Unity and the Twelve Steps

By Allen Liles

To achieve recovery means to accept a miracle-the miracle of God in each of us. For both Unity and the Twelve-Step program offered by Alcoholics Anonymous, the higher power most of us call God stands at the epicenter.

In the Twelve-Step program, the individuals involved are requested to lay aside any preconceived ideas about God. They are told to trust a higher power to do what they themselves cannot do. They are urged to release their fears, suspend their disbelief, and overcome their prejudices in order to realize spiritual triumph. Faith must be substituted for cynicism, belief for doubt.

Unity principles also can serve as a spiritual resource for anyone recovering from the effects of addiction. The Unity focus on healing of body, mind, and spirit complements the Twelve-Step approach to recovery.

Beliefs Common to Unity and the Twelve Steps

Unity accepts and recognizes each individual as a child of God. Unity believes that human beings have an innate spark of divinity that connects them with God, regardless of appearances.

The Twelve-Step program also offers open acceptance and a rigorous spiritual program for effecting personal change. The sole purpose of prayer in the Twelve Steps is a conscious seeking of God’s will for the individual and the power needed to carry it out.

Unity believes that human beings create their experience by the activity of their thinking. Everything in our lives has its beginnings in thought.

The Twelve-Step program strongly asserts that changing old thought patterns is the key to changing behavior. The Twelve Steps offer new choices as a way to reorder old attitudes. The path to reclaiming one’s true spiritual identity begins with this decision to alter previous ways of experiencing life.

Unity offers the belief that God is absolute good, everywhere present. God is perceived as the one Power and one Presence in the universe and in the life of the individual. Unity’s view of a benevolent God as the source of all things good provides a positive affirmation for anyone seeking to change his or her negative perception of God.

The Twelve-Step program offers great spiritual freedom by allowing for and encouraging a personal understanding of God. The Twelve Steps ask that God should be thought of in terms directly meaningful to each individual.

Many people arrive in recovery angry or distrustful of any higher power. Coming to believe that a loving, caring God holds the promise of restored life is deemed essential in overcoming addiction.

The Twelve-Step program implies that recovery refers to a regaining of something lost or misplaced. A higher power is seen as a spiritual resource that can guide, comfort, and assist in restoring the lost connection to personal spirituality. Accepting, trusting, and aligning oneself with a benevolent higher power often requires a radical shift in perception.

Unity teaches that human beings are inherently good. Since our very essence is of God, this already-present spirituality awaits only our awakening to it. Once our conscious awareness of God’s presence occurs, the movement toward transformation and wholeness can begin.

The Twelve Steps also constitute an overall spiritual awakening. They seek to reverse a preoccupation with one’s self. Reliance and trust in a higher power replace a dependence on personal will for wisdom, comfort, and guidance. Real self-knowledge precedes the rediscovery of our true spiritual nature.

The primary purpose of a journey of self-discovery is to find personal freedom. Being caught up in any addiction guarantees a forfeiture of spiritual freedom.

Unity stresses that we must live the Truth we know. Just knowing and understanding the laws of life are not enough. Staying on the spiritual path requires not only faith, but action. Actively seeking God’s presence through prayer, speaking positive and uplifting words, and serving as God’s instrument of grace in all situations take full commitment and determination.

The Twelve Steps also dwell on the need to move into action. Taking each step is an individual act in itself. In making amends for past wrongs, one must rise above pride and procrastination and practice participation. The Twelve Steps demand total involvement in one’s own recovery process.

Action usually follows awareness and acceptance of reality. In confronting change, problems, or discovery, awareness is often followed by a period of acceptance before action can be taken. Actions may come in small or large increments, but they are essential for personal recovery.

The Twelve Steps

Participants in the Twelve-Step program claim that they have rarely seen a person fail who has followed their path. Those who do not recover are said to be those who cannot or will not completely give themselves to following the program. Here are the steps they suggest to help in recovery:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

(Note: These were taken directly from Courage to Change, One Day at a Time in Al-Anon II, Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., New York, 1992.)

Unity Principles

Unity holds to the premise that all things work for our good. No matter how daunting or difficult, every situation or circumstance contains a blessing. God is seen as the everywhere and eternal presence in all things. God never leaves or abandons anyone. God is at work in the darkest of our times and deepest of our valleys. We are assured that God’s benevolent and loving direction always comes when we ask, seek, and knock at the door of Spirit.

Spiritual strength, power, and love await only the awakening of God’s nearness to us. In the quietness of meditation and prayer, we find the Truth that can indeed free us from any negativity or challenge. Just as we are, God loves us. No matter what problems surround our past, present, or future, we are a vital and essential part of God’s loving universe. As children of God, we are automatically and irreversibly connected to our Creator.

Here are the five spiritual teachings of Unity:

1. God is absolute good, everywhere present.

2. Human beings have a spark of divinity within them, the Christ spirit within. Their very essence is of God, and therefore they are also inherently good.

3. Human beings create their experiences by the activity of their thinking. Everything in the manifest realm has its beginnings in thought.

4. Prayer is creative thinking that heightens the connection with God-Mind and therefore brings forth wisdom, healing, prosperity, and everything good.

5. Knowing and understanding the laws of life, also called Truth, are not enough. A person must also live the Truth that he or she knows.

When combined in an active program of recovery, the Twelve Steps and Unity principles can help the individual rediscover the inner strength and courage necessary to live fully and freely.