National Read a Book Day

Before I begin this National Read a Book Day blog, I need to begin with a few thoughts about God. Some of you are perfectly comfortable with God. Some of you are not. And others may even be repelled by the thought of God. The intent of this post is not to stir up a debate about your belief or disbelief or confusion about God. But God, as “we understood God,” has been central since the inception of the Twelve Steps in the 1930s, and thus cannot be left out. I offer this post as an awareness piece, as one size does not fit all when it comes to recovery (more on that next week). 

Book cover for Richard Rohr's Breathing Under Water that shows a person diving under water.

In my previous post I printed Carol Bialock’s powerful poem, “Breathing Under Water.” This is where Richard Rohr begins our journey through The Twelve Steps, and hence the name of his book. I’ve never walked The Twelve Steps. I’ve only smugly peered from afar, out of curiosity, never thinking I needed them. After all, I wasn’t struggling with substance use. Rohr suggests though, that perhaps there’s value for all in The Steps, and this is why I want to present them through his lens, as I have come to understand/believe that The Steps can assist us with overcoming other abuses such as gossip, jealously, or criticism; anger, gluttony, or materialism; work or self-deprecation or maybe even our egos to name a few. 

Book Excerpts

“As organizational consultant and psychotherapist Anne Wilson Schaef said many years ago, our society itself shows all the signs of classic addiction. I began to wonder whether addiction could be one very helpful metaphor for what the biblical tradition called ‘sin.’” (Breathing Under Water, page xv)

“How helpful it is to see sin, like addiction, as a disease, a very destructive disease, instead of merely something that was culpable, punishable, or ‘made God unhappy.’ If sin indeed made God unhappy, it was because God desires nothing more than our happiness, and wills the healing of our disease.” (Breathing Under Water, page xv)

“As Carol Bialock says in her poem, we cannot stop the drowning waters of our addictive culture from rising, but we must at least see our reality for what it is, seek to properly detach from it, and build a coral castle and learn to breathe under water.” (Breathing Under Water, page xv)

Perhaps we can all benefit by breathing deeper into our mysterious selves. 

The Twelve Steps

PowerlessnessStep One:
We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable. (Note from Debby: Replace “alcohol” with a myriad of other vices such as what I previously listed.)

Desperate DesiringStep Two:
Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. 

Sweet SurrenderStep Three:
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.

A Good LampStep Four:
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Accountability IS SustainabilityStep Five:
Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

The Chicken or the Egg: Which Comes First?Step Six:
We’re entirely ready to have God remove all of these defects of character.

Why Do We Need to Ask?Step Seven:
Humbly asked (God) to remove our shortcomings.

Payback TimeStep Eight:
Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Skillful MeansStep Nine:
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Is This Overkill?Step Ten:
Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. 

An Alternative MindStep Eleven:
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood (God), praying only for knowledge of (God’s) will for us and the power to carry that out. 

What Comes Around Must Go AroundStep Twelve:
Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs. 

Call to Action

I welcome you to read Breathing Under Water for National Read a Book Day and be open to where it might lead you. 

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