The foundations of AA/NA and the 12 steps have been effective for many recovering alcoholics and addicts. It would be difficult to find a therapy or style of intervention more frequently credited for recovery than the 12 steps, but if you are new to the steps, it is helpful to know why they are so powerful.
A person is taken through the steps by a Sponsor. A Sponsor is a person who has worked the steps already, is stable in recovery, and entrusted with guiding a person through sensitive and difficult topics. A Sponsor needs to be trusted to be available for a person to call on when they are having a craving or in a risky situation. Below lists a review of the 12 steps and why their effectiveness has been experienced by so many.
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable.
A licensed psychologist once explained a pattern she had seen in over 15 years of working with addicts: the difference between a person who had pride and a person who was humbled. When a person would say “I got this” and walk around with a sense of pride and confidence that he or she could “white knuckle” recovery and stop through mere willpower, she noticed they would often leave treatment and relapse rather quickly. Those who came to treatment completely desperate and humbled, willing to do and try anything someone had for them, she would see the person gain momentum and do well in treatment and recovery. This may be the power behind the first step. When a person can admit the desperate place they are in, there is hope. This step has often been seen as one of the most difficult as family members can attest to. Friends and family may wait years for the day a person realizes they have a problem and they need help. That step truly starts a good road toward a new life.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Step 2 reminds people that they will need a power bigger than any one person. At Genesis Recovery, we identify God as the higher power able to transform a person that everyone else has given up on. We have seen it and we know this is a real hope. As people begin treatment and start to work through their steps, they are given freedom to choose their own higher power, emphasizing that they need something bigger than themselves to intervene. We meet people where they are at and help them walk the path to the next step.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Step three can be seen as “where the rubber meets the road.” As a person says to family and friends that they are ready for treatment or ready for recovery, an important evidence of that readiness is when they can follow the lead of others. When they can agree to detox or treatment, agree to stop certain activities, agree to listen to suggestions of others, there is a high chance they are ready for change. The opposite is also true. A person fighting the suggestions of family, mentors, and recovery centers, convinced that they have the best path in mind, may not be ready for change. Step three is often difficult to even acknowledge in early recovery and definitely difficult to apply.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Step four is often what people in recovery fear the most and yet what brings the most healing and peace. Any person, even apart from addiction, could imagine the discomfort of making a fearless moral inventory of ourselves. During this step, people look at resentments they have, people who have hurt them in the past, behaviors they have done they are ashamed of. There are different ways sponsors will take people through this step, but in the end, a person looks at all their past, the good, bad, and the ugly, and lays it out on paper for a trusted person to see. Though this typically is very difficult at first, people who finish express a sense of healing and a weight off their shoulders. They often feel decreased shame and become ready for the road in front of them.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
There is a Scriptural principle about shining light on the darkness and confessing sins to one another. Being able to share what you may be most ashamed of to another person and have that person accept you and encourage healing and growth is a powerful part of recovery. It is amazing to discover many others having similar experiences and know you are not alone. People connect with others on a deeper level and learn to forgive themselves as well as others.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Awareness is not the end game. These steps put a person on the path of change, a path of applying what they know. Especially in early recovery, it is not as much about “working hard” at change but rather “yielding” and listening to others. This place of peace to trust others on the road and accept feedback puts a person in a better chance for long-term change. A person accepts help from God and something bigger than they are to guide them on the road of change.
- Made a list of persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Step 8 and 9 are often seen as some of the most difficult steps, slightly behind step 4. In Step 4, a person looks directly at all the damage done to them and that they have done to others and Step 8 is the time to share what they have learned, take accountability, and make amends to those they have harmed. It can be a time of reconciliation or of grieving for those no longer in a person’s life. They may write letters, make phone calls, visit a person, or commit to living amends, ready to live the rest of their life in a good direction in honor of a person or people they have harmed.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Recovery is a new lifestyle and to maintain recovery, a person must continue some of the steps, repeating them and coming back to them to make sure they are in a healthy place. No longer is a person to allow resentments to build until they are at risk for relapse. They use this step to evaluate themselves and their relationships, decisions, behaviors, and mindset. It keeps a person vigilant, aware, and ready to reach out for help if they need to reset.
- 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.
- 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.
The final steps are the natural byproduct of working all the other steps well. This is not the end, but rather the beginning of a life of recovery. A person will then sponsor others, walk others through the steps, and often go through the steps again periodically to keep in a healthy place for recovery. By sponsoring others, a person has accountability to others and finds reward from serving and giving back. During treatment at Genesis Recovery, participants begin working through their steps with support from a sponsor, counselors, and therapists. Toward the end of their stay at Genesis, part of the relapse prevention planning will help the person identify how to find a sponsor and continue through the steps.
Connect. Learn. Grow. All Addicts, Alcoholics and Loved Ones Are Welcome.
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