Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of women and men who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.
AA was started in 1935 by Bill W. and Dr. Bob and has helped millions of folks throughout the world to achieve sobriety through a spiritual program of recovery, as outlined in the 12 steps of AA.
History may very well judge this fellowship to be one of the most significant spiritual movements of the 20th century.
The 11th Step of any 12-Step program suggests prayer and meditation as a way of improving one’s conscious contact with God, and discerning God’s will in one’s own life.
Those in recovery learn they shouldn’t be shy on this matter of prayer.
AA teaches there is a direct connection among self-examination, meditation and prayer.
Taken separately, these practices can bring much relief and benefit. But when they are logically related and interwoven, the result is an unshakable foundation for life.
However, later in his life, Bill W. revealed that after years of physical sobriety, he continued to experience ongoing suffering because of a lack of emotional sobriety.
Many people today relate to this, and some even speak of a longing for spiritual sobriety, as well.
Bill intuited that something was lacking in his recovery. He labeled it a deficit in the development of much more real maturity and balance — which is to say, humility in his relations with himself, with his fellows and with God.
He spoke of adolescent urges that so many have for top approval, perfect security and perfect romance — urges quite appropriate to age 17 but which prove to be an impossible way of life when we are at age 47 or 57.
Here is where a daily practice of Step 11 can come to our rescue.
A regular practice of prayer and meditation, just as Step 11 suggests, will bring us into a more conscious contact with God, and hence, with ourselves and our fellows.
It could be said that prayer is speaking to God, and meditation is listening. In this deep prayer, God reveals to us many of our hidden motivations and deepest fears, always inviting us to more healing ... leading to greater depths of serenity and peace.
Father Thomas Keating, a Trappist monk and renowned spiritual master, turned his attention later in his long life to this matter of Step 11.
Fr. Keating spent decades teaching Christians about the treasures of contemplation within their own tradition.
Many people in recovery from addictions urged him to teach them about prayer and meditation.
After learning about Bill W., Thomas exclaimed, “the poor little lamb could have saved himself a great deal of unnecessary suffering if he had engaged in a daily 11th Step practice.”
Today, there are thousands of folks in many 12-Step programs, who engage a daily discipline of Centering Prayer as their 11th Step.
We read in the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions: “The world’s libraries and places of worship are a treasure trove for all seekers.”
In addition, we read in the AA Big Book, “it is OK to receive input and guidance from outside sources in this matter of meditation and prayer.”
We are not talking about doctrinal or dogmatic aspects of religion, which sadly, can often divide us.
If you would like to know more, Contemplative Outreach of Central Missouri (COCEMO) is offering a workshop, to teach the simple method of Centering Prayer as an 11th Step.
It will be available via Zoom for individuals in their home, or in person in Columbia and Jefferson City, on Saturday, June 24, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.