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The 12 Steps for Pagans
For Self-Knowledge, Magickal Growth and Progress in Recovery

by Khoury, sobriety date March 20, 1984

Today there are a large number of Pagans in recovery who are familiar with the 12 Steps. What most do not realize is that the 12 Steps, when suitably reworked to remove Judeo-Christian bias, form an almost foolproof method of spiritual progress, self-knowledge, and attainment of True Will.

Books available on various relevant subjects are often too narrowly focused to provide a comprehensive program of progress and growth. For example, Starhawk’s Truth or Dare, while an excellent guide for overcoming authoritarian programming, won’t do a thing for laziness.

Every now and again, pagans will realize that they have a problem that interferes with the healthy function of their lives. It does not matter what the problem is, the issue is that life has become unmanageable and something needs to be done. There are quite a few pagans who are wary of therapists. Discussing your conversations with the elementals, and claiming to be a god is a very quick way to wind up in the locked ward, being force-fed thorizine. Yet for us, these activities are a part of our day-to-day existence. Pagan therapists may be difficult or impossible to find. The solution is self-help of course, but the bewildering number of conflicting books dealing with pop-psychology, quick fixes, and magickal panaceas is guaranteed to confuse our brother, who after all just wants to know himself, and get over his propensity for couch surfing.

I have re-written the 12 steps to conform more closely with the ideologies of pagans, so that the semantics will not seem to suggest reversion to that monotheistic reality tunnel dominated by authoritarian moralistic thinking that the poor pagan fled from all those years (months) ago. Each step, except the fourth step, has suggestions for implementation, with the understanding that these are suggestions only, and an individual should use his/her own will and imagination in carrying them out. The fourth step is dealt with in another pamphlet, as it is long and all-encompassing and requires more room than we have here.

It should be said that the Big Book is essentially right when it states that selfishness and self-centeredness are the roots of the disease of alcoholism and drug addiction, but it goes a bit farther than that. These are the prime diagnostic criteria and the root issue of all of the personality disorders, and perhaps the source of most of what is wrong in our larger society. We, as a part of society, spent all kinds of time stepping on people's feelings, destroying their property, hurting them, and hating ourselves. Now we can change that.

This method is designed to assist us in taking responsibility for our behavior, conscious and subconscious, so that we can eliminate self-pity, rationalization, and other forms of behavior that prevent us from realizing our True Wills. The Program consists of working/doing the Twelve Steps, each in his/her own way.

1. We admitted that we have given our power and wills to (alcohol, drugs, food, anger, people, places, things, situations, the past - whatever you are having issues with...) and that our lives had become unmanageable.

When you obsess on anything, whether it is an ex-lover, a desired future job, your temper, a resentment, or a substance, you have given your will to that thing or person. They now have power over you and you no longer have that power available to accomplish your goals. If it is making your life miserable, no matter what it is, it is a problem. If a person is making your life miserable, it is time to realize that you can not control others, and leave or have them leave. If your life is fairly good, and you do not feel out of control about anything, use this step to examine those situations where you have felt powerless in the past.

Make a list of all the things you feel are under your control. Be honest. If you listed your wife, children, or job, you are deluding yourself. We neither own nor control others. It is time to let go of those things that have nothing to do with your correct orbit as a star, in other words, everything that is not you.

If you drink too much, or feel like you will die if your mate leaves you, that should be listed under the First Step. If you belong to lots of organizations, have a family, and take in strays, people or animals, and are consistently offended at their lack of gratitude, you might have a codependency problem and need to let go of your need to manipulate the situation to feel worthwhile. Your feelings may be out of control, and you feel powerless to control their expression.

The goal here is to differentiate between what is rightfully under your lawful power, and where you are infringing on the Wills of others. It can be an internal falling apart -depression, being "high strung," using alcohol, drugs (prescription or illegal), food, work, or a relationship - to avoid feeling something unpleasant, like grief or anger, or an external falling apart - losing a job, a lover, friends, a home, or sweating alcohol so badly that no one can stand being around.

If a pagan can't muster up enough will to go into circle sober, or get through the day without being stoned, it might be time to do something drastic, like look at this step.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Higher Power is just that. It can be the Gods, a Coven, the Oak Tree in the yard, the coffee pot, something greater that is outside of yourself. Before the theologians among the audience cringe, let me point out the difference between this and Will or inherent Divinity. The Craft teaches us that we are each a God/dess. The Book of the Law states that "Every man and every woman is a star." This is still true, however, drowning one's Divinity and obliterating the Higher Will through over use of anything is not the best way of experiencing eternal oneness with the Universe. If you don't believe me, go ask a crack addict.

Your issues do not have to be life threatening to be uncomfortable. The number of Pagans and Thelemites who had a horrific childhood is enormous. If your past is preventing you from living in the present with joy and hope for the future, this will help. This expression of belief in a Higher Power for a pagan can be much akin to asking an older brother or sister for help, one who has been around a bit longer and has more in the way of resources than we do.

Insanity can be defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

3. Made a decision to align our Will and our lives to that of True Will and place the care of our lives into the hands of the God/dess as we understand Him, Her, It, or Them.

Drinking ourselves into oblivion and insulting our friends was probably not in accordance with our True Will, or higher spiritual selves. Running away from love because you have trouble trusting will not help you in the "perfect love and perfect trust" of Wicca. Laying on the sofa, unable to muster the self-discipline to meditate, will not further your spiritual goals. All that this step is asking you to do is make a decision. The rest of the steps implement that decision. Some of us have to ask for the willingness to make the decision before actually committing ourselves. That’s fine, Will arrives eventually.

4. Made a searching and fearless ethical inventory of ourselves.

This step is dealt with at length in the Fourth Step guide.

5. Admitted to the God/dess, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Read your Fourth Step to someone else. This clears away the imagined wrongs from the real ones, and allows us to understand that no one is terminally unique. It is usually a Sponsor in a 12-step program who hears the 5th step, but a friend, brother, sister, stranger, or catholic priest, for those who appreciate the value of irony, will do just as well.

We have to be totally honest with this person and include those episodes that we found embarrassing or humiliating. Keep in mind that no one is perfect, and most people have kicked a dog or thrown up in a friend's Ming vase at one time or another.

6. We were entirely ready to have the God/desses remove these defects of character.

Having identified the unhealthy patterns we developed along the way, we became tired of them. We then sought out the appropriate group, counselor, therapist, or Shaman that would assist us in replacing these defects with healthy ways of dealing with life.

Note: A Coven is not group therapy, so if you decide that they are the only people you trust to help you, meet with them outside of circle. This is called getting over self-centeredness.

7. Humbly asked the God/dess to remove our shortcomings.

For most of us, this will occur in a ritual situation, but it is really only necessary to ask the Powers that Be to accomplish what is, after all, our True Wills. We are not alone. This step reminds us that in recovery, the God/desses will be there to help us do what needs to be done by introducing situations in our lives that allow us to overcome our defects of character. Our job is to recognize these situations and take the right action.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

This list is drawn from the Fourth Step, and should be limited to actual harm (mental, physical, verbal, financial). If you were the abused spouse, you do not owe amends to your abuser! Most of us have found that once the list is made, some time needs to be spent asking the Gods to make us willing before we actually are.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would cause harm to them or others.

Most of us grew up saying "I'm sorry," and thinking that would make it all better while blithely continuing to wreck havoc. Direct amends is not an excuse for abject groveling. Most of us are also pretty proud, and actually saying "I was wrong," can be difficult. I can assure you that you will get over it.

This step includes replacing the items you broke or stole, returning the books you "borrowed" and undoing any malicious magic you might have tried against someone that you imagined wronged you. Writing a letter is a good way to make amends to those people who would rather not speak to you any more.

The exception is those amends that would harm someone. "Gee John, I'm sorry I slept with your wife, I realize that it was wrong not to tell you about it before hand..." or "Sorry that I stole that computer Boss, I'll bring it back now..." Just sneak it back in, since losing your job constitutes harm to others (you are included in "others").

10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

The question here is "Did I cross anyone's boundaries or interfere with their Will today?" It's probably best to do this daily so that it's less overwhelming. We don't say "I'm sorry," we say "I was wrong and I'll try not to do it again." It gets easier with practice.

11. Sought through prayer, meditation, and ritual to establish and improve our conscious contact with the God/desses as we understand Him, Her, It, or Them, asking only for knowledge of True Will and the power to carry that out.

This is the practice of power-from-within, rather than power-over, and is the action of aligning our will with our Higher Will that we wanted to do in the Third Step. Pagans pray in different ways than do Christians, and this step is not very far from most of the rituals we do anyway "For the good of all so that it harms none."

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to (alcoholics, addicts, co-dependents, over eaters, etc.), and to practice these principles in all of our affairs.

We are not in the habit of controlling people or telling them what to do. If someone asks, we explain what our lives were like, what happened, and what our lives are like now. We show them the steps and let them work it out for themselves, without telling them to do things any certain way. "This worked for me..."

There is a saying in AA, "what keeps one person sober will get someone else drunk," so squelching the impulse to be bossy is a good idea fairly early on. Work the steps your own way.

The saying "One day at a time" is as true for Pagans as it is for anyone else. We follow the path daily, meditate daily, and have a responsibility to fully participate in the joy that is existence daily, not just at full moons or during Gnostic Mass.

We like to think that our Pagan community is founded on respect, and respect begins by honoring other people's choices. Those of us on the path, whether in recovery or not, have made a choice to live instead of die, one day at a time.

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