Self care,  Spirituality

Twelve Step Recovery

How It Impacted My Spirituality

I was in twelve step recovery for ten years. I am still alcohol free and I don’t know if I would have ever sobered up without the support of my recovery community. 

But today I find my spiritual connections in my church with a different like minded community. 

In recovery there is fear associated with not being fully engaged anymore. And why not? We all come from such a dark place into the light. The fear of returning to addiction can be worse than death. 

I am forever grateful for what twelve step recovery did for me, but it comes with a warning. Here is my twelve step recovery story and why I chose to move on, at least for now. 

Background Before Twelve Step Recovery 

(Warning. Contains sensitive, personal material.)

My dad was an alcoholic and I was always warned against it. But I didn’t understand. So I drank heavily and heartily. I had a lot of fun for a long time. 

I moved to a beach town after high school, partied and tended bar. Used a lot of drugs but alcohol was always what I went back to. 

I didn’t realize I had a problem until I wanted to stop and realized I couldn’t. I was baffled and powerless. One day I met with my pastor who suggested twelve step recovery. I made a few meetings but still struggled. 

My final drink happened on a normal day. I felt fine. Then the obsession to drink popped into my head and I couldn’t fight it off. Broke and unemployed, I used a key I had to my neighbor’s home to enter unbeknownst to her and chug a handle of vodka I knew she kept in the kitchen. 

I blacked out and woke up in the ER surrounded by strangers. Apparently I had been found unresponsive by my sister in-law and niece. I was covered in blood and vomit. They called 911.

That was it. After that I was terrified. I went to rehab where I got time away from distractions to learn how to implement twelve step recovery in my life. 

Practicing Twelve Step Recovery 

Twelve step recovery emphasizes finding a higher power. It is spiritually based. Easy enough, right? In the beginning I just went back to church. I got baptized with two months of sobriety. 

Twelve step recovery is extremely open minded. Their literature states that the spiritual highway is broad, roomy and all inclusive. There was so much freedom in that.

I started seeking spirituality outside of church, eventually abandoning it all together. I found God in nature, music and meditation. These are all beautiful things and I think everyone should seek God in and outside of church.

The Problem Was…

Instead of using outside sources to reinforce my beliefs, I used them to replace them. 

I used to say I was “taking God out of the box.” Most people enter recovery with a broad spiritual concept that narrows over time. My ideas did the opposite and became increasingly more broad.

After years in twelve step recovery I felt completely disconnected spiritually. I switched mentors frequently. I started the process repeatedly thinking I had “missed” something. And nothing I did fixed my feelings of disconnection. 

When I Found My Way Back

My marriage was struggling. In an attempt to understand my Christian husband I went to church. Then we started going together as a family.

And I realized what had been missing from my spirituality this whole time: Jesus.

I had been so hyper focused on open mindedness and spirituality I forgot about Jesus. He had been the missing piece all along. And as soon as I remembered, nearly ten years later, I felt connection again. 

The Lesson

I don’t think I would have gotten sober without twelve step recovery. 

But I think there is a warning to be had in my story, particularly for Christians. 

The spiritual highway is broad, but it narrows. Even twelve step literature says this. It narrows with what behaviors we find acceptable. It narrows with our life decisions and social choices. And it narrows with our idea of God. 

My faith today doesn’t have guesswork or trial and error. It comes from God’s word, breathed into the pages of the Bible that I fully accept as truth.

So, in twelve step recovery just remember you choose your own spirituality. But don’t let open mindedness steer you away from Jesus. Just get to know him better.


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