Opening the Door: My understanding of the 12 Steps

In my March 7th blog post Celebrity Rehab: Wrong or Healing? I opened the door to my own understanding of what I perceived to be the secret world of addicts. I have been asked since that posting to explore my feelings, gut emotions and raw observations of my world of the non-addicted. So instead of hanging out in the doorjamb of this volatile experience, I need to enter the room of walking the walk of the addicted so that I may understand their truly unique experiences by baring the soul of my own.

I started this exploration by reading parts of the Big Book; The touchstone of the addicted. I was shocked to realize in all my dealings, I never sat down and tried to understand Friends of Bill W. I thought that I had all the answers, had completed my tour through hell and considered myself the wise sage of survivors. How wrong I am. I have not completed my journey. I have only touched the tip of the white hot iceberg of understanding.

A person dear to me questioned whether I should talk about the subject of addiction and wasn’t I opening myself to condemnation by people in my life. Hell Yeah I need to talk about this. It needs to be said and I do not need to bow my head in shame. If I can gain some wisdom or open that secretive door to honest communication, then yes I will listen and learn. I need to explore my take on the 12 Steps to Recovery. I need to address my wisdom as well as my shortcomings.

By reading the 12 Steps that are a time honored help tool for the addicted, I realized that these steps could be applied to own journey as well.

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable. Yes I am powerless. I am unable to heal you or fix you. I have to realize that this is so much bigger than myself.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. I have to come to the realization that because I can not fix you, I have not failed you. I need to truly let go and let God. This is the hardest thing to do because I think my love is enough.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. I need to let the addict make this journey by themselves and to be there when they want me to. But only when they ask. Instead of worrying what you are going to do, I need to work on my own reactions.

4.Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. What have I done to promote, enable or dissuade the addict. Change what I can with myself only. Change my behavior, not control my surroundings.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. When you do complete this step, I need to forgive you. I need to search my soul and make amends for blaming you for not doing what I think you should be doing. Blame, refusal or inability to forgive along with resentment go hand in hand. Oh boy did I have a shopping list of real and perceived wrongs. Instead of talking about them, I buried it. I spent many years resenting the hell out of Daniel when I was equally to blame because I locked my feelings away.

6. We are entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
I need to trust your version of higher power so that I can trust you. I need to be willing to accept every day as a new day and that you too are ready to change because you too are learning to trust.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. Every morning I need to greet it with hope not despair. I need to remain positive that today is a good day. I need to stop being angry.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. I need to stop thinking that because I can say I am sorry you should too. I need to realize that this step is small part of a bigger journey that I need to let you keep private.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. I need to accept your apology. I need to stop making you pay for all the wrongs in my life. From what I understand, this is an extremely difficult step. My experience with Daniel was that I waited for my apology and gave up when I did not get it. This bred resentment in me for so many years. The days before his death, Daniel said he was sorry. I felt many years of locked away pain were released.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. Can you imagine having to do this step? The daily self examination must be grueling to say the least. What may come easy to the non-addict can be intimidating to the addict.

11. 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. If we could do this every day, think of how centered you would become. This step to my is a daily lifeline that can applied to the addict as well as the non-addict.

12. 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. Coming from the old school ways of “Don’t Talk – Don’t Tell” I see the most destructive point is to not share your experiences with others. Let the addict talk about their experiences. How are you going to understand if you make it impossible to listen.

We must be open to how addiction affects you as well as sharing tips to survive a relationship with an addict without turning bitter. It is because we stay silent that prevents the healing. And to me, I would rather get this out in the open instead of wallowing in my murky sea of shame.


5 Responses

  1. 23 Million Americans are addicted to either drugs or alcohol. Huge Kudos to you or anyone else who wants to learn more about HOW TO RECOVER from the disease of alcoholism and drug addiction. May I humbly suggest that you or anyone reading this post that has a true interest, go to Al-Anon meeting and work the steps with a sponsor who has completed them. True Al-Anon groups are designed to have the “normal” person work the 12 steps, and gain greater understanding of themselves, not a greater understanding of the alcoholic or addict in their lives.

    I have been saved by the Big Book and the 12 steps contained therein. They have become my design for living. I have no idea why I, or my fellow travelers were chosen by God to have the disease, recover from the disease, and carry the message to those who still suffer. I just know that today I am a grateful, recovered (the Big Book tells me I am recovered) alcoholic who is blessed in too many ways to count. If you think you are afflicted with the disease of alcoholism, please know that there is a place to go, with people who can help.

    Judy – thank you for always being my friend, and continuing to assist in bringing the disease and its recovery to light.

  2. Great informartion and a good write as usual.

  3. I think that at least with me, I am able to readdress the issue of survival and my roles in dealing with my addicted friends and lovers. Unfortunately too much bitterness reigns king in this American Tragedy. I hope that in some small way, blog posts such as this opens the door to allowing yourself to communicate.

  4. Chooch this was a very powerful blog and I had to re-read it a number of times, especially the opening paragraphs to ascertain why you’d been drawn to the 12 Steps, to establish if you’d become aquainted with them because of an addiction. The 12 Steps probably helped me to save my own life. Yes, I found the steps when I needed to enter “the rooms”, attend a meeting because of my problems brought on by drugs and alcohol and the realization one day that if I didn’t do something I would probably die. It took a lot of desperation to walk into the first NA meeting I attended, I was ashamed, I was lost and yes I was very, very fucking scared. To use part of the words common in the rooms my life was unmanageable.

    On entering the world of NA I found many people like me, from all walks of life, from professionals and academics to office workers to thieves to housewives to homeless dossers. We all had two things in common, a) we were / are addicts, b) we wanted to do something to stop. I could blog for ages around what happened to me in those rooms but I won’t because as I write it is bringing up very painful thoughts and memories. Now, don’t think that I don’t recall things normally because I do. I use some of the basic tenants of the 12 Steps virtually everyday, especially when I’m hating myself and these tenants help me to this day. I’ll admit here that now I do from time to time have a drink, have a spliff BUT now I’m lucky, I think, insofar as I know when to stop and when NOT to use those things to block my pain. I know there could be readers who may have also gone to the rooms and entered them and now abstain from everything because that is what they have to do to keep alive.

    But, for me the complete process of the 12 Step still applies to this day and keeps me sane and safe. The most important realizations for me as a person are that NO ONE could make me stop doing what I was doing, APART FROM ME. No overwhelming love from family or friends, no court orders will make someone stop EXCEPT THEMSELVES! I think the outside world needs to know and realize that fact. I also know from experience that the hardest step for me was admitting to someone else EVERYTHING that I’d done that was wrong / not nice / selfish. The person I admitted these things to was my “sponsor”, another addict in the rooms, who had spent years clean who listened impartially but knowingly, who didn’t judge and who didn’t demand any personal reward. When I entered the rooms I didn’t believe in God, and I still don’t BUT I do believe in a HIGHER POWER, and I like to think that this is in me as my soul and concsience (sp) and it’s when I’m not “listening” to that inner voice then I’m not connected to my HIGHER POWER and that’s when things can start going wrong. The 12 Steps should be taught to everyone with no distinction of if they have a problem or not. Sometimes we just need to find people who are in a place “common” to ourselves. If you’re really interested in learning more then there are 12 Step meetings, for NA and AA that are “open” meetings, in other words you don’t have to be an addict or alcoholic to “qualify” for attendence. I, from time to time, will attend one of these style meetings to enrich myself and remind myself of where I once was and where I am today.

    Posted by Penguinman on April 2, 2008 – Wednesday at 2:53 PM

  5. Number 10…. Yes it’s a difficult one they look at all the things they’ve done, pain they feel they have cause their loved ones and the thoughts can be over whelming.

    I remember how I would forgive my son over and over again. I kept telling him that the past was finished, we only look to the here and now and work towards the future.

    Judy their is no shame in your not being informed back then. You did what you thought was right and that was the only thing you could have done given how much information was available to you.

    Times have changed and you have the resourses available to you unlike before. Look how your way of thinking has changed.

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