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Twelve Pointers

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My understanding is that a spiritual awakening is a radical internal rearrangement of attitudes, priorities, desires, and beliefs. The effect is I’ve now become able to do, think, feel, and say things that I could not before— no matter how hard I tried, how sincerely I wanted to, or how dire any consequences.

I came into OA in my early 20s. I’ve found that the Twelve Steps have been the only cause of a spiritual awakening for me. I have incorporated other spiritual practices as our literature recommends, but my awakening started with my introduction to the Twelve Steps. One suggestion found in OA literature is that if a person does not want to use God as a Higher Power, they may use the group. My twist on this is to suggest using the Twelve Steps as a Higher Power. I have faith in all Twelve Steps; they point to a spiritual awakening.

In Step One, I learned I am not in control. While working Step Two, I read AA’s Came to Believe. It showed me I didn’t have to put my brain on a shelf or pretend to be someone I’m not. Reading stories of others’ wide-ranging conceptions of spirituality was fascinating and relieved me of a burden of narrow-mindedness. In Step Three, the image of a door opening just a tiny crack was so helpful. It felt attainable: a tiny baby step even I could take.

In Step Four, I learned that all my character defects and all the wrongs I’d committed were mistakes—nothing more. Mistakes do not call for self-hate or self-punishment, they call for more spiritual awakening. I became able to say, “I am wrong, I made a mistake.” In my first Fourth Step inventory, I got so upset writing about resentments toward my mother that I didn’t want to wait until I was finished before reading it to someone. I read it to a program friend. When she listened to my anger and resentment toward my mother and then said, “You are really in it,” I felt heard. I had never spoken so completely about that to anyone, so it felt both risky and freeing.

Step Five contributed to my spiritual awakening by increasing my sense of self worth, an essential ingredient in developing a relationship with a Higher Power— or with anyone, for that matter.

Steps Six and Seven are leading me to a spiritual awakening by making the aim of my program work freedom from blocks to my awareness of a Higher Power.

Steps Eight and Nine help me see myself and my impact from another person’s point of view. Anything that teaches me to relate to and identify with another human being, especially a former enemy, must further me along my spiritual path in leaps and bounds.

Steps Ten and Eleven provide me with a daily practice, since I’m probably not going to become spiritually awakened immediately and permanently.

The message Step Twelve refers to is simple for me: I can have abstinence if I do the Steps. I’m working toward carrying the message. I tend to think my weakness in this area is not fully understanding the Steps, or not conveying my understanding well enough. But our literature says we “don’t simply carry the message; we are the message” (The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous, Second Edition, pp. 86–87). The best way I can carry the message to others right now is to continue to work the Steps myself and live a good abstinent life.

— Elaine M., Berkeley, California USA

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