The 12 Gifts from Working the Steps

An excerpt from
An Abridged Version of 12 Hidden Rewards of Making Amends

by Allen Berger, PhD., Hazelden Publishing

PART TWO | HOPE: A Better Solution is Within Our Grasp

Hope is critical at this juncture. Hope gives us the belief that things can be different, that there is more to life than our false-self has led us to believe. Hope is the belief that a better solution is within our grasp.

The authentic nature of the Twelve Step fellowship creates a unique atmosphere for people to change.

Twelve Step meetings provide a very special and safe place to heal. These meetings are based on authenticity, on owning shortcomings, and on sharing our experience, strength, and hope. They are based on working together toward the primary purpose of the group.

The Twelve Step fellowship provides an emotionally charged, confidential, and loving relationship—both with fellow members of the program and through a very special relationship with a sponsor.

Making a decision to find our true-self is essential to changing our lives. If we don’t make a wholehearted, disciplined, enduring, and unwavering commitment, we won’t be able to tolerate the discomfort that comes from growth. We were forewarned about this when we were told “half measures availed us nothing” (Alcoholics Anonymous).

A curious thing happens when we decide to truly commit ourselves to this new way of life. We begin to see that letting go doesn’t result in total anarchy and chaos.

The goal of the Fourth Step inventory is to create an awareness of what we are doing and how we do it. Bill Wilson indicated that the inventory helps us find exactly how, when, and where our natural desires have warped us. We wish to look squarely at the unhappiness this has caused others and ourselves. By discovering what our emotional deformities are, we can move toward their correction. Without a willing and persistent effort to do this, there can be little sobriety and contentment (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions).

We need to develop an understanding of the forces within us that drive us to behave as we do. This is at the root of our problems. “It is from our twisted relations with family, friends, and society at large that many of us have suffered the most. . . . The primary fact that we fail to recognize is our total inability to form a true partnership with another human being” (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions).

What causes our failure to form true partnerships? Bill Wilson thought that it was egomania; I think our difficulties are better understood as a lack of differentiation or emotional maturity. This is not to say we aren’t egomaniacs; we clearly are. Egomania, however, is a result of a lack of differentiation, not the cause of it. Simply stated, differentiation refers to the degree to which we can hold on to ourselves in relationships. The lower our level of differentiation, the more immature we are and the more emotionally reactive we will be.

Our inventory will reveal that underneath all this nonsense, two natural forces exist. They are: (1) our desire for togetherness, to join or please or cooperate; and (2) our desire to be ourselves, to march to our own beat, and to hold on to our individuality. When these two forces are balanced, we are in integrity. I use the word integrity to refer to wholeness. When we are in integrity, we are respecting both our need for togetherness and our need for individuality. Balancing our need for togetherness with our need for individuality is important to establishing emotional well-being.

Once we have completed our searching and fearless moral inventory, we are ready to take the next step in the development of a positive self-concept.

PART ONE          PART THREE          PART FOUR          PART FIVE