12-Step fellowships discuss, at length, the importance of having a “spiritual awakening” as a result of working their recovery program. This term, at a surface level, seems to imply a bright-light “Hallelujah” moment at some point in working the steps. For the vast majority of men and women in the fellowship, this is not their experience. Rather, their spiritual awakening is more of a gradual psychic change, referred to in the Big Book Alcoholics Anonymous, as being of “the educational variety.” Many men and women in recovery do not notice a drastic positive change in their personality and actions until it’s pointed out by friends or family. Their spiritual experience was so gradual that they did not notice it themselves, but the change was no less impactful than if it had occurred in a single moment. Alcoholics Anonymous notices the propensity for these slowly developing spiritual awakenings and created an addendum in the Big Book to clarify that this transformation is just as powerful. Though the first few chapters of the Big Book relay drastic spiritual experiences, it is explained that the first printing “gave many readers the impression that these personality changes, or religious experiences, must be in the nature of sudden and spectacular upheavals. Happily for everyone, this conclusion is erroneous.” We should never worry that we are not feeling the experience quickly or strongly enough. Even a small fraction of the awakening described by Alcoholics Anonymous should be recognized as the beginnings of the spiritual experience and, overtime, it will progress until we look back and realize that, at some point along our path to sobriety, the miracle did occur and still continues to grow. Soon, we realize that we are experiencing the effects of our spiritual experience; we have lost interest in self, we feel safe and protected, and “what used to be the hunch or occasional inspiration gradually becomes a working part of the mind.” Discouragement is common, but we often find that our journey in recovery is full of minor shifts in our thinking that do, in fact, add up to a major spiritual experience. Some men and women in recovery will experience a sudden awakening, while other will attain their experience through the application of spiritual principles in their day-to-day lives. Regardless of nature of our spiritual awakening, we find our lives in sobriety enriched through the experience. Whether quickly or slowly, the impact of our awakening pushes us toward permanent sobriety in ways we had never thought possible.
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