Charlotte Sophia Kasl Ph.D.
I put the 16 steps in the present tense because empowerment is a circle or a spiral without end and we are all in it together.
- A)We affirm we have the power to take charge of our lives and stop being dependent on substances or other people for our self esteem and security. When people lack a sense of self they need to affirm that they do have the power to take charge of their lives even in the face of a life-threatening addiction.
- B) Alternative: We admit we were of control with/powerless over _________ yet have the power to take charge of our lives and stop being dependent on substances or other people for our self-esteem and security. Many people said that admitting/acknowledging powerlessness was extremely important. So the first part of the step acknowledges powerlessness over a substance or person and the second part affirms one’s potential for inner power.
- We come to believe that God/The Goddess/Universe/Great Spirit/Higher Power awakens the healing wisdom within us when we open ourselves to that power. This step affirms that a sacred spirit or life force energy is within us and around us. We tap into the power of the universe, draw it in and use it to awaken our inner capacity for healing. We are not separated isolated beings, we are part of One Energy, connected to the vast universe. Thus it is important that we develop our capacity to be touched by nature and beauty , We learn to see the wonder in small things—from a new leaf to a child’s smile.
- We make a decision to find our authentic selves and trust in the healing power of the truth. Instead of adopting society’s unauthentic stereotypes, this step encourages us to reach deep and ask ourselves: Who am I? What do I feel? What is my experience? What feels right for me? What are my dreams, and strengths? Experiencing the healing power of the truth is about minute to minute honesty with oneself and others. It’s about what you wear, what you eat, and being able to say Yes, No,and Maybe without justifying yourself or undue worry about what the other person will think or say. It’s about being true to oneself without guilt. It also affirms that human relations, intimacy and power are grounded in hearing and speaking our truths, simply, kindly and without apology. Ultimately being a close to the bones of truth is what creates intimacy, trust, feelings of connection, and a quiet mind.
- We examine our beliefs, addictions, and dependent behavior in the context of living in a hierarchal, patriarchal culture. We didn’t get into this mess alone. We need to ask, what are the social factors and negative stereotypes that fuel my addiction or make it difficult to heal? How has poverty, alienation, childhood abuse and trauma set the stage for my feelings of desperation, loneliness, fear and hopelessness. How can I see myself and my behavior in the broader perspective so I gain the knowledge to stop shaming and blaming myself . . . yet take responsibility for healing?
- We share with another person and the Universe all the things inside of us for which we feel shame and guilt. No matter what the source, when shame and guilt are left unacknowledged, it is like toxic energy poisoning our system. Secrets shared become sacred truths. This is a cleansing step that is often a long term process.
- We affirm and enjoy our strengths, talents, and creativity. We do not hide these attributes from ourselves and others. If our talents come from our creator, then to celebrate them is to celebrate creation. Humility is about accepting our gifts, enjoying them without arrogance and using them in the service of humanity. It doesn’t mean we are better or worse than someone, it simply means we celebrate our lives. Likewise, we don’t step aside from our intelligence, passion and strength because it will make someone else feel more comfortable.
- We become willing to let go of guilt, shame and any behavior that keeps us from loving ourselves and others. By releasing shame , guilt, and seeing ourselves as human, we become more loving and less judgmental of ourselves and others. We come to realize that we are all perfectly imperfect. We all make mistakes. We can all be rude, insensitive, sneaky, mean, or hurtful to others and ourselves. We’re not special or different. The underlying constant is that we are children of the Creator, sacred because we are alive.
- We make a list of people we have harmed and people who have harmed us, and take steps to clear out negative feelings by making amends and sharing our grievances in a respectful way. This step helps us repair relationships and become free of negative connections to people. It is important that we take responsibility for what we have done to harm others, and also realize how we have been harmed by others. It’s about seeing the whole picture, which is about living in the truth.
- We express love and gratitude to others, and increasingly appreciate the wonder of life and the blessings we do have. Bonding through gratitude and love is the highest vibration of energy we can create. If love is God, then showing our love makes the presence of the spirit come alive in us and around us. Thus expressing gratitude to people is a form of prayer that blesses both the giver and receiver. The same is true when we remember our blessings and notice the beauty and wonder around us.
- We continue to trust our reality and daily affirm that we see what we see, we know what we know and we feel what we feel. To trust our own perceptions is the antidote to internalized oppression which trained us to see ourselves through the eyes of those who hurt us or want to confine us to our limited roles. With this step, we build a healthy ego and develop self -trust. In a survey of people using the 16 steps, steps 10 and 12 were most often seen as crucial to leaving a harmful relationship, and to stop believing the manipulations and lies other use to keep us afraid, dependent, and willing to put us with hurtful behavior.
- We promptly acknowledge mistakes and make amends when appropriate, but we do not say we are sorry for things we have not done and we do not cover up, analyze or take responsibility for the shortcomings of others. Women and marginalized people tend to take the blame and apologize for things they have not done. It’s useful to see this in the context of the culture. It is also important not to deplete our energy analyzing or covering up for friends and partners. We can never figure out why someone else acts a certain way. It’s all speculation that keeps us from exploring our own feelings and motivation. Figuring others out is often a defense against seeing the reality of the situation or having our own feeling– particularly of anger .
- We seek out situations, jobs, and people who affirm our intelligence, perceptions, and self-worth and avoid situations or people who are hurtful, harmful, or demeaning to us. This step encourages people to notice how their energy levels and self-esteem fluctuate based on who they are with, what they are doing, and what they are thinking. It helps us assess what is draining our energy, and what is lifting us up. This is crucial to healing because we need to gravitate to all that is helpful, energizing and supportive both within our relationships and in our own behavior. It might mean learning to say “I need to go now, “to someone who is repeatedly complaining about the same old situation and not doing anything about it. We need to value our energy and treat it with care.
- We take steps to heal our physical bodies, organize our lives, reduce stress, and have fun. Many people do not realize the connections between lethargy, depression and a physically body that is out of balance–a common symptom of addiction and living in this stressful culture. Simple pleasures, keeping life organized, connecting with friends and laughter all spark our energy and help us have the energy to heal. It is incredibly important that we bond in joy, power and delight instead of suffering.
- We seek to find our inward calling, and develop the will and wisdom to follow it. First we listen to the guidance within, then we find ways to live by our inner truths. Finding our inner voice is a process that involves taking time to listen within as a central part of life. Yes, we also learn from others, we read and study, but eventually, the truth is signaled by a deep sense of calmness and clarity. We also know our decision will not have harmful consequences for our self or others. Living by our truths takes will, strength and often acceptance of the unknown. It is important to nudge ourselves yet be gentle at the same time.
- We accept the ups and downs of life as natural events that can be used as lessons for our growth. Life has its ups and downs, you win some and you lose some, …in case you hadn’t noticed. It is important not to pathologize life by becoming self absorbed and upset about every little mood change, and problem that comes our way. It’s a matter of balance. Our dramas matter, but in the cosmic scheme of things, they’re not serious– they come and go. Our joy and balance come from keeping in touch with an awareness of the vast scope of life. My subtitle for this step is, Lighten up, It matters but it’s not serious.
- We grow in awareness that we are interrelated with all living things, and we contribute to restoring peace and balance on the planet. In speaking of Creation theology, Matthew Fox says, “It’s not enough to awaken the heart and right brain if you don’t also put that energy to work relieving the suffering of the world.” Ultimately we need to step beyond our labels of addiction and codependency and see ourselves as a wondrous mosaic of many strengths, talents, experiences, foibles, and feelings. We step outside the box of focusing on our addiction and reconnect with the broader community remembering that we are magical creations of life, all of us, and ultimately the spiritual journey includes action that reaches out to all people in need.
A man who started using the 16 steps when in 1992 wrote:
“I had gone against the foundation of the 12 step model, namely that passion, joy, pride, and feeling good about oneself signal a loss of humility and are sure signs that relapse is imminent. It is now 1993 and I haven’t relapsed. I walk through life as an ordinary mortal with ups and downs but I generally feel good, enjoy my work and have fun with my friends.”
Another woman wrote to me:
“My friend Kitty talked about taking these new steps to her AlAnon group when she presented the first step. She said, “I was reading the AA and ACOA version of the first step and there was this wall of impassive faces all around me. Then I read the empowerment step: “I have the power to change my life and to stop being dependent on others for my self-esteem and security.” I looked up and I suddenly saw lively, interested eyes. But no one said a word. Finally, one woman found the courage to speak. “I really like that. Do you suppose sometime we might spend a whole session looking at re-writing the steps. Her words melted many of the icy faces. There were animated smiles and heads nodded all around. Someone else said, ‘It feel scary to mess around with the steps, but I have to tell you what a relief it is to finally be able to say they’re not right for me.’ The nodding continued and I knew something monumental just had happened that bordered on heresy and on…something new for all of us.”
Another woman wrote:
“I don’t want to give up my politics to heal from addiction. As a woman of color and a feminist, I have struggled to feel proud of myself, to celebrate my talents and strenghts and to feel love. I want to get over these terrible addictions but I need these steps because they let me have my politics and my recovery. “
Note from Charlotte Kasl
I have presented a model based on observations and conversations with hundreds of other people from a huge range of backgrounds. There is nothing sacrosanct about what I have written. These steps feel blessed to me because they have come through the voices of so many people. They reflect a mental health model and parallel much of what is known about overcoming depression. But, most important, take them, use them, change them, make them your own. Your words are blessed simply because they are Yours.
“Words speak to us and we can make them speak.”