12 Steps & 12 Traditions

GYE Corp. Sunday, 25 March 2012

The 12 Steps & 12 Traditions (Pg 31-32) discuss why it is, that even religious people who always believed they had faith in G-d and had asked G-d for help countless times in the past, were still unable to break free of the grip of the addiction:

"This answer has to do with the quality of faith rather than its quantity. This has been our blind spot. We supposed we had humility when really we hadn't. We supposed we had been serious about religious practices when, upon honest appraisal, we found we had been only superficial. Or, going to the other extreme, we had wallowed in emotionalism and had mistaken it for true religious feeling. In both cases, we had been asking something for nothing.

The fact was, we really hadn't cleaned house so that the grace of God could enter us and expel the obsession. In no deep or meaningful sense had we ever taken stock of ourselves, made amends to those we had harmed, or freely given to any other human being without any demand for reward. We had not even prayed rightly. We had always said, "Grant me my wishes" instead of "Thy will be done." At no time had we asked what God's will was for us; instead we had been telling Him what it ought to be. The love of God and man we understood not at all. Therefore we remained self-deceived, and so incapable of receiving enough grace to restore us to sanity. Belief (in G-d) meant reliance.

In A.A, we saw the fruits of "quality faith": men and women spared from alcohol's final catastrophe. We saw them meet and transcend their other pains and trials. We saw them calmly accept impossible situations, seeking neither to run nor to recriminate. This was not only faith; it was faith that worked under all conditions".

Boruch (our 12-Step specialist) elaborated on the above idea today on the forum:

From the early 1930s until the book 'Alcoholics Anonymous' was published in 1939 there were no 12 Steps. The early AAs all became sober by a "religious conversion". The 12 Steps were designed to be a step-by-step method that would achieve that same goal. A good moshol is how the mesilas yeshorim explains, that the ten steps of Rav Pinchos ben Yair are a system for achieving the five elements of "mah Hashem Elokecho doresh mimcho - What does Hashem you G-d ask of you?".

So the 12 Steps of 1939 was just one method to achieve the "religious conversion" of the first 100 or so early AAs, who had achieved sobriety (over 75% of them for the rest of their lives) without the 12 Steps.

An early AA member, Clarence Snyder, the founder of the Cleveland Chapter of AA, used to explain the 12 Steps as being, in reality, only three steps.
1) Trusting G-d
2) Cleaning House
3) Helping others

And here is the meaning of these three steps:

1) "Trusting G-d" means realizing that if, on any given day, we do what we are supposed to on our side to try and stay sober and sane, then Hashem will give us 24 hours of relief - for that day only. If we do everything else that is good - but not what we need for our sobriety, G-d will not accept that. He will not give us "something for nothing".

And even if on a given day, we do more for our sobriety and sanity than anyone in history has ever done, we will not get more than 24 hours of relief. And even if we had a hard day and did very little for our sobriety, as long as we did "something", however small it may be, to the best of our ability, we still get the same 24 hours.

Of course this sounds familiar. The Bnei Yisroel were starving and needy in the desert. Hashem gave them relief for one day at a time. No matter if they gathered a lot, no matter if they gathered a little, they only got 24 hours of relief.

2) "Cleaning House" means realizing that our real problem is the pain in our lives that makes us vulnerable to addiction (addiction is the self-medication for the problem, and not the problem itself). This pain is caused by a "wall" in our relationship with Hashem and our relationships with everyone else in our lives. To remove that pain, we have to remove the walls. The walls are not as we had always thought, i.e. the things Hashem has done to us, or the things that others have done to us, but in reality, the walls are made up of our character defects that we have injected into those relationships. And the only way to stop the pain, is to make a cheshbon hanefesh (personal accounting) on those character defects, accept that we need Hashem to remove the defects from us, and asking Him to do so. Then, and only then, can we begin to repair with honesty (yes, amends does not mean making do with apologies and payment of debts - it means repairing and fixing the relationships) so that our character defects no longer act as a wall in those relationships.

In brief, this is fixing "ve'ohavto le'reiecho komocha - loving your fellow as yourself" by using a cheshbon hanefesh, asking Hashem to remove the walls of the bad middos in our relationships, and then fixing those relationships.

(And as a side note, the AAs found that addicts are so much in denial and are such manipulators, that if their cheshbon hanefesh stayed inside their own minds and was not shared with others, they never kept to their commitments and eventually lost their sobriety).

3) Helping Others. The AAs found that if they did not make the purpose of their recovery to help others as well, they could do everything else in the program, but sooner or later they would lose sobriety. If the whole of religion is self-serving, then a person can get confused with doing what he feels like, which is also self-serving. However if he continuously thinks of others, he will stay on the right track.

This once again is "veohavto lereiecho - loving your fellow man", and to take this even a step further, as Rav Chaim Volozhyn is quoted (by his son in the hakdomo to Ruach Chaim on Avos), the entire purpose of our existence is to do for others.

And the goal of the 12-Step program, is making every aspect of our daily lives a fulfillment of these three principles."Bechol dercohcecho do'eihu - Know Him (G-d) in all your ways".