is an important factor that we need to acknowledge, the purpose of Step Four is to identify the things for which we are responsible. We cannot fix anyone else or be responsible for the poor choices that other people make. What we are able to do is to take an honest look at our own behavior.

Working Step Four requires that we look honestly and compassionately at ourselves. Fortunately, God is prepared to help us do this. A good start might be to adopt as our own the prayer of the psalmist:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23, 24)


Calling this self-examination "fearless" doesn't mean that we won't be afraid. That's too much to expect of anyone. It's only natural to experience some fear. We will need to ask God to give us the courage that will make it possible for us to work on this Step in spite of our fears. When we are willing to proceed in spite of our fears, the reward will be worth the effort. It may help to remember that, although we will experience fear, it is not God's intention that fear control our lives. Fear is often connected with the expectation of punishment, and God's intentions are not to punish us but to help us become free of our fears as we grow in love:

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. (1 John 4:18)

Moral Inventory of Ourselves

A moral inventory is not a new idea. The Old Testament assumes that it will be a part of the life of God's people: "Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the LORD" (Lamentations 3:40). The early Christian church practiced this spiritual discipline in the context of community worship. The Apostle Paul said, "A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup" (1 Corinthians 11:28). The moral inventory we take in Step Four is not intended to cause despair. It is an opportunity to look at ourselves honestly and thereby prepare ourselves to make positive changes. Although there will be discomfort in this process, the end result will be lives marked by greater freedom and grace.

Since: Dec 7, 2006
Posted on: July 28, 2008 11:59 am

12 Step Recovery Programs

Step 3 Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God.

Step Three: A Closer Look

Made a Decision

This Step invites us to make a decision. The decision we make is to turn our life and our will over to God's care. This decision will begin a lifelong process of change that can lead to peace and serenity. We do not need to understand the entire process in order to begin. It is enough to know that we cannot do it on our own. The actual process of "turning it over" will come later. It is clear in Scripture that God is aware of the choices we face and that he wants us to make good choices:

I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. (Deuteronomy 30:19, 20)

To Turn

The word surrender is often used to describe the "turn" of Step Three. It is a decision to give up on our own will and to surrender our will to God. The word surrender can be a confusing word, because it sounds like a sign of weakness or failure--of "giving up" or "losing." Many people who start working on Step Three are afraid that if they turn their lives over to God, they will have no life left--that they will lose everything. But just the opposite is true. What has led to all of the losses in our lives is our refusal to surrender control to God. What will lead to serenity and peace is our willingness to surrender to God. Jesus captured the heart of Step Three when he said:

"Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 10:39)
We have worked very hard to "find" our lives--to control our lives and to be in charge of everything we do. But the result has been loss. Jesus says that if we "lose our lives"--if we surrender our lives and turn over our lives to God--then we will find our lives for the first time.

Our Will and Our Lives

What is it that we decide to turn over to God? Our broken wills. And our broken lives. That is what we decide to give to God in Step Three--broken wills and broken lives. It might not seem like much of a gift. But that is because we do not yet understand all that God can do with broken stuff. Nor do we yet understand how different God's good and gracious will is from our own wills. In Step Three we choose to turn our broken wills and our broken lives over to God. We do so in the hope that God will do a better job with our lives than we have done. There will be many pleasant surprises ahead on the journey as we begin to see the results of this decision. The psalmist expressed the hope that comes from surrender to God:

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God;
may your good Spirit lead me on level ground. (Psalm 143:10)

Over to the Care of God

In Step Three we entrust our lives to God's care. What will it be like for God to care for us? At this stage of the journey some of us may have terrible and frightening images of what this will be like. It may feel like turning ourselves over to a judge who will punish us severely--or even like turning ourselves over to an executioner. But that is not what it is like to be cared for by God. God is a good caregiver. Things have gotten worse and worse as long as we have been in charge of our own care. With God in charge of caring for us, things will get better. Jesus often emphasized the kindness of God's loving care. For example, Jesus talked about how we exhaust ourselves trying to carry our own burdens. We are invited, Jesus says, to a very different kind of life, in which we turn our burdens over to God:

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)
As We Understood Him

Some people--Christians in particular--may not see a need for this part of Step Three. Some have changed these words to read "through Jesus Christ." It is understandable that those of us who are Christians would want to make that change. But it is also important to remember how useful it is to keep the door of spiritual kindergarten open for everyone. You do not need to have a complete understanding about God--or about Jesus--to benefit from this Step. We are still in spiritual kindergarten. We won't get very far if we must pass an examination in theology before we make use of the Twelve Steps.

The phrase "as we understood Him" does not suggest that we already know everything we need to know about God. Our understanding of God will change as we work through the Twelve Steps. The phrase "as we understood Him" means only that we act on the basis of what we have learned in Step Two--that God's power is greater than our own and that God is powerful enough to restore us. That's all the faith we need when we work on Step Three. It may seem to some people that this is just a little bit of faith. But as Jesus taught, God can do great things with a little bit of faith.

"I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." (Matthew 17:20)

Since: Dec 7, 2006
Posted on: July 28, 2008 11:56 am

12 Step Recovery Programs

Step 2 Came to believe that God (a power greater than ourselves) could restore us to sanity.

Step Two: A Closer Look

Came to believe

To believe means to put faith and trust in something or someone. In Step One we started to face the truth about our lives. In Step Two we come to believe in something or someone greater than ourselves. It is important to remember that God honors and responds to the smallest step of faith--even if it is mixed with uncertainty and disbelief. It is not necessary in Step Two to have absolute certainty and total confidence. Jesus said that faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains (Matthew 17:20)! We may not have a lot of faith or trust when we enter spiritual kindergarten, but God can do a lot with what we have. Jesus emphasized this truth when he responded with compassion to a person who came to him for help saying, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24).

A Power Greater Than Ourselves

Step Two introduces a foundational spiritual truth: There is a God, and it is not me! In Step One we saw the results of our efforts to manage our lives on our own power. Now we can begin to look outside ourselves for the help we need. Remember Jesus' story about the prodigal son? (See Luke 15:11-32.) The prodigal son came to believe that he needed a Power greater than his own, so he decided to return home to his father. He expected his father to disown him and treat him like a slave. He did not know much about his father; he certainly did not understand his father's love and compassion. But the son did have enough faith to begin the journey home. Faith like that of the prodigal son is all we need in Step Two. At this stage of the journey we don't need sophisticated theology or years of Bible training. All we need is enough faith to get us headed toward a Power greater than ourselves. Later in the journey, we will learn much more about the Power who is helping us to make this change.

Could Restore Us

Notice that Step Two invites us to believe that restoration could happen. Step Two does not require us to believe that we will be restored. We may not yet be able to imagine that. We only need to believe that it could happen--if a Power greater than our own is available. That is why Step Two is sometimes called the "hope" Step. It introduces the possibility of restoration to sanity through a Power greater than ourselves.

Hope is a major theme of the Bible. Time after time throughout biblical history God's people have found themselves in difficult situations and have needed to find hope again in God's power. The psalmist lived through a number of these impossible situations and speaks about God's power to restore:

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. (Psalm 23:1-3)

In Psalm 107, the psalmist provides another dramatic image of God restoring his people to freedom:

They cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron. (Psalm 107:13-16)

To Sanity

In Twelve Step programs, insanity is often defined as "doing the same thing over and over, while expecting a different result." For example, some of us use mood-altering substances (alcohol, drugs, nicotine, prescription medications, and so on) or controlling behaviors (manipulation, threats, avoidance, and so on) as our standard solution to life's problems. But the outcome is always predictable: we get more of the same chaos. Insanity in this context can be applied to any of us--even if we are not struggling with an addiction. We all tend to repeat the same kinds of self-defeating behaviors over and over again, expecting different results. The core of Step Two is coming to believe that there is a Power that could help us find a different, saner way to live. Things can improve, we can be healed, and our lives can become more peaceful and rewarding.

Since: Dec 7, 2006
Posted on: July 28, 2008 11:53 am

12 Step Recovery Programs

Step One:  We admitted we were powerless over alcohol (or substance or obsessive/compulsive behavior) and that our lives had become unmanageable.

Step One: A Closer Look

The first word of Step One implies that healing takes place in community--not in isolation. This is not a new idea.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! (Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10)
The need for community is a major theme in biblical spirituality. God calls us to community--to close relationships with others. All of us are part of a family--God's family. That is why Jesus taught us to pray, "Our Father...."


Spiritual kindergarten begins with the admission that we are in trouble. When we acknowledge this, we are ready to begin our spiritual journey toward peace and serenity. Admitting the truth is not something we can do casually. For most of us it represents a major change in business-as-usual. We have learned pretense, evasion, and denial. Now we must learn to admit the truth. The Bible puts a high value on telling the truth: "Each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor" (Ephesians 4:25). The falsehood that we "put off" in Step One is the belief that we do not need any help--that we can handle it, that we are managing our lives successfully on our own. In Step One we admit that this is not true. To our surprise, when we admit this truth, new and better ways of living become possible for us.

We Were Powerless

Being powerless does not mean that we are incompetent or helpless--or that we have no power at all. It means that we cannot rely on our will alone to achieve wholeness and peace. Willpower alone is not powerful enough. We see our powerlessness when we try to solve a problem through willpower (by determination, commitment, and trying harder) but find that the changes we achieve are only temporary. We may try to control the drinking or drug use of someone we love, but trying, trying harder, and trying our hardest will not make us powerful enough to achieve our objective. Or we may promise not to say yes to additional responsibilities, only to find ourselves taking on more and more obligations. If you have made promises, decisions, or choices and then found that your determination and commitment were not powerful enough to achieve the desired results, then you know what it is to experience powerlessness. If you have experienced fear or anxiety that you are unable to manage, you know what it is to be powerless. If you hide behind defenses of one kind or another and cannot be at ease with yourself or others, you know what it is to be powerless.

The Apostle Paul talked about powerlessness when he said, "I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out" (Romans 7:18). Paul realized that the solution to his problem would need to involve more than just increased willpower. The central point of powerlessness is that willpower alone is not sufficient to enable us to make permanent changes. Trying harder didn't work for the Apostle Paul, and it doesn't work for us either.

Over Alcohol

The word "alcohol" in Step One can be replaced with other substances, behaviors, or conditions. Narcotics Anonymous, for example, replaces "alcohol" with "addictive substances." Some codependency groups replace it with "other people's choices." Some Christians use the word "sin" or "the effects of sin." The use of other words to replace "alcohol" allows anyone to use the Twelve Steps. The basic principles of the Steps are the same no matter what substance or behavior may be the focus of our addictive process. Our Lives Had Become Unmanageable What does it mean that our lives are unmanageable? It means that our efforts to manage our lives are not successful. We keep doing the things we think will solve our problems, only to find that our solutions are often worse than our problems ever were. There is an old slogan in A.A. that summarizes this: "I never had a problem that was worse than the old solution I found for it." Our lives become unmanageable because our "solutions" make things worse. We may eat because we don't want to feel so depressed, but the reality is that compulsive eating makes us more depressed. We may act out sexually because we don't want to feel so lonely, only to find ourselves more alienated than ever. We may run up large debts by buying new clothes so that we will feel less shame, only to feel the added shame that our spending is out of control. Solutions like these do not satisfy us for extended periods of time. The problems always return in one form or another. The prophet Isaiah was on target when he asked, "Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?" (Isaiah 55:2). Step One invites us to face the fact that our efforts to manage our lives have not worked. We will not be able to find better solutions until we have seen with clarity that our current solutions are part of the problem.

Since: Dec 7, 2006
Posted on: July 28, 2008 11:48 am

12 Step Recovery Programs

One of the best resources I've seen on the 12 Step Program from the National Association for Christian Recovery.  Topics cover not only substance abuse but recovery from childhood trauma, eating disorders, perfectionism, fear, work, parenting issues, global issues, grief, distorted self-images, sexual addiction, depression, and countless other topics.  It addresses men and women, adults and children.  It discusses resistance to recovery and the role the church and the bible can play.  There are daily meditations, audio seminars, Bible studies, tools for leaders, and a referral center.  If you become a member, there are discussion forums.  There is even a humor section.

Available Bible Studies for Recovery:

The Letting God be God series

Receiving Comfort from God
Receiving Forgiveness from God
Receiving Guidance from God
Receiving Hope from God
Receiving Identity from God
Receiving Love from God
Receiving Peace from God
Receiving Strength from God

The Life Recovery Guide series

Recovery from Fear
Recovery from Codependency
Recovery from Abuse
Recovery from Depression
Recovery from Family Dysfunction
Recovery from Distorted Images of God
Recovery from Distorted Images of Self
Recovery from Bitterness
Recovery from Broken Relationships
Recovery from Addictions (STEPS 1-3)
Recovery from Guilt (STEPS 4-9)
Recovery: A Lifelong Journey (STEPS 10-12)
Recovery from Shame
Recovery from Spiritual Abuse
Recovery from Loss
Recovery from Workaholism

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