Step Twelve – Practicing These Principles

by Kathy L.

12stepsExcept for Steps Five and Nine, the steps don’t involve people outside of our sponsor. Step Twelve, though, is about service to others. As a matter of fact, service is the principle of the step. This is the time we put our faith into action because the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous tells us that “faith without works is dead”.

Let’s start at the beginning of this step. “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

If we have made it to Step Twelve, we have had a gradual spiritual awakening. Most of us were not hit with a thunderbolt but with each step were able to open our eyes wider and wider to the spirituality we now enjoy. How “awake” we are is very personal. We can only know for ourselves how close we are to our Higher Power.

And we try to carry this message to alcoholics and anyone else who might benefit from our experiences, strengths, and hopes. We do not have to limit ourselves to those who share our disease but anyone in need. Those might include people who are not addicted but have family members who are. These people need our help as much as anyone because they too suffer. We don’t have to look too far to see others in need. Most of these are within our own communities, but we have to take the time to see who they are.

Carrying the message doesn’t have to wait for this step. If Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob waited as long as some of us do to carry the message, there probably would be no message to carry today. This is not about feeling righteous and shouting the recovery message to anyone who just happens to be near you. It is about greeting the newcomer even if you have only one day more than he or she. It is all about service and that means sometimes doing things we dislike and sometimes doing the things we do like. In either case, these are done without fanfare and with humility.

Sometimes women particularly (me included) feel that they had always been helpful to others and believe that they had, in fact, been working this step long before recovery. They are also a bit insulted when I mention that in all likelihood the good deeds they had performed were not done in the spirit of recovery and probably done for reasons of self-importance, ego and people-pleasing. Today when we help others we are working our faith: our faith in our Higher Power, our faith in recovery, and our faith in ourselves. Service work, in and outside of the fellowship, has been the most instrumental element of my recovery.

The third part of Step Twelve suggests we practice all of the principles that we have learned or re-learned throughout recovery. I love the word “practice” because it tells me that no one expects us to be perfect, but practicing will make us better people. We don’t practice all of these principles of honesty, love, tolerance, patience, willingness, kindness and all of the others only when it suits us but every day, in every situation, with all people. Now we know why the Big Book suggests we practice!

Most of us practice these principles with co-workers, friends and even strangers, but we can easily become our old selves when we are home with our families. It is always ironic, isn’t it, that we show our best selves to people who probably don’t even care, and have nothing left for the people who love us. Once again … we practice!

The Twelve Steps offer a new way of life – and remember, they are never done. They are never finished and there is no graduation. These steps are only a part of the recovery process and are suggestions on how we can begin to live life on life’s terms. The steps are not only for addicts hoping to recover. These are for anyone who would like to live a more spiritual life. There are many happy, joyous, free people out there who have no idea of the Twelve Steps but there are just as many who would love to be happy, joyous and free but have no clue how. These folks keep the mental health professionals quite busy and the self-help book authors and publishers in the money. Wow! Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

I have always said that I am not grateful to be an alcoholic. Being an alcoholic was not exactly a childhood aspiration. I am grateful, however, to have learned that there is a wonderful life out there and the Twelve Steps are the guidelines. There are many normal, unhappy people out there and using the Twelve Steps would never occur to them. So when I look at it that way, maybe being an alcoholic isn’t so bad, because today I can honestly say that life is good.

Namaste’. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.


Copyright © Kathy L. Reprinted by permission of the author. Kathy L. is the editor of Bella Online 12 Step Recovery, where more of her writings on recovery can be found. She also hosts the Grateful Recovery page on Facebook.

About the Authors

Renascent Alumni
Members of Renascent's alumni community carry the message by sharing their experiences and perspectives on addiction and recovery. To contribute your alumni perspective, please email