Using the 12-Step Program During Your Recovery
Many therapists have no idea that the 12-step program isn't simply an antidote for addiction. Rather, they are guidelines for a complete transformation of one’s personality. Bill Wilson, founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), found influence from Carl Jung. Jung wrote to Wilson that the alcoholism cure would need to be one of spiritualism - the only power equal to the power of alcohol addiction.
hat’s why the 12-step program is a spiritual remedy. The 12 steps outline is a process of spiritualism where the ego is surrendered to the unconscious, or a higher power, and resembles the transformation process used in Jungian therapy.
Although the 12-step program can change many lives and help many recover from their addictions, it doesn’t work for everyone. Shadow Mountain Recovery understands this, and offers many alternatives for you or your loved one.
We will explore the 12-step process below. Primarily, we will focus on this process in terms of drug and alcohol addiction in addition to the members of the family in a codependent relationship with the addict or alcoholic.
Addressing the Problem
STEP 1: ADMITTING TO BEING POWERLESS OVER ADDICTION
The beginning stages of recovery is acknowledging that you have a problem with alcohol or drugs. There is help that can be obtained outside of yourself, and the willingness to access that help. This is also the beginning of trust beyond yourself, like the program, sponsor, or a therapist, and the opening up of a closed-off family system. In many cases, it can take years to address the problem.
As the problem is better understood, it is picked away a little more at a time. During the first step, individuals admit they are powerless over the substance and that their lives are essentially unmanageable. The codependent begins to realize that he or she is unable to control the addict. The struggle to not drink or use drugs slowly begins to slip away, as does the codependent’s diligent watching of the addict. Over time, attention will no longer be on the substance itself, but on oneself.
Essentially, there are three stages of this first step.
- Getting out of denial and acknowledging that there is indeed a problem.
- Understanding that the problem is a life-threatening one that you are powerless over.
- Realizing that the problem is within oneself and from one’s behavior and attitudes.
STEP 2: ACCEPTING A POWER GREATER THAN ONESELF
Once you have acknowledged you are powerless over the substance, there is a void left behind—a void that was once filled with physical and mental activity, attempting to control and even manipulate you and your addiction. Many feelings may arise—emptiness, loss, anger, depression, boredom, and possibly even fear. With a little bit of trust, you need to be willing to turn to a higher power—far beyond yourself—to restore your sanity.
This higher power can be a spiritual power—like God—or it can be a therapist, your sponsor, your therapy group, the therapy process itself, or something similar. It is important that you turn your addiction, frustrating situations, and people over to that higher power. Your ego will relinquish control as you put your trust into the higher power, the growth process, and life itself.
STEP 3: AGREEING TO TURN LIFE OVER TO THE HIGHER POWER
What has essentially been happening up until this point has been an increasing awareness and observation of your dysfunctional behavior and your addiction. This is an important development that indicates the origin of an observing ego. It is now time to start exercising restraint over undesirable and addictive words, habits, and deeds. After all, this program doesn’t only work spiritually, it also works behaviorally.
Abstinence from previous behaviors is often accompanied by anger, anxiety, and a loss of control. New, preferable behaviors and attitudes will feel uncomfortable and tend to arouse new emotions, including guilt and fear. Group support can be helpful when it comes to reinforcing your new behaviors since these changes can evoke powerful emotions and can often retard and arrest recovery. Plus, resistance is typically experienced from family, friends, and oneself for similar reasons. The resistance and anxiety can often be so powerful that the abuser or addict heads into relapse.
In Step 3, lives are turned over to God’s care because God is understood. This is considered “letting go” and “turning it over”. As you build your faith, the ability to let things go will also increase and you can move toward far more functional behaviors.
Inventory and Building Self-Esteem
STEP 4: TAKING A MORAL INVENTORY OF ONESELF
Once you have built more ego awareness, faith, and self-discipline, you are ready to tackle your past in Step 4. This requires a careful examination of one’s past relationships and experiences with a focus on uncovering patterns of flawed behaviors and emotions (referred to as character defects).
STEP 5: ADMITTING WRONGDOING TO GOD, ONESELF, AND OTHERS
The disclosure of this inventory in Step 5—with a sponsor or in therapy—will assist in the development of an observing ego and self-esteem. You can gain more self-acceptance and objectivity, while resentments, guilty, and paralyzing shame fade away. False self, depression, and self-loathing will also begin to dissolve. For many individuals, the process often involves recalling pain from their childhood, the beginning stages of empathy for themselves, as well as others.
Self-Acceptance and Transformation
STEP 6: BEING READY FOR THE HIGHER POWER TO REMOVE CHARACTER DEFECTS
It is not enough to change yourself to simply acknowledge your own behavior. It cannot happen until those behavior patterns can be replaced with healthier skills—or until the benefit derived from those familiar heavier patterns can be removed. Old habits no longer work, though they are distressing. This particular process can be described in Step 6 when you are ready for God to remove your character defects. This emphasizes the psychological process of one’s transformation that progresses throughout the recovery process and represents further development of self-acceptance, which is essential to change.
So long as an individual is trying to change, yet blames him or herself during the process, movement will not occur—at least not until he or she gives up completely. It is at this time an individual is “fully ready”. Step 6 is essentially asking the person to give up full control and ego clinging, and then look forward for a source beyond him or herself.
STEP 7: ASKING GOD TO REMOVE SHORTCOMINGS
Then, it is recommended to move on to Step 7, which is to humbly request God’s help remove one’s shortcomings. When it comes to reviewing your shortcomings, you are essentially revealing your effect on other individuals, and the process will awaken empathy for those individuals you have caused harm to.
Compassion for Others
STEP 8: LISTING WRONGS AND BECOMING WILLING TO MAKE AMENDS
STEP 9: MAKING DIRECT AMENDS WHEN IT IS NOT HARMFUL TO DO SO
For Steps 8 and 9, it is suggested you make amends with those individuals that you had shortcomings with and caused harm to (Step 7), one step further in building a more solid and stable self, compassion, humility, and self-esteem.
Tools for Growth
Spiritual growth and recovery are two things that you have to continuously work on and toward. Luckily, the 12 steps offer daily tools.
STEP 10: SEEKING DAILY ACCOUNTABILITY FOR ACTIONS
Step 10 recommends a continuous inventory and prompt amends as they are necessary. This ultimately builds responsibility and awareness for your attitudes and behaviors while also maintaining a peace of mind.
STEP 11: PRAYING TO IMPROVE CONTACT WITH GOD AND CARRY OUT WHAT IS RIGHT
Step 11 recommends prayer and meditation. These tools help strengthen oneself, improves your mood, increases awareness and honesty, promotes new behavior, and even reduces anxiety. As past behavior as well as ego structures begin to fall away, you will build tolerance for your emptiness experiences that support yourself.
STEP 12: EXPERIENCING A SPIRITUAL AWAKENING AND CARRYING THE MESSAGE TO OTHERS
Step 12 suggests working with other individuals and doing service, and practicing these specific principles in all your affairs. This particular step will lessen your self-centeredness and help you develop compassion. It is self-reinforcing to communicate what you have learned to others around you. It also helps you remember spirituality can’t be practiced in only one part of your life, especially without contamination from other parts. For instance, dishonesty in any part of your life can and will often undermine self-esteem and serenity, which will affect all your relationships.
For more information about the 12 Steps and how they can help you through your recovery, contact us at Shadow Mountain Recovery today.
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