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Immediate vs Gradual Spiritual Experience in Twelve Step Recovery

Immediate vs Gradual Spiritual Experience in Twelve Step Recovery

Twelve Step Recovery focuses on having a vital spiritual experience as a means of achieving and maintaining sobriety. From these experience, we have dramatic changes in our perception and reactions to life. There are two types of spiritual experiences that people have as a result of the Twelve Steps: the immediate and the gradual, or educational, variety.

Carl Jung is quoted in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous describing the spiritual experience as way to overcome alcoholism. Jung states, “To me these occurrences are phenomena. They appear to be in the nature of huge emotional displacements and rearrangements. Ideas, emotions, and attitude which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them.” Regardless of the type of spiritual awakening we have, we find that the experiences are vital to our ability to achieve and maintain sobriety.

Immediate and sudden spiritual awakenings can occur in the course of working the Twelve Steps. Bill Wilson, cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous, described his experience having an immediate spiritual awakening in AA Comes of Age: “Suddenly the room lit up with a great white light. I was caught up into an ecstasy which there are no words to describe. It seemed to me, in my mind’s eye, that I was on a mountain and that a wind not of air but of spirit was blowing. And then it burst upon me that I was a free man.” These sudden upheavals, however, are not enough to keep us sober unless we continue on the path of recovery.  

Most people in Twelve Step recovery experience gradual spiritual awakenings. The Big Book explains, “Most of our experiences are what the psychologist William James calls the ‘educational variety’ because they develop slowly over a period of time. Quite often friends of the newcomer are aware of the difference long before he is himself. He finally realizes that he has undergone a profound alteration in his reaction to life; that such a change could hardly have been brought about by himself alone.” No matter how our spiritual experience manifest, we must follow it up with action in our recovery program. As the Twelfth Step of Alcoholics Anonymous suggests: “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.”

Treatment should be stress free. That’s why we offer comprehensive evaluations, personalized assessments, and individual treatment programs. We’re more than treatment. We’re a community committed to sobriety. Call Anchored Recovery Community today for more information: 800.848.6168

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