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Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  3,302 ratings  ·  231 reviews
We are all addicted in some way. When we learn to identify our addiction, embrace our brokenness, and surrender to God, we begin to bring healing to ourselves and our world. In Breathing Under Water, Richard Rohr shows how the gospel principles in the Twelve Steps can free anyone from any addiction—from an obvious dependence on alcohol or drugs to the more common but less ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published September 13th 2011 by Franciscan Media (first published 2011)
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Meredith MacInnis I am reading 'Breathing under Water - Spirituality and the Twelve Steps' and it is helping me tremendously with current issues. It is very well writte…moreI am reading 'Breathing under Water - Spirituality and the Twelve Steps' and it is helping me tremendously with current issues. It is very well written and accessible. What I mean by accessible is that the writer seems humble yet knowledgeable. MM(less)
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Jan 29, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is simply Eckhart Tolle garbed in a Franciscan habit.

Richard Rohr is an iconoclast, so be forewarned! A Christian who doesn’t believe in an Afterlife? A Liberationist? Perhaps - it’s hard to nail him down. But one thing is for sure: he lives ENTIRELY in the present moment. Which I try to do as well. And mostly fail.

But Rohr seems to put the word Heaven within inverted commas, as if it’s not a substantial transcendent truth at all. I have great difficulties with that, and it’s as if he’
Mar 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
i'm finally getting around to typing up some of my notes from books i read in 2014 and i'm not sure how i wound up giving this book four stars instead of five. as always disclaimer: what follows may not be of interest if you're not in recovery and at least somewhat positively disposed toward mr christ.

this is basically just a guy putting each of the classic twelve steps in a deep, smart, and soulful christian context, but not the fast-food version of christian context -- jesus is magic, we love
Jan 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was less of an explanation of the Twelve Steps and more of a commentary on them. Good insights, as always, from Richard Rohr. I especially appreciated his point that all of us are addicted, especially to our own way of thinking. We all are powerless and in need of trusting a higher power. Easy to read and simple message.
May 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
found myself quibbling a bit with his spirituality (from a Lutheran point of view), and I am tired of the "Do you worship Jesus or follow him?" dichotomy (to me, it's a both/and). But the 12th chapter, on the 12th step, was worth it all.

from the "Big Book": "so our troubles are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves; and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-well run riot, though he or she does not think so. Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness
Dan Bonner
Aug 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought this was an excellent book that I will reference over and over again. It forced me to think differently about certain things I spent my life time believing.
Sep 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"What religion would Jesus belong to?" was the title of a recent NY Times article about contemporary Christianity. You don't generally think of AA as a "religion" and while it's technically not one, Rohr finds that its approach to helping individuals overcome their addictions is a spiritual one with many parallels to the teachings of Christ.

Rohr makes four assumptions about addictions. First, we are all "addicts", being addictive by nature, subject to illusions and entrapments. The Biblical tra
Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the 12 Steps, a small and wonderful book by one of my most favorite priests, Father Richard Rohr, is a reminder of, as a friend of mine says, "who we are and what we are"-beings founded in love who struggle to find that love which we are. Fr. Rohr looks at the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous in the light of the Gospel and Catholic faith and find a deeply spiritual path.

I was touched, refreshed, and challenged by this work. I started to list it on my "self
Nov 10, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
All students of the Twelve Steps know that God and spirituality are the foundation of a successful program of recovery . In this book, Fr. Rohr is making the valid case that many people in our society today are much like the unrecovered addict ( sans the drugs ) in their emotional and spiritual makeup. He makes the further point that many adherents of the Christian church ( I believe he is singling out Catholicism ) have not addressed their spiritual issues and emotional makeup with anything app ...more
Mar 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great book to grab when you find yourself in the grips of any sort of desire, addiction, or affliction, be it in the form of substance, compulsive behavior, or addictive thoughts. Those who, however, are still offended or wounded by dualistic religious or biblical experiences, will likely be turned off and stop after the first chapter (or page - each chapter begins with several quotes from scripture that correspond to the step the chapter is about). Those who choose to open themselves ...more
Jan 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book n the twelve steps for alcoholics and non-alcoholics alike. The last two chapters deserve to be re-read and re-read.
Milt Jacobs
Oct 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Andrew Doohan
Jan 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
In his usual easily accessible style, Richard Rohr provides a study of the underlying spiritual dimension of the Twelve Step program used by organisations such as Alcoholics Anonymous and other similar groups.

The beauty of Rohr's exploration is that his exposition of the spiritual side of the Twelve Steps has much to offer those who wouldn't normally be exposed to the Twelve Steps, those who simply seek to live out their Christian journey with some degree of integrity.

For anyone who fits that ca
Kailee Lelli
Mar 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Breathing Underwater had me hooked right away. It goes into detail about how your spiritual mindset will get you places you haven't been, especially with the twelve steps. Richard Rohr goes on about how the twelve steps are used in people's lives, and how whoever is reading this book can use it. It is a lovely book. I recommend this book to anyone (even if they do not need the 12 step study guide) who is looking for a closer relationship to God or want to know about how and why God loves each of ...more
Richard Rohr is definitely not orthodox Catholic, but he sure does have a lot of good things to say. I especially appreciate his views on recovery, as it really is a spiritual process and one that lines up perfectly with the Gospel. I didn't agree with everything in this book and there were a view times where he lost me a bit, but overall I underlined a lot of passages and it had a very positive impact on me. ...more
Nov 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I already need to go back and re-read it! Rohr describes the 12 Steps as a technology for the sort of deep transformational work described by theologians from many world religions, although his primary focus is the Christian scriptures. Since he is a Franciscan, his take is really groovy and inclusive, though, so it is inspiring even of you're not a Christian. ...more
Joe Skillen
Jul 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I will read this book again. As many times as it might take. It puts the whole of life together for me.
Christy Robeson
Jan 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2021
A book I didn't know I needed to read. ...more
Mary Lynn Elker
Nov 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Very thought provoking. Will read again.
Jul 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Let's just start with my bias. I love Richie Rohr!

A highlight from this book for me was on the topic of self acceptance and surrender. I have often struggled with my own ability to communicate God's unconditional love and grace to others while holding to a different standard for myself (I was raised very much as a performance-based legalistic kind of Christian). So reading this book led me to a new kind of "conversion" experience as my eyes were opened a bit to how loving and trustworthy God is
Jackie St Hilaire
One step at a time.

A few weeks ago I visited a man who has been following the 12 step program for over 20 years. On one of my visits I asked if we could go through the steps together and he picked up his book and began to read the steps one by one, flipping over the pages so fast that I didn't have a chance to dialogue with him. He read them, put the book down and that was it. This is a very depressed individual and full of guilt and shame, I was hoping to bring about a more shameless and guiltl
Jan 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was the focus a small book club I was invited to join last fall. We meet once a week schedules and health permitting. We read out loud and discuss our thoughts and experiences honestly and profoundly. It is what I dreamed a book club would be and this book has helped me tremendously not only in my sobriety journey, but more importantly my spiritual journey. Fr. Rohr reminds us what Jesus taught. It is profoundly simple even though the big business of religion has made it otherwise. I h ...more
This was an amazing book - a great way to look at Christian spirituality and the 12 steps. It's an amazing paradigm shift from how we look at our spiritual lives today. The way Rohr delves into the 12 steps leaves the reader with a lasting impression. I borrowed this book from a priest friend on Kindle - but I think I'm going to have to purchase a physical copy for myself to re-read it. Highly recommended. ...more
Sep 27, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: catholic
I like Richard Rohr, but he often makes me roll my eyes, sometimes straying what I feel is too far off the range in search of "authentic" spirituality. But not here. Following the time-tested methodology of AA's 12-step program, Fr. Rohr ties each to spiritual wellness, making concrete his metaphor (or maybe even a simile) of sin as an addiction, an addiction to anything. He portrays sin as being too attached to something, even a good thing, like food or prayer. ...more
Jan 29, 2013 rated it liked it
I enjoyed reading this book about Spirituality and the Twelve Steps. The author raised some very good points in the book about how to apply these 12 steps to our own lives in order to deepen our spirituality. I would not have chosen to read this book on my own so I'm glad that it was part of my spirituality class assignments. It was very enlightening and I do see where some of the steps would be helpful or even practical if applied in our lives. ...more
Sep 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This says it is audio cassette but I read a soft cover version and loved it. I think Richard Rohr is my current favorite author. This is a wonderful book about how 12 step spirituality connects with Christianity. It is religion without dogma. He calls himself a radical traditionalist and I relate to the way he speaks.
Barbara Hosbach
May 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fr. Rohr has a gift for expressing profound spiritual truths in ways that are both powerful and easy to relate to. Breathing Under Water draws connections between the non-demonminational spirituallity of Twelve Step Programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and the heart of Gospel living. This book shows the universal relevence of the twelve step principles for anyone seeking to grow spiritually.
Mar 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I purposely took my time reading this book. It is so healing on so many levels. The author does an excellent job of connecting the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous to religion and the Bible. Great for anyone dealing with life and learning to overcome.
Margo Berendsen
My Christian 12 step group read this chapter by chapter together, along with the 12 steps with scriptures. It's definitely not a beginner's guide to the 12 steps, but it lines the 12 steps up with New Testament scripture powerfully and I think this could be read and appreciated by many people who don't think they have an addiction but are willing to consider that they have a spiritual disconnect somewhere in their lives.

I have hesitated getting a copy of this book for myself, because I'd say it
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2017
...this is quite possibly the most important/impactful/transformative book I've ever read.

There were times when I nearly threw the book across the room, because I was so freaked out and so overwhelmed by the Grace that was being presented. A few weeks ago I would've thought that was hyperbole- it sounds ridiculous, I know...but that's how it was.

That being said, I'm not sure if this is for everyone. My extreme reaction to the book kind of makes me feel like it was just super, super, super relev
May 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed the introduction to the book and to each chapter, but the actual reflections on the 12 Steps left me a bit wanting. Rohr is a common go-to for me, because his messages are across the board, and across Abrahamic religions, relevant. He's generally good at pulling from the 'big stories' of the Torah because of the appeal as shared text. This book, however, was significantly more Christian/Gospel focused than prior writings. So, it's great for what it is, but didn't fit what I expe ...more
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Madison Mega-Mara...: This topic has been closed to new comments. Breathing Underwater by Richard Rohr 3 4 Apr 01, 2012 06:54PM  

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Fr. Richard Rohr is a globally recognized ecumenical teacher bearing witness to the universal awakening within Christian mysticism and the Perennial Tradition. He is a Franciscan priest of the New Mexico Province and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Fr. Richard's teaching is grounded in the Franciscan alternative orthodoxy—practices of contemplat ...more

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