12 Steps to a New Life

Introduction

On July 1st of this year Los Angeles Angels player Tyler Skaggs was found dead in his hotel room. In his system were the opioids fentanyl and oxycodone along with alcohol. Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid similar to morphine but 50 to 100 times more potent. 

https://www.latimes.com/sports/angels/story/2019-08-30/tyler-skaggs-autopsy-report-fentanyl-oxycodone-alcohol-angels-rusty-hardin
Photo: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

Just over 70,000 drug overdoses resulted in death in America in 2017. The CDC reports that there are 192 drug overdose deaths every day. Louisiana has seen significant increases in drug overdose rates. An estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, making  alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States. The first is tobacco, and the second is poor diet and physical inactivity. In 2014, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 9,967 deaths (31 percent of overall driving fatalities). 40 million Americans ages 12 and older—or more than 1 in 7 people—abuse or are addicted to nicotine, alcohol or other drugs. This is more than the number of Americans with heart conditions (27 million), diabetes (26 million) or cancer (19 million). 

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has recognized September as National Recovery Month for 30 years. Three Goals.

  • Educate Americans that substance abuse treatment and mental health services can help those who struggle to live healthy and rewarding lives. 
  • Remind us that the testimony of millions of Americans is that treatment is effective and that people can and do recover.
  • Reduce the stigma and misconceptions that cloud public understanding of mental and substance use disorders, potentially discouraging others from seeking help.

Those goals should resonate with us – the message of the gospel is hope. That message is for everyone who struggles in any way. In addition to alcohol and tobacco, opioids, cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamines, hallucinogens, inhalants, PCP, and many other substances, Gambling, Food, Sex, Porn, Prescription Drugs, using the internet, shopping, playing video games, working, exercising, obsessions,  harming oneself, cutting, outbursts of anger, aggressive / assault type behavior, stealing.  Many drug addictions are connected with other behaviors and mental illness so that there can be a dual diagnosis…. More than one thing going  on at a time. 

What is your struggle? You might not label it an “addiction”, but is it a constant presence in your life? 

The truth is that everyone needs hope because everyone struggles. Everyone is in recovery from the mistakes, troubles, problems, and mess-ups of their own lives. 

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 3:23 , CSB

When we talk about recovery, we’re not focused on what someone else needs to do, but on looking in the mirror and asking God what we need to do. This month I want us to see the message of recovery from life’s biggest disappoints, messes, and regrets.

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13, CSB

The twelve steps are a pathway to hope – they point to a spiritual approach to life that deals with the habits that have gotten out of control. The Twelve Steps are the foundation of Alcoholics Anonymous and other addiction recovery groups. Where did they come from?

AA began in Akron, OH in 1935 when two struggling alcoholics found sobriety together. Bill W. – a NY stockbroker and Dr. Bob, an Ohio surgeon began meeting together to help each other stop drinking and AA was born. There are now millions of members worldwide.  Bill W. wrote the 12 steps we now know today. Later Bill would write The Big Book and 12 Steps and 12 Traditions – which serve as the foundation for AA and other 12 Step Groups.

“Each day, somewhere in the world, recovery begins when one alcoholic talks with another alcoholic, sharing experience, strength, and hope.”

– Bill W., Alcoholics Anonymous

The Twelve Steps really are the pathway to a new life. They can be organized in four segments. The Twelve Steps are guideposts on a spiritual journey.

PEACE WITH GOD

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable. 

Only the first and eleventh step mention alcohol. If that is not your issue, you can replace it with anything that causes a separation between you and God’s will.  All of us can do that.

For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate.  17 So  now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me. 

Romans 7:15-17, CSB

There is something about the human condition that influences our behavior and that makes our life unmanageable on our own.

2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

When it comes to our own sin, we are unable to correct or even to undo what we have done. Is there some power greater than our own that can help us?  Sometimes Christians are critical of 12 step programs for not identifying God as the source of our help … our ‘higher power’ … but we need to remember that they were written for people who were hopelessly down a dark hole and could not see a light out. The principle of God is all through the steps.

For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work  according to his good purpose.

Philippians 2:13, CSB

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

When we come to a place that we admit that we cannot dig ourselves out of our own sin, and there is someone who can … then we can turn our will and lives over to Him. 

Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. 

Romans 12:1

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

We can never confess to God that which we are not willing to admit. This moral inventory is searching and fearless … it is honest … a true look in the mirror.

Let us examine and probe our ways, and turn back to the Lord.

Lamentations 3:40

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. 

The power of admitting these sins and failures to another person is hard – but it is the pathway to healing, rebuilding, renewal. 

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. 

James 5:16a

The admission that we are powerless, God is powerful, and the desire to give our lives to Him… recognizing our sin and admitting it … these are pathways to peace with God. 

PEACE WITH OURSELVES

6. We were entirely ready to have God remove all of these defects of character.

If we believe that God is able… powerful enough … then we have come to a point where we trust Him enough to let those things go. 

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

James 4:10

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. 

God is not only able, but he is willing. But he never forces us into submission. 

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. 

So often the choices we have made and the actions we have taken have not only affected us, but also those in our family, workplace, neighborhood, the church. Making the list means we are serious about changing, and about recognizing the destruction we’ve left in our wake.

Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them.

Luke 6:31

When we have peace with God and with ourselves, we can pursue… 

PEACE WITH OTHERS

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. 

We might imagine situations where our apology might do more harm than good. But when we can, we should express our repentance – and if we can do something that makes right a wrong, we should.

So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother or  sister, and then come and offer your gift.

Matthew 5:23-24

10. Continued to take personal inventory and, when we were wrong promptly admit it.

Since we will continue to deal with ourselves, our struggles, we will continue to take personal inventory with honesty and openness.

So, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall.

1 Corinthians 10:12

Finding peace with God, Ourselves and Others is the foundation of rebuilding from the rubble of our lives. There’s another element that is crucial, however. 

KEEPING THE PEACE

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry it out. 

Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another.

Colossians 3:16a

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the results of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics (others) , and to practice these principles in all our affairs. 

What a great responsibility and privilege. When we find recovery in our own lives to help other people regain their footing, rebuild from the ruins.

Brothers and sisters, if someone is overtaken in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual, restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so that you also won’t be tempted.

Galatians 6:1

I find much in these twelve steps in the teachings of Jesus and in the Bible. They represent the cycle of sin, repentance and prayer that we should be going through. If we don’t find ourselves turning to God, being honest with our sins, and allowing Him to make changes … making things right when we have offended or hurt others … and helping others to engage in these activities … I would encourage us to think about our Christian walk.

The Five Rules of Recovery

1. Change Your Life – we have to make an effort to do things differently. We have to be aware of the people, places, and things associated with our struggles. Giving up the things in life that are keeping us the way we are takes a lot of courage.

2. Be Honest. One article I read said, “Being an addict means you lie like crazy: about where you’re going, what you’re getting, when you’ll be back and what you’ve done. Addicts lie to themselves about being an addict in order to continue using.”  Recovery is about is self-honesty. It is essential to keep up the honesty about yourself and your situation,

3. Ask for Help.  Joining a group can help by finding out you are not alone and hearing from others how they have coped and grown.  

4. Take Care of Yourself. Recovering individuals tend to be hard on themselves: we don’t feel they deserve to be good to themselves. Building a new life means finding time for the important things in life. 

5. Don’t Make Your Own Rules. One red flag: we start to ignore the steps. We can make deals with ourselves, we will know when to stop, we are different than everyone else. Get connected with recovery groups and learn all you can.

Whatever the statistics are about substance abuse – and they are frightening – there are two responses we need to engage:

There is help available. 

There are prevention efforts we need to engage for the sake of others.

We are grateful for every program and every person who seeks to help other people  in recovery. Our best friend in recovery is Jesus. After talking to a large crowd about the love that Jesus demonstrated on the cross, Apostle Peter made this statement:

“Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” 

Acts 2:38-39, CSB

If he is calling you today, we would love to assist you in answering that call. 

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Resources

Alcohol Facts and Statistics

The Five Rules of Recovery

Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book

Los Angeles Times Story about Tyler Skaggs

Drug Overdose Rates – CDC

Alcohol Related Deaths

Addictions

SAMHSA Recovery Month