I am a fan of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. I didn’t use them to get sober in my late twenties, but I’ve since become a fan and know my own recovery would have been remarkably richer had I known to find a group.
I found the steps after I became a pastor, when a friend encouraged me to consider a 12-step ministry as part of the early days of starting Mosaic. That was a great call. More than any other ministry, the steps and recovery have defined our faith community. I’ve now been leading 12-step groups for more than fifteen years, and have found them to be a means of grace and a textbook for practical holiness.
That’s why I love the conversation Pierce and I had with Helen Musick on this week’s Art of Holiness podcast. Helen leads the largest recovery ministry in Lexington, Kentucky, and comes to it from her own experience of admitting her addiction while in the midst of ministry. She brings faith and vulnerability to the conversation as she talks about shame and grace, community and confession. What she says about the value of integrity toward the end of this conversation is gold. Listen all the way through.
The twelve steps of recovery are really just Sanctification 101. The first three are diagnostic, asking us to decide whether or not we are ready to make changes in our lives. The next four steps are about searching ourselves to discover and admit exactly what needs to change. Steps eight and nine are specifically about relational issues that stand in the way of making changes. Steps ten and eleven are about learning how to focus on both barriers to and opportunities for success. And the twelfth step is about paying it forward once we get forward momentum.
When we see the steps as a simple way of walking us out of darkness and into light, we can appreciate the process so much more. Our critical part is to embrace vulnerability and empathy — both within ourselves and toward others. As Helen so wisely put it, “Shame cannot survive where empathy is present.”
Helen Musick is a woman of compassion, courage and wisdom who is making a difference, one life and one day at a time. Share this conversation with someone in your life who could use a fresh and rich voice on the subject of recovery.