Since the 1930s, when the 12 steps were assembled to help people that wanted to stop drinking, they have been applied to just about every issue one could experience. I was introduced to them at about 15 years old. My dad, a recovering alcoholic, said I should go to Ala-teen. I asked what it was and he told me it was for kids whose parents were alcoholics. 

From there it was ACoA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) and Codependents anonymous and then Celebrate Recovery. So when I found post-abortion recovery about 11 or 12 years ago I was surprised learn there were no 12-Step guides for post abortion. So I wrote one! I am truly blessed to have known hundreds of people in recovery, read dozens of books and benefitted from therapists and pastors pouring into my life. 

And that has culminated with what I think I know today. So let’s dig in and look at a brief description of the 12 Steps. 

Step 1 – We admitted we were powerless and that our lives had become unmanageable. 

  • Good start. HAS to be the first step. 
  • The reason is simple…we are typically motivated to change only when we come to the end of ourselves. 
  • King David, in Psalm 40:12 said, “For troubles surround me-too many to count! My sins pile up so high I can’t see my way out. They outnumber the hairs on my head.”
  • That cry is a man who is powerless and his life is unmanageable to say the least. When we feel that…we are ready to do something different. 
  • And that’s what this first step is about. 
  • Rumi once wrote, “That which is false troubles the heart, but truth brings joyous tranquility.” 
  • When we admit we’re powerless and we can’t do it alone, that is a deep truth…that will lead to joy. 

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

    •  A big key to this step is a belief that a power greater than ourselves exists…and that that power wants to restore us to sanity. 
    • Don’t have to have that power all figured out just now. 
    • Trust may be a problem for us.  Many of us haven’t counted on or trusted another person…let alone God…for years…maybe decades. 
    • So we come to this step not knowing for sure what to do. We’ve admitted that we are powerless. Here, we’re admitting there is a power that can and will restore us. 
    • I would suggest that’s all we need to know here. 
  • Joseph Campbell said, “When everything is lost, and all seems darkness, then comes the new life and all that is needed.”
  • We came to the first step in darkness. We come to this step seeing a bit of light…and that light is a Higher Power.

Step 3 – We made a decision to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God as we understand him. 

  • Now that we have accepted there is a Higher Power that wants to heal us, we have to turn our lives and wills over. 
  • “Not my will but yours be done” – and when Jesus said that, he was facing a rough day coming up. 
  • How do we do this? Best we can…
  • Its really the act of doing it and not necessarily the method. Meaning, we look to God as we understand him and do our best to turn our will and lives over. 
  • It’s a daily thing…sometimes hourly. In other words, it’s a process. And we get better the more we practice.     

Step 4- We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. 

  • Soren Kierkegaard said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
  • Essential because we have to understand and accept who we were and what we did so we can move down the path. 
  • Absolutely essential to not do this alone. Pastor, therapist, mentor…
  • And balance is key. Good and bad. 
  • Ephesians 4:31 tells us to “get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.” And this step will help us to do just that.
  • Final quote on this step…Aristotle said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”

Step 5 – We admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. 

  •  Inventory done? Good. Now you have to share it with someone. 
  • Thoughts like “no one has sinned as much as me or in the way I have.” or “If anyone found out who I really am, I’ll be rejected.”
  • False
  • Romans 23-24 says “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight.”
  • Really important—share it with someone who has already done one. If that’s not an option, then a pastor, priest or therapist. 
  • And remember Proverbs 28:13 “People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.”

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

  • A key word in this is “ready”. 
  • Being ready to have character defects removed by God is a step in and of itself for a reason. 
  • Often character defects develop as dysfunctional coping mechanisms. 
  • Then they become comfortable tools. Then they become automatic. 
  • So we’ve spent years…sometimes a lifetime…developing tools to cope and now we have to get ready to have God remove them. 
  • That’s why it’s step 6. 
  • We had to do a lot of honest work to get to this point. 

Step 7 – We humbly asked him to remove all our shortcomings. 

  •  Remember how we spent the last step getting ready?
  • Now we ask God to remove the shortcomings. 
  • Key word is humbly. 
  • Step is a tie-in to the beginning steps. 
  • Admitted problem, agree we can’t fix it and decide God can. 
  • This is where we ask God. 
  • And it absolutely requires us to be humble. 
  • Don’t get stuck on how exactly this step works. Remember the words of Paulo Coelho, “We have to stop and be humble enough to understand there is something called mystery.”

Step 8 – We made a list of all people we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. 

    • Make the list. Take your time. 
    • Do this with a mentor, pastor or therapist…just like with the inventory
  • Matthew 6:34 – So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
  • This step is about making the list. AND THEN about being willing to make amends. 
  • Don’t worry about how the amends thing will sort out. Remember…one thing at a time. 

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

  • And now we actually make amends. 
  • Some things to remember here…
  • Ben Franklin, “Never ruin an apology with an excuse.” 
  • When you make amends, apologize…no rationalizing…no excuses…no explaining. 
  • Don’t expect forgiveness or a particular response. 
  • Be mindful about the person you’re making amends to…that it doesn’t injure them or others. 

Step 10 – Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it. 

  • Good reminder that recovery is a journey. We don’t graduate. It’s not a task to complete. 
  • It’s a process. 
  • We’ve done a lot of hard work to this point. Now we do our inventory daily. 
  • We examine where we messed up. We don’t beat ourselves up. But we are honest about our day. And, when we’re wrong we admit it. 
  • This becomes our way of life now. 
  • It really is a simple process of sweeping our side of the street daily. 

Step 11 – Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understand him, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out. 

  • We’ve spent 10 steps clearing the wreckage of our past, forgiving ourselves and others and learning who God is. 
  • Remember the quote from Soren Kierkegaard  earlier? He said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
  • Now it’s time to live forwards. 
  • And here we find a step that directs us to deepen our knowledge of God. 
  • Remember, “God as we understand him” is an important phrase in our recovery. 
  • It will change over time. 
  • It will really change if we truly work Step 11. 
  • Last half of the step is where humility comes in again. When we pray, we are encouraged to only pray for knowledge of God’s will in our lives and the power to do his will. 

Step 12 – Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and practice these principles in all our affairs. 

  • Kahlil Gibran, “Spiritual awakening is the most essential thing in a man’s life, and it is the sole purpose for being.” 
  • The first 11 bring us here. We are spiritually awake…maybe for the first time. 
  • May think you’re not gifted in sharing 
  • Or whatever other excuse. 
  • Remember to trust God and be available to the moment and open to the opportunity. 
  • There is power is sharing your story and  your journey…for you and the person who hears. 

-That’s the 12 steps in brief. 

-I hope you take away that it’s a process that requires rigorous honesty and has endless benefits. 

-And remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:8 “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give as freely as you have received.”