Written By: Fiona Stockard

The Big Book Broken Down – Part Nine

Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who help each other to recover from alcohol and drug addiction. It was founded in June of 1935, just celebrated its seventy-ninth anniversary, and boasts over two million members.

AA’s central text is the Big Book. With a sponsor and a Big Book, AA members work the twelve steps, and “recover from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body” (title page).

Big Book

Today, I’ll be breaking down step eleven from the chapter “Into Action”

Step Eleven

Step eleven is “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.”

That’s a mouthful! Step eleven is longer than any of the other twelve-steps. It’s also sort of overwhelming! Just how do I improve my conscious contact with God? How do I learn God’s will?

Fear not! The Big Book gives us some concrete instructions on how to increase our contact with God as we understand God!

Into Action says that, at the end of our day, we might try asking ourselves the following questions –

“Were we resentful, selfish, dishonest or afraid? Do we own an apology? Have we kept something to ourselves which should be discussed with another person at once? Were we kind and loving towards all? What could we have done better? Were we thinking of ourselves most of the time? Or were we thinking of what we could do for others, of what we could pack into the stream of life?” (p. 86).

I’ve never been able to answer all those questions to my satisfaction (probably because, as an alcoholic, I’m also a perfectionist!). Remember though, it’s spiritual progress, not perfection!

I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to go through my day afraid of making any mistakes. Nope. I just have to make sure to review my conduct. I have to figure out where I fell short and work to do better.

That’s one of my favorite parts of Alcoholics Anonymous. It doesn’t matter how often I fall short of my goals. I only have to be willing to do better, to be better. God makes the rest possible!

Into Action then talks about morning meditation. It says,

“We consider our plans for the day. Before we begin, we ask God to direct our thinking, especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives…We usually conclude the period of meditation with a prayer that we be shown all through the day what our next step is to be, that we be given whatever we need to take care of such problems. We ask especially for freedom from self-will…” (pp. 86-87).

That’s easy enough. It has been for me, anyway. Each morning, I meditate and pray. It took awhile to get into the routine, to make it a daily habit. The benefits I felt on the mornings I prayed and meditated, though, made it easy to incorporate into my life.

What about during the day, though? The Big Book has that covered, too. It reads, “In thinking about our day we may face indecision. We may not be able to determine which course to take. Here we ask God for inspiration, an intuitive thought or a decision” (p. 86).

Again, easy enough, right? But what about when something bad happens during the day? That’s a bit harder. Into Action reads,

“As we go through the day we pause, when agitated or doubtful, and ask for the right thought or action. We constantly remind ourselves we are no longer running the show, humbly saying to ourselves many times each day ‘Thy will be done.’ We are then in much less danger of excitement, fear, anger, worry, self-pity, or foolish decisions” (pp. 87-88)

That’s hard! When I’m angry, upset, scared, or anything else, I don’t want to pause and pray! I want to get angry! That’s a character defect that just doesn’t seem to go away. Remember though, it’s progress not perfection!

Tune in next week for a breakdown of step twelve!

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