Healing the Shame that binds you
When I came to the rooms of AA and embraced a 12-step program in 2013, I discovered I was broken not only in mind and body, but also in a place of spiritual bankruptcy. I was so riddled with Fear, Shame and Guilt that I was completely blocked from God’s love and understanding. This fed what is commonly referred to as a “shame spiral’ into my destructive, self-limiting and coping behaviors such as heavy drinking, avoidance, denial, perfectionism and excuses to avoid self-acceptance. Stuck in an endless cycle of trying to ‘return to normal’ and instead spiraling down further from healing I so desperately craved, yet I could not swallow my pride and admit help was needed without an outside force.
I now know that God, my Abba Father, needed me to go down that path of pain, shame, loss and hit brokenness that is ‘bottom’ to finally surrender it ALL to Him. That occurred in a detox unit on Easter morning, my own spiritual awakening occurring inside that wounded ‘me’. I was resurrected as well that day, I cried out to God for courage to seek help, found surrender and a safe space to begin the healing process. Ending the shame spiral once and for all with the aid of 12-steps, connecting in honesty with my family, service work and building a closer relationship with my Abba Father through trust, prayer and eventually mediation.
In general, moving through the 12-steps individuals report being increasingly in contact with a “Divine Person” rather than a philosophical Higher Power. When this change takes place, I often witness miracles happening in their lives. After much fear of losing “control”, they discover insight, wisdom, power, and courage that they didn’t have at all two weeks before. At that point many say, “I surrender, I give up trying to Control it all – God’s Got It!” They begin to communicate with God concerning what is happening to them. And that’s when they are ready to receive the help of Step Eleven.
“Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out”
Step Eleven continues and deepens our bond of mutuality with God. It promotes a relationship of conscious contact, it strengthens our spiritual muscles. This is a true relationship. We’ve come full circle, starting from the broken and abandoning source relationship that set us up to internalize our shame and ending with a true friendship with God. Practicing the 12-steps underscores that fact that toxic shame and all its cover-ups end in spiritual bankruptcy. Shame-based people long for true inner serenity and peace – often they fill that God-sized hole with bad habits, compulsions, addictions or worse. The spiritual life is an inner life, it cannot be attained by outside means.
As our recovery journey continues, the fog starts to clear and we see the steps working on our lives, regaining our spiritual life and connection is its own reward and seeks nothing beyond itself. Once we achieve inner peace and conscious contact, we want to overflow in gratitude! That’s where Step Twelve moves us to carry the message to our brothers and sisters who are still hiding behind masks of toxic shame. We are called to practice the spiritual principals of rigorous honesty and service toward others in all our affairs. It asks us to attract others by modeling a life of self-disciplined love and respect. As we model our restored relationships with God, self, our neighbors and the world, we can show others there is a way out. There is hope.
“Those of us who have come to make regular use of prayer would no more do without it than we would refuse air, food or sunshine. And for the same reason. When we refuse air, light or food the body suffers. And when we turn away from meditation and prayer, we likewise deprive our minds, our emotions and our intuitions of vitally needed support. As the body can fail its purpose for lack of nourishment, so can the soul. We all need the light of God’s reality, the nourishment of His strength, and the atmosphere of His grace. To an amazing extent the facts of A.A. life confirm this ageless truth.” – Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 97-98
It is clear from reading the Twelve and Twelve that the conception of meditation offered in this step is not the caricatured lotus position, nor any form of esoteric mysticism. Although there is certainly room for a more in-depth form of meditation, what Bill W. (Founder of AA) had in mind is more of a clear-minded self-reflection.
In terms of prayer, although a more traditional sense of prayer is described, the purpose is also portrayed as prayer to one’s Higher Power for a sense of direction. The prayer “God’s will, not mine, be done” is frequently added to the Serenity Prayer at the conclusion of 12-step meetings, and reflects a move away from the egocentric position of the active alcoholic or addict.
For myself personally, I like to include the full version of this prayer in my day to day meditation practices – I find a centering comfort in these words, no matter what is going on in my life be is blessings or challenges. God’s Got It.
The Serenity Prayer (Long Form)
God grant me the SERENITY to
accept the things I cannot change;
COURAGE to change the things I can;
and WISDOM to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it:
Trusting that He will make all things
right if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen