Wisdom is knowing the right thing to do. Virtue is doing it.
Author: Steve K
I'm in long term recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. I write and share recovery related articles on my website: 12stepphilosophy.org. I'm the author of 'The 12 Step Philosophy of Alcoholics Anonymous: An Interpretation by Steve K.' I've also had several articles published in 'In Recovery Magazine', and on the recovery websites 'AA Agnostica', 'AA Beyond Belief', and 'The Fix.com'.
By Steve K. Throughout my recovery I’ve struggled with cultivating an attitude of gratitude towards my life and circumstances. I have suffered with a depressive condition and physical health difficulties all my adult life, which have greatly influenced my viewpoint or “frame of reference”. I’m a long-term member of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and find it […]
By Steve K. The literature of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) suggests that alcoholism is an illness of the mind, body and soul; and that in healing spiritually one also heals mentally and bodily as well. Additionally, I would also like to suggest that the alcoholic heals emotionally, and contentiously, morally, as part of the recovery process. […]
By Steve K. There is a common myth in recovery circles, often perpetuated by the literal interpretation of the literature, that long term sobriety equals a life of being “happy, joyous and free.” However, the reality of “life on life’s terms” often brings with it suffering and adversity and the related negative impact in terms […]
By Ingrid Mathieu, Ph.D. Is recovery in today’s AA supportive of cultivating a personal and authentic identity or in some way limiting these? Is a person’s recovery allowing the full breadth of human experience or is a bypass occurring that precludes some of the earthier nuances that might play a key role in someone’s life? […]
By Steve K. While I’m committed to the practise of spiritual principles as a part of my recovery from alcohol and drug addiction, the emphasis within Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) on being accepting, compassionate, tolerant and loving etc and of “practising these principles in all our affairs”, combined with literal interpretation of fellowship literature, can lead […]
By Steve K. I’ve often heard it said in AA meetings that “I don’t know how the Twelve Steps work, but they just do.” Personally I have never found that statement particularly helpful. Taken literally, the Steps suggest that we can be healed from our illness by accepting it, by belief in God, by taking […]
By Steve K. Humility is simply having a realistic sense of oneself. A humble person accurately acknowledges both their strengths and limitations. They have the capacity to be honest and without pretence in relation to themselves. They are “right-sized” and without false pride, arrogance, or importantly, low self-esteem. They are modest and without “ego”, they […]
By Steve K. I attend a weekly AA meeting which I consider to be my “home group”, and have done so for a long period of time. I value the group and in general it has had a good balance of people experienced in recovery, as well as newer members. Recently a local residential treatment […]
By Hamilton B. The primary responsibility of sponsors is to help their sponsees work the Twelve Steps. A sponsor and sponsee have an obligation to discuss their mutual expectations, objectives, and requirements, if any, regarding the sponsorship relationship before they enter into that relationship. A sponsor shares his or her experience, strength, and hope with […]
By Steve K. The experience of surrender is the gateway to recovery from addiction. To paraphrase the first Step of the AA 12-Step program, at this moment we experience an acceptance that we lack control and that our life is unmanageable. Our ego surrenders its will through the pain and suffering of addiction. Our denial is […]
Humility is having a realistic view of oneself as a limited, imperfect human being, and being honest without pretence in the portrayal of oneself to others. Humility acknowledges the need for others and reaches out toward them. It requires good self-awareness and self-acceptance, and is a strength rather than a weakness.
False pride and egotism deny limitation and result in an inner emptiness; they cut one off from others due to a sense of being “better than” or different in comparison, and therefore lack identification with, and compassion for others.
Low self-worth is the opposite extreme of false pride (although, still a form of egotism) and also prevents humility. It cuts one off from a healthy connection with others as one feels “less than” in comparison. It also prevents identification and creates feelings of rejection, anger, and bitterness toward others.
False pride and low self-esteem are both distortions of our self-concept. The practice of 12-Step recovery principles develop humility, and therefore an authentic relationship with ourselves and others.
The virtue of humility, “being right-sized” or modest, is of vital importance in recovery from addiction. We must acknowledge our limitations and need for help and guidance from outside of ourselves if we are to grow and develop in recovery. The ego defenses of denial, rationalisation, and projection etc are the enemy of humility and its vulnerability. Humility requires us to be honest and to show ourselves to others and to risk being vulnerable. This is not easy for many with a history of addiction and we need courage in order to do so. In general, we’ve learnt to protect ourselves with dysfunctional ways of being, such as: arrogance, defensiveness, anger and aggression, being critical, argumentative, selfish and dishonest.
These are strategies developed to defend our distorted self-concept or ego, which tends to be insecure in people who’ve suffered with addiction problems. Addiction itself is a major defense strategy, developed in an effort to escape the emotional and psychic pain of life. The problem with all of the above dysfunctional defensive mechanisms is that they ultimately harm the person practicing them. They keep us stuck in our addictions and other harmful behaviours, which prevents us from facing our difficulties and developing an emotional sobriety.
Humility is not an easy virtue to acquire. Benjamin Franklin once wrote:
“There is perhaps no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as [false] pride. Beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive. Even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.”
Humility with its honesty, courage and vulnerability, when practised regularly, enables us to let go of the above unhelpful ways of being. We need to practice being honest and open with others, sharing our thoughts, feelings, fears and vulnerability. We do this with people we can trust, who’ll affirm and support us in our recovery. When we receive empathy, acceptance, and positive regard from others, we learn that it’s ok to be ourselves. We’ve no need to be dishonest and defensive anymore, and we can be who we truly are.
ALL of the 12 Steps require the practice of humility, as well as develop it. The Steps involve: admitting our limitations to ourselves and others; asking for help from outside of ourselves and seeking guidance; a willingness to accept, take responsibility for, and admit our faults and weaknesses; the willingness to practice forgiveness; the willingness, courage and honesty to be vulnerable with others; the willingness to make amends; the willingness to practice faith and trust; and the willingness to be of help and service to others.
These are all humble actions, attitudes, and virtues that help us to grow in recovery and develop as human beings. They reduce egotism and promote a healthy sense of self, and therefore good relations with others and the world. Humility allows us to be open-minded, honest, and willing in our efforts to recover. When humble we are willing to seek and receive help, support, guidance and direction with our lives. We are not alone anymore.
By Steve K. Spiritual development, or awakening, and reduction of our fear based ego is the main aim of the 12-Step approach to recovery from addiction. The belief is that if we change in this respect we’ll be able to let go of our addictions and live more fulfilling and satisfying lives. We will move […]
By Steve K. Trauma Informed Model of Addiction At the bottom of the addiction tree is the soil and seeds of addiction, which consists of emotional, physical, sexual, and spiritual neglect or abuse. These are combined with innate hereditary factors. This unhealthy foundation creates the tree’s roots – the very painful feeling of toxic shame […]
By Steve K. I recently became fully aware of certain unconscious motivations that have been directing, to a degree, some of my behaviour. At a conscious level I was trying to help someone early in recovery and still believe that this motive was genuine, but underlying these efforts I was also being driven by powerful […]
By Steve K. “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.” And… “Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.” These two Steps involve willingness, humility and practice. Step Six requires a natural willingness to be free of the character defects discovered in Steps Four and Five. The painful awareness of our […]
By Steve K and John S. Listen to the podcast: This week’s podcast features an interview with Steve K. who discusses his book, The 12 Step Philosophy of Alcoholics Anonymous: An Interpretation by Steve K. Inspired by Aristotle’s “Virtue Ethics,” Stoic philosophy and the liberal principles embedded in AA history; Steve interprets the Steps from a […]