“Step Dancing through the 12 Steps of Recovery” by Fr. Jim Swarthout

Fr. Jim Swarthout is Director of Clergy and Alumni Relations for Rosecrance Health Network. Read his reflections on the 12 steps in the blog post below. Also, feel free to download the following PDFs:


  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.


  • Power is at best in weakness
  • God makes sure that several things will come your way that you cannot manage on your own
  • Spirituality, in one sense or another, is about letting go and unlearning


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

Desperate Desiring

  • Second step is necessary longing, delaying, and backsliding that precedes the full blown leap of faith
  • God comes to us disguised as our life
  • Your heart needs to be broken, and broken open, at least once to have a heart for others


  1. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

 Sweet Surrender

  • Surrender will always feel like dying, and yet it is necessary path to liberation
  • What makes so much religion innocuous, is that there has seldom been a concrete ‘decision to turn our lives over to the care of God’


  1. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.


  • Begin some honest ‘shadow boxing’ which is at the heart of all spiritual awakening
  • The goal is.. the struggle itself, and the encounter and wisdom that comes from it
  • God uses our own sins in our own favor!


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

Accountability is Sustainability

  • You cannot heal what you do not acknowledge
  • Forgiveness is to let go of our hope for a different or better past
  • God does not love us if we change; God loves us so that we can change
  • The “unbound” ones are best prepared to unbind the rest of the world


  1. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

What comes first? Chicken or the Egg

  • We have to fully acknowledge that God alone can do the ‘removing’
  • We must first fully own and admit – but then equally, step back and do nothing about it, as it were, until we are ‘entirely ready’ to let God do the job?
  • It seems we must both surrender and take responsibility


  1. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.


  • We ask not to change God but to change ourselves. We pray to form a living relationship, not to get things done
  • Prayer is.. a synergy which creates a result larger than the exchange itself
  • Life is a gift, totally given to you without cost – life’s waiting


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


  • It is a self-serving concern to alleviate just our own guilt; it is a loving question to say, ‘How can I free others from theirs?
  • All healers are wounded healers


  1. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.


  • I’m afraid that common sense wisdom, or skillful means, is no longer common sense. We are a culture with many elderly people but not so many elders passing on wisdom
  • One often needs time, discernment, and good advice from others before one knows the when, how, who and where to apologize or make amend


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


  • Most churches gave people the impression they would ‘get’ the Holy Spirit as a reward for good behavior
  • Don’t judge, just look can be our motto – and now with the eyes of God
  • To be fully conscious would be to love everything on some level and in some way – even our mistakes
  • People who know who they are find it the easiest to know who they aren’t


  1. 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.

 A different mind

  • Prayer and meditation – code for an entirely different way of processing life
  • Positive widening of your lens for a better picture


  1. 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.

What comes around – goes around

  • Energy cannot really be created or destroyed; it is merely converted to different uses
  • God loves and respects freedom – to the final and full and riskiest degree
  • Good religion keeps God free for people and keeps people free for God
  • Awakening just happens, as certain as the dawn, when the two great freedoms meet
  • We were made to breathe the air – that always surrounds you, feeds us, and fills us. Some call it God.