Step 12: Practice, Principles & Service

by Ali L.

Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and practice these principles in all our affairs.

To contribute to the stream of life. To do the right thing even when no one is looking. In other words, learning how to be a responsible, decent, adult human being. I found myself getting sober at 41 (almost 9 years ago now), with really no idea of how to be a grownup, what it meant to be of service or even generally to care about others to make the world a better place.

Struggling against the stream of life

I always found myself struggling against the stream of life. The only motivation I ever had was how to make myself look better in the world to get what I needed and make sure I was ok. And that was as far as I ever got.

I really appreciate this idea of “practicing.” It does not say, mastering these principles in all our affairs, or perfecting these principles in all our affairs. It most definitely does not say, thinking about these principles in all our affairs. To practice is simply the application of a principle or belief as opposed to the theoretical ideas relating to it. 

Before I got sober, I had many high-and-mighty ideas and theories about the kind of person I believed myself to be. But my actions indicated otherwise. I thought myself to be honest, but I was lying, with every breath, about who I was. About my fears and my anger. All of it hidden at the bottom of a bottle, and even that I hid.

I thought I honored life and cared about others, but I would carelessly drive drunk with no regard for who might be hurt. I thought I loved my family, but could not be counted on to even make it to the hospital when my grandmother became ill. I was too busy partying with people I don’t even remember, in the endless and empty pursuit of “fun.”

I learned the sacred inhabits the mundane

After years and years of living this life, I no longer even clung to the ideas of who I thought I was. The discrepancy between who I thought I was and who I actually was became too great. These hollow theories were replaced by bone-crushing shame. And so I made my way into the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. 

photo credits available on request to thepoint@aasf.org

Through A.A. I have learned that the sacred inhabits the mundane. Everything I do becomes an opportunity to be of service and to practice the principles. Cooking for my loved ones. Cleaning up after myself everywhere I go. Watering my plants. Picking up trash. Greeting people with kindness. Waiting for my turn patiently, or even joyfully. Making my bed. Brushing my teeth. All of these simple, everyday tasks, elevated to opportunities for honesty, hope, faith, courage, integrity, willingness, humility, brotherly love, justice, perseverance, spirituality and service.

Now when I wake in the morning, I make it my practice to say, “How can I be of service today? How can I be truly helpful?” And the answer comes in everything I do, everywhere I am, with everyone I meet. 

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