I am profoundly, deeply, everlastingly grateful for the gift of the 12 steps. The process of learning to apply the Spiritual Principles in my life has changed my life from an unendurable hell to an adventure that is exciting and enJoyable most of the time. The twelve steps work. That is the bottom line. They work to help a person transform their experience of life into something better. They work to help a person learn to develop a relationship with life and self that allows room for inner peace, happiness, and Joy. The twelve step process works to help a person open up to Love.
As I explain in my book Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls, planetary conditions caused human beings to develop a relationship with being human that was reversed to Love and Truth. The reason this human experience is so screwed up is because humans have been doing life backwards – looking outside for Truth and Love, for validation, meaning, and purpose. Outer dependence is dysfunctional. It is the reason we do not know how to love our neighbors as our self – because we do not know how to Love our self. It is the reason we have war and poverty, pollution and child abuse, rape and bigotry. This world would be a much nicer place if everyone was working a twelve step program.
The good news is that there has been a major change in those planetary conditions, and a new age – an Age of Healing and Joy – has dawned in human consciousness. The human condition is changing. We have entered a new time in human evolution – a time in which we are learning to manifest Love into the world by learning to access Love for self. The twelve step process has played a major role in the Spiritual Revolution that is taking place on this planet. The mystical gift of the twelve steps greatly accelerated the process of bringing the planetary energy field to critical mass so that this change could take place. In this series of articles I am sharing my perspective of the twelve steps.
“I believe that in a hundred years historians will look back and pinpoint this milestone as the single most important event in the twentieth century. This milestone was the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous in Akron, Ohio, in June of 1935.
Besides the invaluable gift of sobriety that AA has given to millions of Alcoholics, it also started a revolution in Spiritual consciousness.
The dramatic success and expansion of AA facilitated the spread of a radically revolutionary idea which has traditionally, in Western Civilization, been considered heresy. This was not a new idea but rather a reintroduction and clarification of an old idea, coupled with a formula for practical application of the concept into day-to-day human life experience.
This revolutionary idea was that an unconditionally Loving Higher Power exists with whom the individual being can personally communicate. A Higher Power that is so powerful that it has no need to judge the humans it created because this Universal Force is powerful enough to ensure that everything unfolds perfectly from a Cosmic Perspective.
This reintroduction of the revolutionary concept of an accessible Loving God has been clarified to specifically include the concept that the individual being can define this Universal Force according to his/her own understanding, and can develop a personal, intimate relationship with this Higher Power.
In other words, no one is needed as an intermediary between you and your creator. No outside agency has the right to impose upon you its definition of God.
The spread of Alcoholics Anonymous, and the other Anonymous programs which sprang out of AA, is the widest and most effective dissemination of this radical revolutionary concept that has ever occurred in Western Civilization.
Mystics, gnostics, and certain “primitive” peoples have, throughout recorded human history, understood the Truth in this concept – but the “organized religions” of urban-based civilizations have persecuted, tortured, and crucified any messengers or groups of people who believed in a Loving, personal God or Goddess – because it threatened the power of those organized religions’ control over the masses and therefore their very existence. This time the dissemination of the message has been effective because: The time was right; the revolutionary concept was camouflaged as part of a successful treatment for a fatal, incurable disease; and it was accompanied by the Twelve Step Spiritual program.” – quotes in this color are from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls
Codependency: A Dance of Black and White Thinking and Toxic Shame
“One of the core characteristics of this disease of Codependence is intellectual polarization – black and white thinking. Rigid extremes – good or bad, right or wrong, love it or leave it, one or ten. Codependence does not allow any gray area – only black and white extremes.
Life is not black and white. Life involves the interplay of black and white. In other words, the gray area is where life takes place. A big part of the healing process is learning the numbers two through nine – recognizing that life is not black and white.
Life is not some kind of test, that if we fail, we will be punished. We are not human creatures who are being punished by an avenging god. We are not trapped in some kind of tragic place out of which we have to earn our way by doing the “right” things.
We are Spiritual Beings having a human experience. We are here to learn. We are here to go through this process that is life. We are here to feel these feelings.”
There is an acronym in Twelve Step Recovery, that like many simple sayings, it full of Truth. That acronym is HOW. The letters stand for honesty, openness, and willingness. It is vital to be willing to start looking at life and self from larger perspectives, willing to take the action necessary to align with healing. To be open to changing our attitudes, to feeling our feelings. And it is so vital to start being willing and open to getting more honest with ourselves.
“We were powerless out of ego-self to do anything any different than we did it. We are powerless out of ego-self to heal this disease. Through Spiritual Self, through our Spiritual Connection, we have access to all the power in the Universe.
We need to have the willingness: willingness to get to a new level of self-honesty; willingness to start listening to the Loving inner voice instead of the shaming ones; willingness to face the terror of healing the emotional wounds.”
Codependence is dishonest. It is an emotional defense system adapted by humans to try to survive the pain of feeling unworthy and unlovable. From a codependent perspective there are no choices – only two extremes, black and white. Right or wrong.
Because as small children we did not have any perspective or discernment (prior to the age of reason, which occurs about 7 as our brains develop) we were incapable as viewing our parents as anything other than perfect Higher Powers. Our God and Goddess. Because our Higher Powers were wounded and did not know how to Love self, we were wounded and got the message that something must be wrong with us. Toxic Shame.
“That shame is toxic and is not ours – it never was! We did nothing to be ashamed of – we were just little kids. Just as our parents were little kids when they were wounded and shamed, and their parents before them, etc., etc. This is shame about being human that has been passed down from generation to generation.
There is no blame here, there are no bad guys, only wounded souls and broken hearts and scrambled minds.”
Out of our codependent relationship with life, there are only two extremes: blame them, or blame me. Buy into the belief that they are to blame for what I am feeling – or I am to blame because I am a shameful unworthy being. The emotional pain of feeling unlovable to our parents – which is a reflection of unbearable anguish of feeling separated from The Source – can feel like a bottomless pit of agonizing suffering. At the core of our wounding is the unbearable emotional pain resulting from having internalized the message that God – our Source – does not Love us because we are personally defective and shameful.
Our addictions, compulsions, and obsessions; our continuing quest to reach the destination, to find the fix; our inability to be present in the now through worrying about the future or ruminating about the past; are all tools that we used to avoid the emotional pain. Our behavior patterns and dysfunctional relationships (of all kinds, with other people, with money, with our gender and sexuality) are symptoms. Codependence is a defense system that was adapted by our damaged egos to try to avoid falling into the abyss of shame and pain within.
We formed our core relationship with self, other people, and life based upon this feeling of toxic shame. Like the corruption at the foundation of Western Civilization, there is corruption in the foundation of our relationship with self. Reflections.
In order to start changing our ego programming and healing our emotional wounds, it is necessary to start Loving ourselves. We start Loving ourselves by opening up to the possibility that maybe we are Lovable. We start Loving ourselves by using our will power to start changing our attitudes, beliefs, perspectives, and behaviors – in order to start changing our relationship with self, with our own emotions.
We are Co-Creators of our human experience, but for most of our lives we were allied with the disease – lived life out of the fear, lack, scarcity, separation programming of the damaged ego. We were powerless to change our ego programming out of the false self, the ego self image, that was based upon the dishonesty inherent in black and white thinking.
Our paths unfolded perfectly to bring us to a point where some life event, or series of events, brought us to our knees, caused us to hit an emotional bottom that made us start being honest enough with ourselves to see that we needed some help. When we started to seek help, we opened up to allowing the Universe to start guiding us with carrots instead of using the stick. We opened up to becoming willing and honest enough to start learning the lessons we are here to learn instead of being trapped in repeating our patterns.
Recovery – aligning with Love instead of shame
The tool, the gift, that I discovered when I was willing to start asking for help was the Twelve Steps. The Twelve Step Recovery program that was developed by Alcoholics Anonymous is a work of mystical Spirituality. It is a formula for integrating Spiritual Truth into day to day human life.
“The Twelve Step Recovery process is so successful because it provides a formula for integrating different levels. It is by recognizing that we are powerless to control our life experiences out of ego-self that we can access the power out of True Self, Spiritual Self. By surrendering the illusion of ego control we can reconnect with our Higher Selves. Selfishness out of ego-self is destroying the planet. Selfishness out of Spiritual Self is what will save the planet.”
One of those principles – that really scared me when I first heard I had to develop it – was humility. I equated humility with humiliation because of my toxic shame.
In Truth, humility really means to see clearly. To see that as a human being the reality is that I am not perfect. There are some areas I am strong in – that I have gifts, abilities, talents, skills – and some that I am weak in. None of us human beings are perfect in our humanness – we are all perfect in our Spiritual essence.
One person will be talented in one area but weak in another. Because we got the message in childhood that we were supposed to be perfect, that it was shameful to be ‘wrong’ – and we were taught to look outside and compare ourselves to determine our worth – we focused on our strengths as proof we were better than others. Which also meant we needed to deny our weaknesses – or deny that the areas in which we were weak had any importance. Humility is about owning both our strengths and our weaknesses – and realizing that all human beings have both strengths and weaknesses.
“Looking outside of ourselves for self-definition and self-worth means that we have to judge people in order to feel good about ourselves. There is no other way to do it when you look outside.
We were taught to have ego-strength through judgment – better than, prettier than, smarter than, richer than, stronger than, etc., etc.
In a Codependent society everyone has to have someone to look down on in order to feel positive about him/herself. This is the root of all bigotry, racism, sexism, and prejudice in the world.
True self-worth does not come from looking down on anyone or anything. True self-worth comes from awakening to our connection to everyone and everything.
The Truth is that we are like snowflakes: Each individual is unique and different and special and we are all made from the same thing. We are all cut from the same cloth. We are all part of the Eternal ONENESS that is the Great Spirit.
When we start looking within and celebrating the Truth of who we Truly are, then we can celebrate our unique differences instead of judging them out of fear.”
When I started to open up to the concept that there was a Higher Power who Loved me Unconditionally, then I could start getting past the shame to seeing the gray area. Then I could start to stop reacting out of the black and white, fear based programming of my damaged ego.
When I started to be open to seeing myself more clearly, then I could start to see that I had more in common with other human beings than I had differences. Then I could start to see that thinking I was better than someone else because of a gift is false pride. A gift is just that – a gift. Talent, intelligence, looks – those are gifts to be cherished and cultivated, not standards for feeling better than another human being.
Through working the twelve step program, I could start to understand that every cloud has a silver lining. (I just flashed on my mother in childhood telling me that every curse is also a blessing – in regard to my emotional sensitivity I believe. We do hear messages of Spiritual Truth from early on – it is applying them to our lives that we need some help figuring out how to do.) A gift also carries obligations with it. Though feeling pride about a gift was false – what I could take pride in was the action I took to cultivate that gift. (Which of course I had not done in some cases because of the black and white thinking and toxic shame – I was afraid to take a risk because I was sure I would fail. Another thing to realize I was powerless over and forgive myself for.)
Through starting to see myself more clearly – by stopping with the shame of self and judgment of others to protect myself from that shame – then I could more easily see that we were more alike than different. Then I could start to be open to believing that maybe I had worth and deserved Love – and that you did also.
Feeling shameful and reacting to life from fear, caused me to focus on how I was different (and better, or worse) than you. The more I could start to see that I am not perfect and that it is OK – the more I could access the acceptance to allow you to not be perfect.
That helped me to stop taking other peoples behavior so personally. When I started understanding how I had been reacting – started seeing myself more clearly and accepting reality, I could also start seeing that what you were doing was not really about me, it was you reacting to your wounds.
The more clearly I saw myself within the framework of a Spiritual recovery process, the easier it became to see that I had not been seeing myself or you clearly – or life.
Working the steps, applying the principles in our lives
Twelve step recovery is a blessed gift. Unfortunately not all twelve step groups are utilizing them to their full capacity. In Alcoholics Anonymous for instance, there are many people who are stuck in a black and white perspective that causes them to keep focusing on the symptom of drinking for many years after they have gotten sober. Of course, one of the reason they do this is because they are scared of doing the emotional healing and facing the toxic shame – so they get stuck in a rigid black and white perspective.
This disease / condition of codependency is so powerful and insidious because the programming is so ingrained and so much a part of the human condition. The key to changing the conditions in the world is honesty and clarity.
The first three steps of the twelve step program basically involve: Step 1. getting honest enough to recognize that what we have been doing is not working; Step 2. getting willing to open up to some help from outside; Step 3. asking for help. The next step – the 4th – involves taking an honest inventory and starting to see ourselves with more clarity. When we start getting more honest with ourselves, the 11th step tells us how to access the power to change our lives – through prayer and meditation.
In other words, life breaks us down enough to make us surrender – to make us start the process of stopping our ego programming from defining our life experience and dictating our relationships. Then we develop a level of consciousness that allows us to look at the gray area. We are then able to observe ourselves objectively enough to see that what we have been doing isn’t working for us – and can start to be open to the possibility that maybe we are not shameful beings, but we have been living life by some dysfunctional programming. Once we start detaching from ego-self and developing a higher level of consciousness, we are directed back inward to seek the Truth. Prayer and meditation not meaning, necessarily, formal practices but rather developing a conscious relationship, and ongoing communication, with our Spirit – with our intuitive guidance.
We start to align our consciousness with Spiritual Self so that we can use our will power to change the negative programming and stop the self abusive behaviors that we adapted to protect ourselves. And as the 10th step dictates we need to keep taking a daily inventory – we need to be willing to stay open to messages from the Universe so that we can catch ourselves when we are being dishonest with ourselves.
Honesty with self is absolutely vital to recovery and healing – to raising our consciousness. As we start to awaken to Spiritual Truth, we can start to peal away the layers of dishonesty that we have wrapped ourselves in out of our codependent defense system. It is very painful to start getting honest with ourselves. We feel ashamed as we start to see how dishonest we have been.
The Truth shall set you free – but it will be a very painful process.
It is vital to face the pain of taking inventory of how we have been dishonest. What makes it possible to start to see ourselves, and our behavior patterns, more clearly is starting to believe that maybe we are not shameful. Maybe we do have a disease – a compulsively reactive condition – that we have been powerless over. Maybe there is a Loving Higher Power.
By starting to stop the dishonesty of believing that others are completely to blame, we can also stop empowering the lie that we are to blame because we are defective. By stopping the blaming, we can start taking responsibility – owning our side of the street.
A very important part of the process of taking responsibility is making amends. Cleaning up the wreckage of our past. Even though we were powerless over our behaviors because of our ego programming, because of our codependency, we still have to take responsibility for the behaviors and their consequences.
The purpose of making amends to others is to heal our Spirit, to clear our conscience, to dump any baggage from the past that we are still carrying. We do this for ourselves. Often the other person doesn’t even remember an incident that we make amends for. Sometimes the other person is hateful and bitter still. We can still make amends for our side of the street, even if they are not owning their side of the street. We are not making the amends so that we can all make up and be friends – although that is certainly possible sometimes – we are making them to free us from the past, we are doing them as a Loving thing to do for our self. We do not have the power to get others to do what we want them to – so we need to focus on what we do have the power to change. We can shine the Light of Love and consciousness into any dark corners within so that we can stop giving power to the past.
Making amends is about forgiveness. Healing the wounds from the past is the Loving thing to do for ourselves. Seeing more clearly so that we can own our responsibility in situations that we are still carrying resentments about, helps us to let go of those resentments. Carrying a resentment doesn’t hurt the person we are resentful of – it hurts us.
I have found that the reason I had resentments that I couldn’t let go of, was because I hadn’t forgiven myself. I was holding onto feelings of self righteous indignation about how I was victimized, because I couldn’t face the shame of admitting that I set myself up in some way. By trusting that person, or letting them into my life, or whatever.
Making amends for the ways in which our behavior has hurt others is part of the process of healing self. And making amends is much more than saying “I’m sorry.” Making amends is about changing the dysfunctional behavior patterns. Making amends is about doing what it takes to stop empowering the dysfunctional attitudes and black and white thinking so that we can change the behaviors. It is about becoming willing to face the terror of healing our emotional wounds, so that we can stop reacting and hurting other people and our self with our behavior.
The steps help us to move into a growth paradigm – a relationship with life that helps us see problems as opportunities for growth instead of punishment. Applying the twelve step principles in our life helps us stop taking other people’s behavior so personally – and learn to protect ourselves from their behavior if necessary. As we forgive ourselves for our past behaviors, and learn to see life and self with more clarity and more Love – we see others with more clarity and more Love.
By taking power away from the polarized thinking and the emotional wounds from the past we can stop being our own worst enemy.
“Because of our broken hearts, our emotional wounds, and our scrambled minds, our subconscious programming, what the disease of Codependence causes us to do is abandon ourselves. It causes the abandonment of self, the abandonment of our own inner child – and that inner child is the gateway to our channel to the Higher Self.
The one who betrayed us and abandoned and abused us the most was ourselves. That is how the emotional defense system that is Codependence works.
The battle cry of Codependence is “I’ll show you – I’ll get me.””
We need to learn to see the gray area. It is never just black and white, right and wrong. There are always multiple levels involved in this experience of being human. It is vital to stop empowering black and white thinking.
There is a simple prayer that sums up this process. It is a formula for learning how to live life in a healthy way. It, like the Twelve Step Recovery process, is a Divinely inspired work of Mystical Truth. It is called the Serenity Prayer.
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
(The Serenity Prayer is generally thought to have been written by Reinhold Niebuhr)
God / Goddess / Great Spirit, please help me to access:
the serenity to accept the things I cannot change (life, other people),
The courage and willingness to change the things I can (me, my own attitudes and behaviors),
And the wisdom and clarity to know the difference.
(My personal adapted version of Serenity Prayer)
This link will take you to different interpretations of The Twelve Steps on a page of my site.
The last section of this article is a short excerpt about the Principles of Twelve Step Recovery along with my version of the of the first three steps from intellectual and emotional levels as I understand and apply them – originally published online in 1998. At the bottom of the page is a disclaimer to let you know that Alcoholics Anonymous has not approved any deviation from their approach to the Twelve Steps and any reference I make to the steps is not meant to imply otherwise.
The Twelve Steps are a formula for integrating the Spiritual into the physical so that powerlessness can lead to True empowerment.
Twelve Step Principles & tools include:
Self-Honesty, willingness, Acceptance, letting go, surrender,
Faith, Trust, honesty, Humility, Patience, openness, Courage,
Responsibility, Action, Forgiveness, compassion, Love.
“When I became willing to surrender the old attitudes and beliefs, to surrender to feeling the feelings, to surrender trying to control things over which I had no control, then I accessed the power to change myself and my relationships. I became empowered to change my life into an experience that was defined by Joy, Love, and Peace instead of fear, anger, and pain.”
There are two points of powerlessness with Codependence
The first is intellectual – when we first realize that there is something that’s not working and that maybe we have to change, to learn a different way.
The second comes after we have intellectually learned what boundaries and healthy behavior are but we cannot stop acting out the old patterns in our closest relationships – we watch ourselves saying things we don’t want to say, and doing things we don’t want to do.
This is when it is necessary to do the emotional healing.
Here is my version of the initial steps from these two different levels.
Step 1. I acknowledge and accept that I am powerless out of ego-self to control my human life experience, and that the delusion that I should be in control has caused pain and suffering in my life.
Step 2. Came to remember that I am a Spiritual Being who is part of the ONENESS that is the Unconditionally Loving, ALL-Powerful Universal Force, and that believing in that Force can help to bring balance, harmony, and sanity to my life.
Step 3. Made a decision to ask the Force to help me align my will, my actions, and my life with the Universal Power.
Step 1. Admitted that I am powerless to substantially change the learned behavioral defenses and dysfunctional attitudes from childhood until I deal with the emotional wounds of my childhood experience.
Step 2. Came to remember that I am a Spiritual Being who is part of the ONENESS that is the Unconditionally Loving, ALL-Powerful Universal Force, and that believing in that Force can help to bring balance, harmony, and sanity to my life.
Step 3. Made a decision to ask the Force to help me face the terror of healing my emotional wounds.
This is excerpted from an article by the same name on my website Joy2MeU.com It is the first in a series of articles on the twelve step proces. The second article in that series is The Miracle of The Twelve Step Recovery Process Part 2: The First Three Steps – 1, 2, 3, and a 1, 2, 3
The key to codependency recovery is the inner child healing work I describe on my site: A key element of that work includes learning to set internal boundaries. The formula that I pioneered for inner healing – which includes learning to set the internal boundaries – is something that I teach people through telephone counseling. (It is now possible to get phone cards for very cheap rates from many places in the world – and also to use Skype for free from anywhere.) I talk about how the phone counseling can work to really change a persons life for the better in a short period of time on this page which includes some special combination offers.
Reading my book Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls (links to all of my books in ebook format are on that page) would really help you take your understanding to a whole new level. Understanding codependency is vital in helping us to forgive our self for the dysfunctional ways we have lived our lives – it is not our fault we are codependent.
In the last few years I have also published two more books that can be very helpful. Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in The Light Book 1 Empowerment, Freedom, and Inner Peace through Inner Child Healing and Romantic Relationships ~ The Greatest Arena for Spiritual & Emotional Growth. I have special offers for either or both of these books (or for all three of my books) on this page:
I also offer periodic day long workshops in San Diego to teach people how to apply my inner child healing formula. (There is now a downloadable MP3 recording available of my Life Changing workshop – and I have a page with special offers for both the workshop recording and an MP3 download of Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls. )
Codependency causes us to feel like the victim of our own thoughts and feelings, and like our own worst enemy – recovery helps us to start learning how to be our own best friend. Getting into codependency recovery is an act of love for self.
Although my book and articles make reference to Alcoholics Anonymous, the principles and Twelve Step program of A.A., this does not mean that A.A. has reviewed or approved the contents of this writing, nor that A.A. agrees with the views expressed herein. A.A. is a program of recovery from alcoholism only – use of this material in connection with programs and activities which are patterned after A.A., but address other problems, or in any other non-A.A. context, does not imply otherwise.