A Spiritual Axiom: a Disturbance of the Spirit

A few years ago while in very early recovery I had the time to spend getting deep into the 12 & 12 and culling from it what I could. (The “12 and 12” is a book of essays on the Twelve Steps of AA: Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1981)

While going through the chapter on Step Ten, which is:

“Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it”,

there is this line on page 90, which is often quoted in AA meetings:

It is a spiritual axiom that every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us.”

Lynn, over at Addictions / Trust God – Clean House – Help Others wrote an interesting post on this “Spiritual Axiom”. She asked me to write about it but I had to take a break after my Our Lady of Lourdes Novena for Alcoholics (novenas tire me out) so I’m taking up her request now. Here goes!

To me, what is “wrong” is the disturbance. It is wrong inasmuch as the hurt gets us “off the beam”. We’re hurt, in pain, suffering and emotional. This is the “wrong”. It is not wrong as in “error”, but wrong as in “imperfect” and lacking serenity.

There are two more quotes from page 90 which I think support my point:

If somebody hurts us and we are sore, we are in the wrong also.


Few people have been victimized by resentments than have we alcoholics. It mattered little whether our resentments were justified or not. A burst of temper could spoil a day, and a well-nursed grudge could make us miserably ineffective. Nor were we ever skillful in separating justified from unjustified anger. As we saw it, our wrath was always justified. Anger, that occasional luxury of more balanced people, could keep us on an emotional jag indefinitely. These emotional “dry benders” often led straight to the bottle. Other kinds of disturbances – jealousy, envy, self-pity, or hurt pride, often did the same thing.

Therefore, the disturbance, whether it be jealousy or resentment and so on, is what is wrong. This disturbance has the potential to lead us back to drinking as we seek an immediate solution.

I took a day to ponder this, thinking perhaps like many alcoholics in recovery after having read that axiom, that we are what is wrong. We are the problem. Not so. Although we are imperfect beings, this disturbance introduces into our interior life an additional imperfection, one that may be very temporary although very dangerous. This axiom tells us that the external disturbance is the focus of our spiritual progression in recovery and that our reaction to it lies in recognizing it and dealing with it in a sober manner. This removes the disturbance and restores us to health.

Reciting the Serenity Prayer may help in coping with the problem. The entire prayer is posted here, not just the first part that most people know:

The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.


–Reinhold Niebuhr

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

One Comment

  1. that has always been one of the most “disturbing” passages in AA literature for me… It really cut me down when I first began to understand the implications…it still fits today, perhaps that’s why it’s an axiom lol, it is always true!

Comments are closed.