Monday, November 7, 2016

Conversing Sisters: Step 12, We're Caring This Message

Lisa & me, circa 2009

This post is part of a series of writings I did with my sister Lisa, in 2012. Our thoughts and perspectives reflect a moment in time. They may or may not have changed in the passing years.

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

Lisa's Thoughts  

Step 12 is the reason that AA remains available to all who seek to recover from a hopeless state of mind, spirit and body. This step is crucial in recovery and in life, in general. It is often said that you cannot keep what you aren’t willing to give away. When I first came into AA, I felt intimidated by this step and didn’t realize, even at one day sober, I had something to offer the person who was still drunk. Regardless of how much sobriety someone has, everyone is capable of reaching out and offering service.

Service work kept me sober in the beginning. I jumped into AA with both feet and spent the majority of my time working with others, making coffee, chairing meetings and giving people rides to and from meetings. I had no idea why I was doing it at the time, except my sponsor highly suggested it. However, over time, I realized the internal rewards that come with being of service.

Some of the most powerful moments I have had in AA are when I have had the opportunity to sit down with a woman and take her through these steps as I was taken through them. I am often amazed and baffled at what I learn about myself and the gifts that come into my life as a result of taking a few minutes and sharing what another woman gave to me so freely.

I have spent many nights in emergency rooms, hotel rooms and strange living rooms attempting to carry the message of AA. At times, I can tell you, I felt as though I was wasting my time or would be discouraged when I would spend countless hours with someone to have them drink again. What I learned during that process was it didn’t matter what anyone did with what I offered them. The gift, in all of it, was that I stayed sober even if they didn’t.

This step also allowed me to begin the process of rigorous honesty. I came into AA with so many secrets, secrets I was determined to die with. However, when women stood up in meetings and opened their hearts about neglecting their children and committing adultery, it gave me the courage to open up about my story and what was keeping me hostage from life. I realized that I truly am not alone in my alcoholism and the many behaviors that come from that.

Paying it forward is what AA is all about. I love the unity and joy that are found in the rooms. There is absolutely an energy that can’t be explained in words.

Liz’s Response 

Reader, I couldn't find my response to this post from 2012.

Liz's Thoughts  

This step echoes of my journey from domestic violence victim, to domestic violence survivor, to domestic violence advocate. The last interaction I had with my ex-husband culminated into an act of physical violence as he attempted to break down the door of my apartment. The next morning, I was sitting in the domestic violence assistance center at the Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City, Utah. Within a few hours, I was given a protective order, training on how to keep myself safe and a victim’s advocate - all free of charge.

I was amazed at how smoothly the process went and the resources that were readily available to me. As I was sitting in the waiting room for my paperwork to be finalized, I was overcome with gratitude. I knew that this system was in place and these resources were available to me because of the women who came before me – not all of them surviving the violence inflected by their domestic partner. At that moment, in that space, I made a vow to those women that I would from that day forward use my voice to bring light and awareness to the darkness and destructive realities of domestic violence.
I entered that courthouse a victim and left a survivor. It took me many years, a lot of personal awareness work, healing and counseling for me to transition from survivor to advocate. The key was finding my voice, trusting it and then using it.

The art I create, the words I write and the way I live my life are rooted in this vow.

After seeing my art or collaborating with me, individuals will disclose their experience with domestic violence and/or ask how they can get help. This is how I make a difference in the world. This is how I actively participate in life and become part of the global conversation.

Lisa's Response


It has been so many years, sometimes, I forget where we have come from, especially in your situation. I believe true healing comes when we pay forward what happened to us in a positive way. I know that you, me and Laura have the ability through our voices to break the abuse cycle that seems to repeat itself in our family.

I am so proud of you and admire how far you have come. I know that whatever is in store for us next will be nothing short of amazing. God would not have it any other way! I love you!

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