Step Twelve – Love and Service

By Steve K.

“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practise these principles in all our affairs.”

Step Twelve – Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

The following description of AA’s Step Twelve is based mainly upon my own personal experience of practicing Twelve Step recovery over a period of years.

The result of practicing the Twelve Steps and the principles contained within them, consistently over time, is that the alcoholic will have changed in their outlook, attitudes and behavior enough to be free of their active addiction and its mental obsession.

In general, they will be content to live a sober way of life and be willing to help others to do the same. The nature of the ‘spiritual awakening’ or ‘personality change’ is unique to the individual and can happen as an event, or more commonly over time as a self-actualizing process.

For me, indications of a spiritual awakening are a freedom from the obsession to drink and also include: a sense of being transformed or changed in outlook and consciousness; a greater awareness of moral/spiritual values; a willingness to practice love and be of service to others; development of honesty and humility; and an increased sense of relationship or connection with oneself, others and a transcendent power or principles.

These changes in awareness and ‘way of being’ cannot be willed to happen, but come about as the result of participation in the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous and its Twelve Step program of recovery.

“We tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs”…. is practicing the virtue of altruism or unconditional love in relation to other alcoholics, and being a living example of the principles contained within the Twelve Steps.

By “living example” I mean practicing the Twelve Steps and principles contained within them on a daily basis, in all situations, and with all people. It’s living the program and is how one develops emotional, moral and spiritual maturity.

In co-founder of AA, Dr Bob’s opinion, “love and service” to others are the main characteristics of the Twelve Step program; a giving to others without expectation of reward. The message we carry is one of recovery through the Steps by our example and the actions we take in helping others to do the same.

“Our Twelve Steps, when simmered down to the last, resolve themselves into the words “love” and “service.” 

Dr Bob, July 30, 1950.

Helping other alcoholics to recover through practicing Step Twelve can be done in various ways eg., by sharing in meetings and by carrying out the numerous service roles of the fellowship.

Though the practice of Step Twelve shouldn’t include expectation of reward, in my experience, the practice of sponsorship is the most rewarding form of carrying a message of recovery to others.

th (12)

There is a mutuality in giving, or love and service towards others, and I’ve certainly gained from my giving in sponsorship. Helping others to stay sober and to practice the Twelve Steps in their daily lives strengthens me in my own recovery. It helps me to develop my character and my practice of the program; and to evolve my emotional and spiritual awareness.

To paraphrase Marya Hornbacher…  ‘I can be a source of spiritual comfort and strength towards others and in doing so be comforted and strengthened myself.’

“…what comforts me is comforting someone else when I can; what gives me strength is giving strength to another; and when I need, I try to give. I return to the prayer of St Francis: “…Grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted; to understand than to be understood; to love than to be loved. For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.” (1)

This primary ethos of love and service to others carried through Step Twelve, and the reciprocal nature of fellowship, is at the core of Twelve Step recovery and is the driving force of my spiritual growth and awakening.


  1. Marya Hornbacher, Waiting-A Nonbeliever’s Higher Power, p. 137.





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