God works through 12-step pro­grams

The Buffalo News - - LIFE COLUMNS - Penn­syl­va­nia

Ques­tion: I am Catholic but I read your col­umn ev­ery week. Why don’t you do a col­umn on how 12-step pro­grams, par­tic­u­larly Al­co­holics Anony­mous, have ben­e­fited both Chris­tians and Jews? –FromC

An­swer: I ad­mire and re­spect 12-step pro­grams as the most ef­fec­tive re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­grams for sub­stance abuse (and gam­bling ad­dic­tion). I think one of their se­crets is to cre­ate com­mu­ni­ties of heal­ing and per­sonal spon­sors for heal­ing. Most of our big prob­lems can­not be solved alone.

I also use 12-step pro­grams as one of my fa­vorite proofs for the ex­is­tence of God. Al­co­holics Anony­mous, the old­est of the 12-step pro­grams, was founded in 1935 by Bill Wil­son and Dr. Robert Hol­brook Smith, one a stock bro­ker and the other a sur­geon. Nei­ther one of them was clergy nor pro­fes­sion­ally re­li­gious, but both rec­og­nized the ther­a­peu­tic value of faith. If those seek­ing heal­ing turned to God not just be­cause God is real but mainly be­cause faith in God works, we can see why ev­ery cul­ture is built on some form of re­li­gious be­lief.

Th­ese are the 12 steps of AA:

1. We ad­mit­ted we were pow­er­less over al­co­hol – that our lives had be­come unmanageable.

2. Came to be­lieve that a power greater than our­selves could re­store us to san­ity.

3. Made a de­ci­sion to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we un­der­stood Him.

4. Made a search­ing and fear­less moral in­ven­tory of our­selves.

5. Ad­mit­ted to God, to our­selves, and to an­other hu­man be­ing the ex­act na­ture of our wrongs.

6. Were en­tirely ready to have God re­move all th­ese de­fects of char­ac­ter.

7. Humbly asked Him to re­move our short­com­ings.

8. Made a list of all per­sons we had harmed, and be­came will­ing to make amends to them all.

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

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

11. Sought through prayer and med­i­ta­tion to im­prove our con­scious con­tact with God as we un­der­stood Him, pray­ing only for knowl­edge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

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

A ques­tion from a reader that I sub­mit near the third an­niver­sary of Fr. Tom Hart­man’s death on Feb. 16, 2016. May he rest in peace:

Q: In a re­cent col­umn you wrote about what would be the hard­est thing for you and Tommy to ac­cept if each was con­verted. You didn’t say what would be hard­est for Tommy. –FromBin

A: Tuna fish! Tommy once told me, “I could never con­vert to Ju­daism be­cause Jews eat a lot of tuna fish and I hate tuna fish.” Not all of Tommy’s ob­ser­va­tions about life were this pro­found.

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