What Really is a Spiritual Awakening?

What Really is a Spiritual Awakening?

The first part of Step 12 (no matter what fellowship you attend) is a very magical phrase; “Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps…”. It sounds so comforting (and exciting) that many of us have thought, WOW! I want to have one of those and how will I know when it happens? Or, “Am I having spiritual awakenings now and just not recognizing it?” Maybe we can answer some of these questions by taking an honest look at what is our “spirit” and how does it “awaken”.
When you Google “Spiritual Awakening” almost all of the results are mostly related to a religious connotation which, by the way, we often hesitate to talk about because predecessors have made it clear to us all that if AA, NA, etc. are to survive we better emphasize spirituality, not religion. Once we searched more specifically to find feedback on what is a spiritual awakening in 12 step terms, we found some great stuff. We also did an informal poll of people in recovery to see how they replied to “What is a spiritual awakening to you?” Please keep in mind that the scope of this topic is huge, there are no definite answers and The 12 Step Gazette is certainly not an expert on this – we’re just taking an open look at something which, for many, is a very personal thing.
The first thing we noticed when we looked at Step 12 was the way that it is phrased – “Having had a spiritual awakening AS A RESULT OF THESE STEPS” – so that implies that although there may be plenty of examples of people in the program having spiritual awakenings before they experience the first 11 steps, we should probably take a look at what it is about these steps that almost guarantees if you work/live/experience them, you will indeed have this awakening. But let’s be clear on the difference between a spiritual awakening and a spiritual experience; here’s an example that’s easy to grasp… A spiritual experience is when you take your eyes off the road while driving, glance at your cell phone, look up at the last minute and see you’re about to hit something and swerve out of the way just in time. You then say (if you’re like me), Thank You God! A spiritual awakening is when you say after that close call, I better stop looking at my phone while driving – I can’t believe I’m risking everything like that – next time I won’t be so ‘lucky’! The awakening to what you’ve been doing while driving will hopefully get your ‘spirit’ to commit TO STOP IT.
Here are some responses we received from our Facebook friends; the feedback was as varied as you can get: “An instance, could be event or feeling, that restores your faith in your higher power. Or at least that’s how it happened for me!” Another one; “for me it was the day the house was burning down all around me and I sat there-praying to make it all end-SOMETHING made me get out of the house-and a few hours later I was arrested….is it ODD or is it GOD??” And another; “My spiritual awakening was how I ended up in NA. I crawled into my first meeting spiritually broken and my life downward spiraled completely out of control. All I did was cry. I simply couldn’t admit I was an addict, so I stopped attending and kept using…A dear friend texted me to keep coming back. I made it my home group and got my sponsor there. When other addicts loved me before I could love myself, I knew I had a spiritual awakening.” Here’s one more; “That’s easy – it is a change in your thinking – an ‘entire psychic change’ as a result of practicing the 12 steps in your life.”
Many people feel compelled to relate the phrase ‘spiritual awakening’ to God, a higher power or a divine being. That’s fine if that’s your take on it but many others have also added that the awakening is of our spirit – our life force – and in that case, you could be an agnostic or an atheist and have spiritual awakenings. Sometimes we can feel that something is different in us – maybe it’s a result of being clean and sober and we’re more level-headed.
But maybe, the difference is a psychic, spiritual – basically metaphysical {beyond science} presence that occurs as a result of a change of thoughts, attitudes and behaviors. One thing is for sure; with all the changing we wind up doing in the recovery process, with the opening of previously closed minds and a healthy sprinkling of well timed coincidences (God-incidences?) thrown in our lives to help us to come to believe, spiritual experiences and the trial and error of the recovery process can add up to a tangible spiritual awakening.
If you put all these different interpretations in a big basket and take a look at it, some things are common throughout. One of these is the feeling of a new way of looking at things. The birth of something inside of us that gives us a new, healthier outlook as we go about the affairs of our life. Add to that, the common thread running through almost all spiritual awakenings – which is the fact that we feel alive again. Not only that but we feel connected to all things around us and even notice an increased ability to deal with life on life’s terms. So, whether we’ve had some spiritual experiences, a religious transformation, a birth of something inside of us as a result of the 12 steps that gives us a more positive outlook – or a combination of all these, a spiritual awakening is another great reward/blessing we earn from our participation in the 12 step recovery process.

By Bruce Huberman