Tuesday, January 12, 2010

12 Steps to the Atonement

I have an addicted love one in my family, and therefore I have participated for several years in Families Anonymous, a 12-step program. I've debated about writing about my participation because there is a great need for anonymity in recovery programs to protect everyone involved. But I feel strongly enough about what I'm writing today that I decided to take the plunge.

Before coming to my 12-step program (they're all quite similar, and grow out of Alcoholics Anonymous' 12 steps, though AA does not affiliate with other 12-step programs), I assumed such programs were for people who were too weak to overcome their problems. After years of failing to come to terms with my own problems, I finally began my walk along the steps.

As a faithful latter-day saint, I can tell you that it is embarrassing to contemplate the need for such a thing in your life. In a culture where "perfect" families are the goal, such glaring imperfection is heart breaking on many levels. But in my case, I'm glad that I finally overcame my pride enough to seek help for myself. (Of course, it wasn't until I began my work on the steps that I really understood what pride I had.)

I learned many things along my path with the steps (I'm still on it, and will be for life, I suppose), but the most startling thing I learned is that the 12 steps are little more than a clear method of applying the atonement to our lives. Although I did not participate in the Church's version of the 12 step program, I found nothing in the steps to be inconsistent with what I had learned in all my years in the church. In fact, working the steps forced me to reexamine how I lived my life, how I applied the teachings of the Savior, how I prayed, and how I exercised my faith.

My first round through the steps was not a walk in the park by any means. The 12 steps are for personal healing, and that healing rarely comes without opening up and cleaning out some wounds, nor without identifying and rectifying some pretty self-destructive (and sometimes just plain destructive) behaviors. Such self examination is not for sissies, but the rewards on the other end are sweeter than one might imagine.

Those twelve steps encourage us to recognize our own powerlessness in dealing with certain areas of life, acknowledge that there is a higher power who can deal with those things we can, and give over to the God of our understanding our lives. Then we begin to inventory our own lives for good and bad, to sort out who we may have harmed, to make amends where possible, and then to engage in an ongoing cycle of self assessment and rededication to God, applying the principle of the steps in all our affairs.

The steps are, as my wife observed, a framework for applying the healing power of the atonement in our lives. And they work.

- Paul

For information on the church's 12-step program, check this  website.

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