21 Oct How Twelve Step Programs can Work in Our Lives (If we Work them)
Ok, so you’ve successfully made it through 30 days without putting a drop of alcohol or a single drug in your system, and just for today, you’re still sober. This is a major accomplishment, and if you’re a true-blue addict, it seemingly defies all odds.
Being in recovery can be incredibly rewarding, and it can also lead to a life beyond our wildest dreams. It’s not, however, to be taken lightly, and the path becomes narrower the longer we stick around. In other words, our lives and our values start to shift, and we become less and less tolerant of behavior that falls outside of our new (or established) sober set of values. We also, in a sense, become more and more vulnerable because we start to build new lives based on new principles, all contingent on our ability to remain sober. So just how does an addict maintain sobriety for the long term when studies and research show, time and time again, that the odds are stacked against us?
Most of you have likely heard of the twelve steps, and some of you might be working them right now. If you’ve been around twelve-step programs for a while, then you probably understand just how critical these steps can be to sobriety maintenance. And even with program, a great many sober addicts go out (start using again), which is why it’s not only important for most of us to attend meetings in recovery, but to do so with consistency and actually work our program.
No one is here to tell you how you should work your own program, or even that you need to have one in the first place. That’s for you to decide. We’re just here to share our own experience, strength, and hope, and to fill you in on how a twelve-step program can work in your life, should you choose to work it.
Here are some of the primary reasons why many folks in recovery find program beneficial:
You No Longer Have to do it Alone
What many of us have discovered over the years is that it’s nearly impossible to recover in a bubble. Sure, we might be able to put some time together on our own, but maintaining our sobriety over the long term is an entirely different ball game. Program, first and foremost, gives us connection — connection to folks who’ve had experiences like ours. Early recovery in particular can be a delicate time. We might have cravings, or be tempted to slip into old behaviors or situations that put us at risk of a relapse. By staying close to program, we’re staying close to our sober fellows. We get to hear other inspiring stories that remind us we’re not alone, and this can help strengthen our commitment to recovery.
Conversely, for those of us who’ve been clean for a while, hearing the stories of newcomers and those who’ve relapsed can remind us just how close we, ourselves, are to a drink or a drug. You might hear old timers say things like, “my disease is always out in the parking lot doing pushups.” Stick around the rooms for long enough and you’ll be inundated with groovy metaphors like these. In other words, addiction is chronic — it never goes away, and it’s ready for a sneak attack any opportunity it gets. Thankfully, we have solution in program, giving us a sparkly new blueprint for life. It’s one that we can continuously access through literature, fellowship, meetings, and step work in order to maintain our sobriety.
You Have the Delightful Opportunity to Be of Service to Others
One essential part of the twelve steps is giving back, and being of service can work in miraculous ways throughout our lives. Through sponsorship (helping another addict), service to the fellowship, and simply by showing up to meetings, we’re able to give back what has been so freely given to us in recovery. No one is forced to do anything in program, but most of us find that with time, we’ve become enormously grateful for the lives we’re given in sobriety. Why wouldn’t we want to give back? Being of service gets us out of our own heads, and out of our own way. It’s profoundly rewarding, and service is what keeps these amazing twelve-step programs going. It also helps keep us sober, one day at a time.
In program, we also learn to accept the past, the present, and what we think the future looks like (which is really just an illusion if we get right down to it). But the most important piece is the present — right here, and right now. When we reach this place of acceptance, it becomes a whole lot easier to navigate our lives, moment by moment, without a drink or a drug. It can be a daily practice to stay in acceptance of our present circumstances, particularly when facing life’s challenges sans the numbing agents (i.e., drugs and alcohol). But one of recovery’s greatest gifts can be to have a program, brilliant literature with easy-to-access tools, and a fellowship full of other addicts on the same path, all reminding us that we have a choice. Acceptance is that choice. And the best part? We only have to worry about staying sober today. Simple.
A Judgement Free Zone
Another beautiful thing about the fellowship is that no one is in it to judge anybody else. We all slip in our behavior from time to time, and many of us even find ourselves headed for a relapse. In fact, relapse is part of many of many-a-sober-addict’s story. We all hope it doesn’t happen to us or our fellows, but if it does, then it’s simply time to hit the reset button. And being able to come back to the rooms and be welcomed in a judgement-free space allows us to feel safe in doing so. This should be foundational of all twelve-step meetings and fellowships.
If you ever find yourself in an environment where this isn’t the case and you feel judged, then we strongly urge you to find a new meeting that resonates. Judgement is not part of the twelve-step philosophy, but since these are self-governed groups (no rules or regulations, only “trusted servants”), every now and then you’ll find a group that doesn’t adhere to the core principles. Again, if this happens, find another group that respects these principles. While there’s an occasional bad egg or two, you’ll find that most of us do have a massive amount of respect for how things operate in the rooms.
Meetings are Free
Last — meetings are free, and they’re accessible almost anywhere in the world. You can also generally find meetings online if you happen to be in an area that doesn’t offer them. Belonging to a twelve-step fellowship is a great way to stay connected to other sober, like-minded individuals, and you have an instant network wherever you choose to go on this big blue planet. We reckon that’s a big win, and our experience has always been that addicts in recovery are a fun and colorful bunch to hang around.
Do you have any experiences with twelve-step recovery that you’d like to share with us? Please let us know in the comments below. We love hearing from our readers!
Note: Kembali is not affiliated with any particular twelve-step program, however, we do hold space for meetings at our center. We offer a safe and serene place to get clean, detoxify, and begin your sober journey, but we also strongly recommend the twelve steps as a way to maintain long-term sobriety after you leave Kembali. For more information, head to www.aa.org (Alcoholics Anonymous), or www.na.org (Narcotics Anonymous). Also, if you or a loved one thinks you may have a problem with drug or alcohol addiction, please follow this link to contact us directly. We’re here to help.