A Step Twelve Reflection: Giving Away What We Have Been Given

Step Twelve: 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.

If I could sum up Step Twelve in a very basic way, I would say it like this: to do your twelfth step you must “give away what you have been given” in working this program. As I said before, the Twelve Steps are not complicated, even if they are hard. There is a profound effectiveness in their simplicity—anyone can do them! 

I propose that there are really two ways we can do Step Twelve and “give away what we have been given.” The first is to accompany someone else along their 12-step journey as a sponsor. And the second is to “live out” the steps daily, especially by regularly doing our tenth and eleventh “maintenance” steps. 

As a sponsor, we gently and compassionately share our 12-step experience with another human being, traditionally a member of the same sex, who is also in a 12-step program similar to ours. While being a sponsor is a big responsibility, it’s also important to note that it’s not meant to be a position of authority. 

As a sponsor we do not play the role of a therapist, parent, or spouse; rather, we are a helper. What we do as a sponsor is continue to work the Twelve Steps ourselves as well as lead by example. We answer questions, we make contact, we share our experience and, in all of this, we do “service.” 

One of the greatest benefits of being a sponsor, aside from the joy of watching someone else journey through their recovery, is to have that constant reminder of what the Twelve Steps mean and how they can change a person. When I see someone else working through the steps and experiencing new life, it often renews and refreshes me as well. 

It’s worth noting that perfection is not a requirement to be a sponsor. Hopefully these Twelve Steps have taught us that we can happily exist in the humility of our own imperfections! When I took my first sponsee, I found myself being instantly overwhelmed by the weight of it. I felt a big responsibility and a complete inadequacy to do the task at hand. But I tried anyway, and I did my best. And that meant I was working my twelfth step. 

I mentioned the second way we can do Step Twelve, which is simply living out these steps and continuing to work them. We have discovered that we can change, and in our recovery we have changed. This is a work of God. The whole journey is a grace-filled project that God undertook in us. 

To cling to that, we must remain open to God’s work of constantly creating us anew. There is a lot of humility in continuing to work the Twelve Steps even if we are tempted to think that we have “arrived” in our recovery. Our families have experienced our transformation right along with us. We are more open, more honest, more resolute. We have experienced a lot of healing. So we do our twelfth step by continuing to live in that spirit of recovery. And in this way, we “give it away” as we have received it. 

Read Charlie’s reflections on the other Twelve Steps: Step One, Step Two, Step Three, Step Four and Step Five, Step Six and Step Seven, Step Eight and Step Nine, and Step Ten and Step Eleven.

Charlie lives in sunny Florida with his small (but growing!) family. He holds a B.A. in Religion and Apologetics and has a passion for writing about recovery and the Catholic Faith in his spare time. Charlie’s 12-step experience has been in overeaters anonymous, but he finds joy in “working the steps” in every aspect of his life and sharing those tools with others. You can also find him writing at tamingthewilds.com.