1) Admitted that we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.
2) Came to believe that a power greater than us could restore us to sanity.
3) Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.
I am writing this blog post on Monday of Holy Week and I am more aware than usual how fortunate those in 12 step programs are to live in a quite incarnate way the mystery of the cross and resurrection. Very few people can claim to have suffered in exactly the same way as those who’ve found their way to the rooms; very few can know so fully the power of resurrection that occurs through fully embracing the cross of addiction. This is true across the board, whether for those in Alcoholics Anonymous or those in any number of other programs that have arisen in the shadow of AA using the same 12 steps. It doesn’t seem to matter what one’s difficulty or addiction might have been; those who come to the 12 steps and take them seriously are those who’ve confronted the stark and inescapable cross of their own powerlessness.
Christ, too, knew powerlessness. When he asked the night before his death that the Father might take his lot from him, he knew powerlessness of the sort that those who’ve come to the end of their suffering in addiction and compulsion know well. In his passion and crucifixion and death, Jesus knew the kind of soul wrenching terror of those who know they cannot continue living as they have, that something will need to die if they are to go on living.
Did Christ come literally to believe that God would restore him to life in the resurrection? We don’t know, though we do know that Jesus seems to have had complete faith in the Father till the end of his earthly life. We do know that he completely turned his will and his life over to the care of God from the cross when he prayed, just before dying, “Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.”
Jesus rose from the dead after a process that very nearly mirrors the first three steps of the 12 step program. It is often said by persons who have longtime experience in a 12 step program that the first three steps are the only ones that can be completely taken and that they are the primary ones that keep individuals in recovery on a day to day basis.
For those in 12 step programs who are also Christians, there is great solace in knowing and understanding that the recovery process so closely patterns itself after the central mysteries of the faith. The path of loss and recovery that those in 12 step programs tread is the same path taken by Jesus. It is not uncommon to hear Christians state that “WE ARE AN EASTER PEOPLE!” Perhaps this is no more evident than in those lives that have sought and found recovery through the 12 steps.