PRACTICE THESE PRINCIPALS
As we work through the steps of recovery, or the principles as they are alternately called throughout the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, things generally seem fairly evident as to how to proceed. Especially with the guidance of a good sponsor, each step prescribes a detailed course of action that leads us on the road to recovery. But as we proceed through step 12 we are instructed to “practice these principles in all our affairs,” and this can seem vague at first glance. What does it actually mean to practice these principles in all our affairs?
As with the whole of the Big Book, there is no final interpretation and it is always best to listen to the counsel of a trusted sponsor. But generally speaking, practicing these principles can mean to have them before you as something of shield. This is to say that as we re-enter everyday life, complete with the stress, conflict, and even joys that come with this, we will encounter situations which will challenge our sobriety and recovery. Rather than reacting to these situations in our old habitual ways, we now have a system of principles to consult that will determine our reactions and actions. I have always felt this to be a tremendous relief. We have before us a system in place that will guide our decisions.
If we find ourselves in a conflict at work, for example, our old tendencies to react to this conflict with anger and resentment are circumvented by the practical application of the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous. We have methods of nightly inventories to help us determine the role we play in these conflicts. We have meditation related to the principles which are designed to guide us to sensible decisions as to how we should proceed. And of course, we have sponsors and members of a sober network to help is with these things. And so it is that the principles operate as a shield to protect us not so much from the situations themselves, but from habitually and destructive ways of reacting to the situations.
What is more, we will, in the course of recovery, be subject to temptation. The world will go on drinking as it always has without regard for those who have struggles with drinking. Here again, the principles are at hand to protect us in these moments. First and foremost is Step 1. When confronted with the temptation to drink, during holidays or even simple social occasions, a simple reminder that we are powerless over alcohol. That temptation to join in on the drinking is often shut down with this simple reminder.
The point here is that the steps—the principles we are to practice in all our affairs—are the guides to carry with us at all times and serve as support even in the most mundane and extreme of circumstances. They are not just stepping stones to master and move on. They are literally our everyday shield against those things which drive alcoholism. If we practice these principles in all out affairs, we are steady and free.