Spiritual Awakening

I propose that we start our consideration of the Steps at the end with the 12th 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.  We start here because this Step is a very brief outline of the work that one who chooses the 12 Step path to recovery must do and why they must do it. 


Having had a spiritual awakening - the first place we encounter this phrase spiritual awakening, or experience, is in Alcoholics Anonymous, Chapter 2 - There is a Solution.  If you open the Big Book (as us A.A.’s like to call it) to page 25, you will notice an asterisk follows the phrase “spiritual experiences.*” This asterisk directs you to a footnote at the bottom of the page, which reads - * Fully explained--Appendix II.  Please click on the link "SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE" for the complete text of Appendix II. 


At this early stage in our deliberations, it is very important to at least attempt a definition of three vague and often misused terms that you will encounter throughout this site:


Spirituality - Spirituality is a broad concept with room for many perspectives. In general, it includes a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, and it typically involves a search for meaning in life. As such, it is a universal human experience—something that touches us all. People may describe a spiritual experience as sacred or transcendent or simply a deep sense of aliveness and inter-connectedness.

Religiousin the social sciences, when trying to describe religious life, we refer to the 3-Bs: belief, behavior, and belonging. Religion generally involves one, two, or all three aspects, to varying degrees, and depending on the religious tradition or culture at hand. By belief, we mean belief in supernatural beings or entities, such as God or gods, spirits, angels, demons, jinn, etc. as well as non-empirically verifiable realms, such as heaven, hell, etc.; and inerrant sacred texts such as the Holy Bible, the Koran and the Torah.  It could be said that a religious person has the answers to the big questions provided to them by their religion’s sacred texts and clergy. 


Secular - To be “secular” means that 1) a person does not believe in supernatural beings, entities, or realms, 2) a person does not engage in religious behaviors, and 3) a person does not identify as religious and is not a member of a religious community. To be secular is to maintain a naturalistic worldview in which belief in anything is always proportioned to the evidence available. It is about engaging in a variety of activities that are understood as this-worldly, and to identify with, or be a member of, non-religious groupings or associations. To be secular does not mean that one lacks belief. Secular folks believe in all sorts of things, like loving their spouses and children, or the value of education, or the potential of science, or the importance of protecting the earth, or that Yoko Ono should never have been allowed to sing on the White Album. Our lives are rife with beliefs – but none of them are beliefs in supernatural deities, creatures, or realms.”


The Appendices first appeared in the second edition of Alcoholics Anonymous, which was published in 1955, 16 years following the publication of the first edition in 1939.  A lot of faith compromising events had happened to the world in those 16 years.  Most notably World War II and the death through violence of nearly 80 million human beings, the Holocaust and the advent of nuclear weapons, specifically the 2 that we dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  A.A. had growm substantially, as it states in the foreword to the Second Edition, "from the original three members [Bill, Dr. Bob and alcoholic number 3 (Bill Dotson)], Alcoholics Anonymous had mushroomed into nearly 6,000 groups whose membership is far above 150,000 recovered members." 


Along with this tremendous growth, there were certainly difficulties, one of which was a general perception by the public that Alcoholics Anonymous was only for those drunks with a religious inclination.  That such a perception had come to be is confirmed by the actual text of Appendix II, and that this appendix was inserted at the end of the Second Edition to address this inaccuracy.  There is additional evidence to support this hypothesis, in particular the publication in 1953 of the 12 Steps & 12 Traditions and certain passages within that text.  For instance, in the chapter dedicated to Step Twelve on page 106 (Again, the words and phrases that are in bold type are my emphasis.):


“When a man or a woman has a spiritual awakening, the most important meaning of it is that he has now become able to do, feel, and believe that which he could not do before on his unaided strength and resources alone. He has been granted a gift which amounts to a new state of consciousness and being. He has been set on a path which tells him he is really going somewhere, that life is not a dead end, not something to be endured or mastered. In a very real sense he has been transformed, because he has laid hold of a source of strength which, in one way or another, he had hitherto denied himself. He finds himself in possession of a degree of honesty, tolerance, unselfishness, peace of mind, and love of which he had thought himself quite incapable. What he has received is a free gift, and yet usually, at least in some small part, he has made himself ready to receive it.”


It is worth noting that to this day there are old time Big Book thumpers that do not accept the validity of the 12 Steps & 12 Traditions.  Part of their disapproval is attributable to what they call “the watering down” of the God-centered approach to recovery.  On the other hand, there has always been a very vocal and active minority of members, even A.A. pioneers, who insisted that the “only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking” and that there is no need for concern about “the God thing” so long as an individual 'is open to the concept of a Higher power,' whatever they may conceive that to be."


Another book that is considered A.A. Conference approved literature is Daily Reflections.  Below is the daily reading from that book for Dec. 5:


Many of us in A.A. puzzle over what is a spiritual awakening.  I tended to look for a miracle, something dramatic and earth shattering.  But what usually happens is that a sense of well-being, a feeling of peace transforms us into a new level of awareness.  That’s what happened to me.  My insanity and inner turmoil disappeared and I entered into a new dimension of hope, love and peace.  I think the degree to which I continue to experience this new dimension is in direct proportion to the sincerity, depth and devotion with which I practice the 12 Steps of A.A. 


As the Result of These Steps