The Twelve Steps: A Spiritual Program
My friend was sitting with me, and he said once and for all that God had done for him what he could not have done for himself. His human desire had failed, and doctors had said that he was incurable.
And then something lifted him out of the land of the dead.
My friend promised me that if I did this, I would create a new relationship with my Creator. Faith in the power of God, plus a satisfying truth, honesty and humility, that keeping and observing the new order of things are all essentials that are required of me.
As soon as I accepted them in their entirety, the result was electrifying. There was a feeling of victory, accompanied by a tranquility that I had never experienced before. I felt as if I had been lifted up. God appears before most people in a gradual way, but His influence upon me was sudden and strong. For a moment, I was afraid, and I called my friend, the doctor, to ask him if I was still sane. He listened to me in wonder, and at the end he shook his head and said, “Something happened to you that I don’t understand. But it would be very worthwhile if you stayed with it.” (From “Bill’s Story,” The Big Book)
The 12 Step Program was first created by the A.A. organization. From there, it was adopted by many other organizations (S.A, O.A, G.A., N.A. and more). The meeting between alcoholic Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, the two founders of A.A. took place in the United States in 1935. Bill himself recovered from alcoholism after undergoing a spiritual awakening. This experience originated when a friend, another alcoholic named Ebby, suggested that he should ask God for help. Bill did this, and found his situation had become much better while experiencing an immediate spiritual awakening. Until his death in 1971, he never drank alcohol again. In the message that he passed on to his fellow alcoholics, he emphasized the spiritual foundation of recovery, and also wrote this into A.A.’s Big Book.
In accordance with the above, the Twelve Step Program is a spiritual program that directs its steps towards a spiritual life and arousal. Each person goes at his own individual pace (From The Guide to the Twelve Step Program, Ronald Hoffman, Yaakov 2003)
Without any doubt, for a secular person who was never brought up to believe in a Higher Power, meaning God, a spiritual revelation is a very unique experience.
This experience has the power to help the addict overcome his addiction.
However, when it comes to a believer, a religious person who encounters his God on a daily basis, from when he opens his eyes in the morning as he says the prayer, Modeh Ani, during his three daily services, when he recites 100 blessings, studies Torah, and performs acts of kindness, how does the Twelve Step Program help him?
We could also ask this question from a slightly different standpoint. If the objective of the 12 Steps is to give the person a spiritual awakening, to distance him from his own self-absorption, and to provide him with a solution on a daily basis to his addiction problem, why are there so many religious, Torah-observant addicts, who have been following this path for many years, but it still doesn’t help them?
Shimon met with me at Retorno, accompanied by his son, a young officer in uniform.
Shimon’s wife was not present, for she did not believe that anything would help. Her faith in her husband’s ability to solve his drink problem had drowned in the same alcohol long before.
“I’m here because of my wife,” Shimon immediately announced. “She threatened me with divorce, and this time she was serious because she presented me with a summons to the Rabbinical Court.” I expressed surprise at his wife’s bold gesture (in fact, she had done exactly what I had told her to do).
Shimon, who had worked as a teacher of Tanach for many years and had Rabbinical ordination, was a pleasant and educated man. He started to deliver Torah insights, relate analogies, and tell stories. Neither the strong smell of aftershave nor the mint candies on his breath could mask the fact that this happy, good-hearted man was totally drunk.
A few months later, when he had been on the wagon for more than thirty days, we sat together and had an intense discussion.