The Steps: Conscious/Contact




I like to look up definitions of key words found in the Twelve Steps. I use an old 1934 Webster’s Dictionary that was current when the Big Book was being written. My habit of studying these old definitions somehow turned into a pastime of making drawings based on them.

Step Eleven has lots and lots of words. It reads: 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 it out.

I could see a lot of important words in there, but the most important word for me was really two words: “conscious contact”. When I first read Step Eleven, the phrase “our conscious contact with God” sounded highly religious and difficult for me to relate to. Whenever the word “God” was mentioned in the Steps or at meetings, I wanted to skip ahead to another the subject. I associated God with the ideas and practices of highly religious people and that made me feel uneasy.

At some point, I believe my sponsor detected that I was faking it when I mentioned my Higher Power. One day, he asked whether I believed in God. I reluctantly shook my head no. After a pause, he asked if I could ever remember a time when I believed in God. I was about to shake my head again, but stopped. I suddenly recalled that when I was in Elementary School, I felt an invisible and loving presence always near me. Whatever it was, it was pleased when I did the right thing, and disappointed when I did wrong.

I found myself smiling at that distant memory. When he saw my smile, my sponsor asked, “Can you make contact with that presence again right now?” For some reason, I felt irritated that he would waste time talking about my distant past when I was losing my life to addiction in the present. I almost snarled at him, saying “Well of COURSE I can.” My sponsor didn’t miss a beat. He said “Okay. Then use that as your Higher Power, for now.”

It is difficult to describe how much his statement shook me. That old memory had been dead and buried in my childhood. How could my sponsor suggest that I accept such a childish impression as my Higher Power? I suppose it is because he had read the literature. He concluded that regardless of what others may believe, that this conception of God was both real and natural to me (as opposed to addiction which made me a slave to the unreal and the unnatural).

When I decided to create a drawing for Step Eleven, I knew I needed to show a real-world example of “conscious contact”. I turned to the dictionary definitions for guidance. Conscious means “Sharing knowledge”… knowledge is what goes on in my mind.  Contact means “A union or junction of bodies”….my body is my physical existence. So Step Eleven seemed to suggest that I keep my mind and my body close to my Creator. I wasn’t certain what that meant, but it sounded like a good idea.

While at the drawing board, a memory came back to me. Whenever my mother would babysit my young children, she would sit them on her lap and read books to them. The usually squirmy, noisy kids would become very quiet while perched in her lap. To them, there was something magical about her physical presence and the knowledge she wanted to give them through the books. Here was a very personal example of sharing bodyand mind. Today, if I can maintain this much closeness to my Higher Power in body and mind, maybe I can stay sober one more day.

Today, I feel grateful to my sponsor for helping discover that my Higher Power had been with me all along. I am humbled that my family was supportive as I trudged my way back to sobriety. But during this twenty-four hours of sobriety, I am glad to be in a fellowship that is built upon improving our conscious contact with God as we understand Him.




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