A Study of Step 11 in AA

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Step 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."

Alcoholics Anonymous states as an organization, it is non-religious but rather spiritual in design. Its cornerstone is that members find a higher purpose or higher power. God can be described as a religious being, or for atheists and agnostics, it can simply mean the group dynamic experienced as a member at an AA meeting.

Alcoholics Anonymous' (AA) 12-step program as described in the "The Big Book," AA's guide for people recovering from alcoholism, has many references to God and religious themes, and step 11 is no exception. In a nutshell, step 11 calls for discovering the plan your higher power has for your life, and to find the power to carry it out.

This article discusses how step 11 works and how it relates to the other 12 steps. It also explores some of the things you can do to tackle this step of your recovery.

12 Steps Defined

According to Alcoholics Anonymous, the 12 steps are as follows:

  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 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 the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

How Step 11 Works

For many in recovery, whether it is Alcoholics Anonymous or Al-Anon Family Groups, the concept of spirituality can be unfamiliar, lost, or rejected. Even for those who had an upbringing in a specific faith, you may find that your experience was more "religious" and prescriptive rather than spiritual.

For most who are earnest in working the 12 steps, by the time you arrive at step 11, you may discover a measure of spirituality at work in your life.

The approaches and methods of prayer and meditation suggested in step 11 vary, but the purpose of the step is to connect with that higher power.

Many AA members say that through the steps, they discovered their higher power and formed a better understanding of that power.

Some prefer to call the higher power "God," others avoid the word altogether. The point is for AA members to discover through participation in the program that there is a power greater than themselves, and they have seen that power at work.

How to Complete Step 11

There are a number of things that you can do to tackle step 11. Some ways you can do this:

  • Choose the type of spiritual, meditative, or meaningful practice you would like to incorporate into your life.
  • Focus on your objective to bring spirituality, faith, or meaning to your existence. Sometimes this might involve a higher power, but it can also involve a focus on your higher self.
  • Find ways to explore your meaningful practice. Create an environment that is relaxing, peaceful, and free of distractions.
  • Work on letting go of your existing beliefs about yourself that might be holding you back from making changes in your life. Your goal is to allow the higher power you believe in to guide you on your path to recovery.

Remember not to get caught up in your preconceptions of the word "God." You get to decide what that word means to you and to your life. Also, remember that prayer can take a wide variety of forms. It may mean praying to your higher power for guidance, but it can also mean sitting quietly for some time each day to practice mindfulness.

Why Step 11 Is Important for Recovery

As members accept the "serenity" principle that "Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God's world by mistake," there is an acknowledgment of a higher power and the belief that there is a plan for their lives. Through prayer and meditation, members can attempt to raise their consciousness of that power and draw on it to continue their personal journey of recovery.

Even if you're an atheist, you can pray or meditate by being still, quiet, stopping, reflecting, and listening to your thoughts. You can plan your day in an orderly way. Ask yourself or a higher power for the right answers to get you through the day.

Step 11 helps guide members in moments of confusion or unbalance, teaching them to stop and ask themselves or their higher power for the right way to proceed. For many, this exercise is self-reflection; for others, it is asking God for guidance. The end result usually turns out the same.

Recap

Step 11 is an important part of the recovery process because it encourages people to pause and reflect when they face challenges.

A Word From Verywell

Like every part of a 12-step program, step 11 requires commitment to the journey toward lasting recovery. Step 11 can help you develop a plan that will support you in staying on the path to recovery. It is also important preparation for step 12, which focuses on using what you have learned to be of service to others.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

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2 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Wilson B. The Big Book. 4th ed. A.A. World Services Inc; 2001.

  2. Alcoholic Anonymous. The twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. 1981.