A Quick Guide to Step 11, Prayer, Meditation and Recovery

In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, where the 12-step program is outlined, Step 11 reads: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for the knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. If those words seem like a tall order to any newcomer in recovery, rest assured that, like all the other steps, Step 11 can be practised at a very basic level to begin with. Many of us were perfectionists (or at least highly competitive) before coming into recovery, but the practice of Step 11 is a personal matter that is between the individual and their Higher Power, not a competition or another task to cross off the to-do list. If we approach Step 11 as a lifelong relationship rather than a chore, we will understand that all relationships have to begin somewhere…and be willing to put the time and effort into developing a closer bond with our higher self.

A New Way of Life That’s Automatically Very Different from the Old

Few recovering addicts and alcoholics can claim to have led a very rational lifestyle or maintain they have taken a level-headed approach to daily life when in the grips of substance abuse. Just by the nature of addiction, it is probable that few of us carefully weighed the pros and cons of our daily decisions, asked others for advice and followed it, or spent much time seeking answers from a source of higher wisdom; we were way too busy hurtling from one crisis to another, desperately seeking gratification from our drug of choice or whatever behaviours gave us satisfaction. However, the chase was a futile one, because no matter what we ingested or how we acted out, we still felt scared, lost and alone a good portion of the time.

Entering into a new way of life – recovery – we have already begun to learn some humility and acceptance of life on life’s terms. Whether this means coming to grips with the devastation our addiction created, accepting limitations, or being willing to make gradual progress, we have begun to grow spiritually. It may look different for everyone, but whether we realize it or not, we have already started doing what Step 11 asks us to do: stop reacting to life on autopilot, and start trying to learn what the right path is and then taking that path, even when we don’t understand it.

Tips for Practicing Step 11

The great thing about the 12-step program is that, since it’s spiritual and not religious, it doesn’t interfere with any way you may already have of practicing the principles of prayer and meditation. So, if you belong to a religion, you might decide to return to it with renewed vigor…or embrace something entirely new. The only requirement is that you be willing to practice what might be a very rusty or completely new skill! If we truly approach this step with willingness and humility, before long, we begin to experience hope, peace and fulfillment from seeking answers from a Higher Power or Higher Self, whatever you believe it to be.

Here’s how to begin practicing Step 11:

  • Read the step on page 86 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. It gives concrete ideas and suggestions of what to ask yourself in the morning and at night.
  • Try to spend equal amounts of time praying – “Talking to your Higher Power” – and meditating – “Listening to your Higher Power”.
  • If meditation seems difficult, set the bar low: try to be still and focus on your breath for 2 minutes. If the silence makes you fidget, push past it, or try different forms of meditation, such as free guided meditations you can find online.

As you begin to feel supported by your new practice of prayer and meditation, feelings of calm, strength and direction will begin to replace the cravings, doubts and fears that once dominated. Soon the feelings of belonging and connectedness we first experienced in recovery will become even stronger as we continue to draw closer to fulfilling our purpose in life, whatever that might be.

About the Authors

Renascent Staff
The staff at Renascent is passionate about helping people with substance addictions so they can reach their full recovery – with compassion, respect, empathy and understanding. Our staff includes our counsellors, all of whom have lived experience of addiction and recovery.