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11th Step Meditation Practices
The 11th step of twelve-step programs says we “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.” This piece of the program is often known as the meditation step, as it’s the one step that directly suggests we practice some form of meditation. There are meetings that are 11th step meditation meetings, books and websites all about 11 step meditation practices, and many guided meditations available.
What is the 11th Step of AA?
First, let’s look at what the step is. The step originated with the first twelve-step group, Alcoholics Anonymous. The 11th step in AA isn’t just about meditation; it also mentions prayer. This step is about pausing, taking time each day to pray and meditate.
The chapter on the eleventh step in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions starts by saying that “Prayer and meditation are our principal means of conscious contact with God.” The AA 11th step is one of the “maintenance steps” that we practice regularly to upkeep our recovery. It suggests we continue to investigate spirituality, our relationship with our higher power, and the ability to check in with ourselves and our recovery.
We’ve seen at our house that some people benefit from investigating the role of a higher power in their recovery. Whether you’re religious, agnostic, or atheistic, the notion of a higher power should probably not be taken for granted.
Some people use the simple acronym “Good Orderly Direction” or “Group Of Drunks” to explain “God.” Others may be religious and use the higher power of their religion. If you’re an atheist, you may understand “higher power” as the principle of compassion, mindfulness, kindness, or community. Whatever the case may be, the 11th step is a method of connecting with our values, ideals, and path in recovery.
Working the AA 11th Step
People work the 11th step a variety of ways. Many make it a practice to pray and meditate every day. 11th step meditation and prayer may look different for different individuals. However, the practice is the same. We dedicate time to this step every day, to meditate and/or pray.
It may be beneficial to build some routine. Some people spend a few minutes in prayer and meditation in the morning, while others find it most helpful to practice step eleven before going to bed at night. There’s no right or wrong answer; you find what works for you.
What is Meditation?
Meditation comes in many forms. There are traditions that emphasize meditation, such as Buddhism. There are also forms of meditation in religions such as Christianity and Judaism. Twelve-step literature encourages us to follow the teachings of our religion here if we’re already religious.
If you’re not a religious person, you may find benefit from some guided meditations. Perhaps one of the most useful principles to bring to this step work is open-mindedness. We try new things, see what works for us, and give the step our best effort. For some, meditation means simply sitting in silence for a few minutes. For others, meditation may mean chanting.
11 Step Meditation Practices
Here at Atlas Recovery, we do have some experience with 11th step meditation. For our step 11 meditation, we sit in a few types of practice. These practices are related to mindfulness, concentration, and loving-kindness practice. They are completely secular, offering a way for you to meditate without believing in any particular religion. Below are three 11th step guided meditation practices you can try!
Step 11 Prayer
Although we’ve talked mostly about meditation in this post, it’s important to discuss step 11 prayer. On page 99 of Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, the St. Francis Prayer is offered. It’s a great prayer to try working with.
You may also try to create your own prayer. Whether you have a specific religion you follow or not, you can come up with a few words to offer your intention of kindness, care, recovery, and health. You may also try the loving-kindness meditation above. Although not an actual prayer, it is a wonderful way to open the heart and practice something similar to prayer, especially if you’re not religious!
Today Dave shares a bit about his own story finding recovery, the struggles in early recovery, and the life he has today.
Co-Occurring Friendly Treatment
You’ve successfully detoxed off of drugs and alcohol, you’ve completed the treatment program that you attended, and you’re on your way to sober living and aftercare. This narrative is common for hundreds of thousands of drug addicts and alcoholics who are newly in recovery. As aftercare has been proven to be an effective piece in long term sobriety, nearly all treatment centers will recommend a sober living experience, or SLE, after treatment is completed. Studies show that the longer somebody stays in treatment, they have a greater chance of success with long term sobriety.
But, what if drugs and alcohol weren’t your only issue?
Mental health disorders and addiction are known to go hand in hand. Usually self-administered as a means of self-medicating, drugs and alcohol work extremely well at masking the symptoms of various mental health disorders. As with nearly all addicts, drugs and alcohol are extremely effective for a while, until they aren’t any longer. Most commonly referred to as co-occurring disorders, addiction and mental health disorders are usually treated simultaneously. Therapy, medication, a strong support system, and a psychiatrist are just a few of the basic necessities for treating an addict or alcoholic who also suffers from a co-occurring disorder. Finding a facility or a sober living that has experience with treating mental illness as well as alcoholism and drug addiction is a vital step towards a wholesome recovery.
Is there truly a difference?
We believe that the range of care that one receives for mental health separate from addiction is imperative to the overall wellbeing of the individual with a co-occurring disorder. As temperament is just one factor during treatment, many separate amenities such as yoga, exercise, nutrition, and other holistic or spiritual remedies has been proven especially effective in the treatment of co-occurring disorders, particularly in young adults. A treatment center or sober living house that specializes in co-occurring disorders offers a unique opportunity to build a sense of community and connection. The treatment specialists are familiar with the difficulties that may arise in someone who is newly sober while they’re also managing medications and therapy. Residential advisors, who are commonly referred to as “techs,” or “technicians,” are sometimes offered special training that differs from drug and alcohol treatment centers.
So, there’s more to recovery than medicine and therapy?
Absolutely. The program of Alcoholics Anonymous suggests the power of meditation as a vital part of the recovery process. As studies have shown that regularly meditating can alleviate the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even more complicated mood disorders, meditation is considered a crucial part of recovery in people with co-occurring disorders. Sober livings who embrace and encourage meditation practices are seeing greater success than those who do not encourage their clients to meditate. As nearly every addict or alcoholic uses to escape discomfort of various sorts and forms, learning to sit and embrace discomfort rather than escaping it is the beginning of a practice to become prepared for life in life’s terms.
How does meditation help somebody with bipolar disorder?
Other than promoting a general sense of calmness and well being, meditations effects on bipolar disorder are being proven as substantial. Some of the benefits of meditating with bipolar disorder are:
* Naturally increased Serotonin levels
* Helps to calm the amygdala or the “fear” center of the brain
* Strengthens the prefrontal cortex, commonly referred to as the “command center,” of the brain
* Helps to synchronize the brain hemispheres
With medication and meditation, as well as a strong support system and therapy, mental illnesses like Bipolar no longer have to rule the life of the sufferer. Adding meditation into your routine has absolutely no risk.
Having a daily routine is important for anyone with a co-occurring disorder. It’s been said that those who suffer from addiction have to fight a little harder than those who don’t in order to be happy. Those who suffer from a mental illness along with addiction have to fight that much harder to be happy than those who don’t. Waking up to a routine is especially helpful for anyone with a co-occurring disorder. Boredom isn’t just a trigger for using drugs and alcohol, but boredom can also lead to symptoms in mental illness as well as in addiction. Treatment centers and sober livings who specialize in treating co-occurring disorders have an insight into the value of encouraging clients to build and follow a routine. Treatment is practice for regular life, and sober living serves as a buffer to slowly integrate the individual into regular life. Developing a routine while newly sober may be met with a bit of resistance, and understandably so. Change is difficult in the beginning phases, but change can also be met with a bit of encouragement, patience, and practice. The advantage of having holistic options is that it allows many more tools for clients to choose from. Alternative methods of recovery such as the Buddhist based program Refuge Recovery offers a different path for healing than traditional twelve step programs.
Drug and alcoholic treatment centers and sober livings have different styles and have different missions for treating addiction and mental illnesses. The stigma of mental health treatment is that of a hospital like setting. The truth is that more and more facilities that specialize in mental health and co-occurring disorders are becoming modernized, offering luxury amenities as well as state of the art techniques for healing and growth. A healthy recovery and a fulfilling life begins with a strong foundation. If you or a loved one is suffering from a co-occurring disorder, finding a facility that’s experienced and successful in treating mental illnesses in addition to addiction is imperative. Treatment has progressed greatly over the past decade, with different tools and different programs available, finding a holistic approach to healing is available like never before. Meditation, medication, and therapy are just some of the tools that are used to harness the proper coping mechanisms to assure a healthy recovery, and a happy life.
One of the things we often find in early recovery is that we need to learn to live in a new way. How we’re used to living has brought harm to ourselves and those around us, and if we are to stay clean and sober we must live with some integrity. Getting sober is a huge opportunity for us to build a new way of living and interacting with the world. In addition to getting toxic chemicals out of our system and clearing our minds, we are able to build lives in recovery of which we could have only dreamed when we were using. To fulfill our intentions and achieve our goals, integrity is critical.
What is Integrity?
We could offer you a definition from Merriam-Webster or the New Oxford American Dictionary, but we think Charles Marshall may have said it best when he said, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” Often misattributed to C.S. Lewis, this definition of integrity really sums it up and makes it practical. To act with integrity means to do the right thing regardless of the situation you’re in. You have a set of values and intentions. Act in a way that is in accordance with these.
“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.”
The late psychologist Carl Rogers spoke about an ideal self and your self image. In its simplest form, the ideal self is who you would like to be, and your self image is who you see yourself as in this moment. When we bring the two together, we find happiness. The more distance between self-image and ideal self, the lower our self-esteem is. This may be another way to look at living with integrity. As we actually behave in the way we want to behave, we bring together our self image and ideal self. We achieve what Rogers called congruency, and it can be quite freeing. Living with integrity may be understood through the image of bringing our actions to be in line with who we want to be.
The Importance of Integrity in Recovery
Integrity is important in recovery, especially when we’re new. Although we may not have caused a ton of harm, we likely weren’t living with as much integrity as we are able to. As Carl Rogers points out, behaving in way that is incongruent with who we want to be lowers our self-esteem. When we behave poorly, we feel worse about ourselves. When we feel worse about ourselves, we are less likely to behave well. Our “ideal self” feels out of reach or distant.
On the other hand, we have the opportunity to build our esteem every day with our actions. As we behave in a manner that nudges us toward who we want to be, we feel better. When we feel better about ourselves, we have the energy and opportunity to behave with more integrity in the future. Acting with integrity means we build new habits, a new sense of ourselves, and a new image of who we are capable of being.
How to Live with Integrity
The second century Roman emperor Marcus said, “Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” You can spend all day figuring out or discussing what it means to live with integrity, or you can go for it. Integrity isn’t about just having a wholesome intention or wish; it’s about taking action to become who you know you want to be. It takes practice to build new habits and behaviors, and we must make continual effort. Part of living with integrity is always being open to growing in new ways and learning new things about ourselves.
“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”
Taking contrary action is one of the best ways we can begin to live with integrity in our lives. Our tendency when in early recovery may be to fall into the behaviors with which we’re familiar. Taking contrary action and doing things we don’t necessarily want to do can help us to build a new foundation for a clean and sober life. There are opportunities to practice contrary action all day long, from making our bed in the morning to holding the door open for a stranger. When you have the thought of doing something healthy and good for yourself, don’t just let the thought pass; actually take action on it. That thought is a thought about who you want to be, so recognize the opportunity to behave accordingly.
Being of Service
Regardless of what your vision of integrity in action is, it’s hard to argue against being of service. Whether it’s in a recovery meeting or in your daily life, you likely have more opportunities to be of service than you realize. When I was newly sober, my sponsor had me put away the grocery carts in the parking lot of our local grocery store as a way to be of service. Maybe you can call a loved one, help clean up after a meeting, or share your experience with somebody struggling. These “little” ways we be of service help move us toward the kind and caring person that we want to be. Although they may seem little, these actions of service have incredible potential to build esteem.
Part of living with integrity is recognizing that we are imperfect beings. We all make mistakes, cause harm when we don’t intend to (or even know we are), and forget our intentions from time to time. When you make a mistake, own it! Remember the quote about doing the right thing when nobody is watching? If you have the thought that you may have made a mistake or caused harm in the privacy of your own head, own up to it. One of the best ways to practice living with integrity is to simply ask somebody if what you did caused some harm.
Intention, Plan, Action
This is the way I look at the more important decisions and actions in my life. Sometimes we have intentions or want to do something, but don’t seem to actually follow through. Maybe you had the intention of going to a meeting, of not picking up drugs or alcohol, or of being of service. Somehow, you find yourself not following through and don’t know what happened. We do all make mistakes, so don’t be too hard on yourself!
When you have a wholesome intention, start by recognizing it. When you notice it’s there, make a plan to follow through. In my own life, this often involves a super-clear and timed plan. Then, take the action. You can notice any excuses that arise, but make it a priority to follow through. When we prioritize like this, we can actually get done what we want to get done. No matter how small, the actions of integrity help build esteem and keep us on the right track!