Twelve steps to recovery from addiction
IF YOU have heard about Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) then you may also know about the 12 steps to recovery. A 12-step programme is a self-help or support group made up of people who share the same addiction or compulsion. The first and most popular of these programmes is Alcoholics Anonymous, but there are 12-step programmes for many other addictions such as narcotics, sex, gambling, overeating or nicotine.india Updated: Mar 21, 2006 01:02 IST
IF YOU have heard about Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) then you may also know about the 12 steps to recovery. A 12-step programme is a self-help or support group made up of people who share the same addiction or compulsion. The first and most popular of these programmes is Alcoholics Anonymous, but there are 12-step programmes for many other addictions such as narcotics, sex, gambling, overeating or nicotine.
Twelve-steppers usually meet once a week at a public place. In these meetings, members commonly discuss what led them down the path to their addiction and what made them seek help. Members of the programme will support those who are in trouble and applaud those who are victorious.
Many of these meetings open with a prayer. The rest of the meetings will include personal stories of different members of the programme.
The 12-steps refer to the steps a recovering addict must take to overcome his addiction as part of this programme. The first step is to admit one has a problem. While the steps may be different for each addiction or compulsion, the idea is the same.
Besides admitting one’s addiction, members also have to own up to their past mistakes and make any necessary amends. This may mean apologising to anyone the addict has hurt in the past.
Most 12-step programmes, most famously Alcoholics Anonymous, are spiritual in nature. Although God is mentioned often in the 12 steps, they are not considered religious programmes. Members are required, however, to seek help from a higher power and atone for their wrongdoings.
In addition to encouraging an addict to admit problems and make amends, 12-step programmes also encourage members to regain control of their lives and offer solutions and emotional support so they will avoid future temptation.
These programmes aren’t considered rehabilitation. Instead they are considered ‘recovery’ programmes, as in recovering one’s life.
THE BASIC TWELVE STEPS
1 The first step is “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol (substitute your own word or phrase here), that our lives had become unmanageable.” Anything in our lives can become unmanageable, from our anger to how we handle stress. So consider what you need help with and replace the word alcohol with your own.
2 The second step is “We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” The idea here is that we cannot make manageable whatever is out of control. Once you accept that something is unmanageable by you alone, working this step becomes easier.
3 The third step is “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him.” No need to see this as a traditional god. You could believe in the earth or Goddesses, whatever works for you. The idea, again, is that you are not in control of the situation and your spirituality must be.
4 The fourth step is “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” Look deep in yourself to see what is wrong and go from there.
5 The fifth step is “Admitted to God, (as you understand Him) to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” Admitting your wrongs is difficult, so don’t push yourself with this step.
6 The sixth step is “We are entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.” Again, you are relinquishing your control here.
7 The seventh step is “Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.” Surrendering even more with this step.
8 The eighth step is “Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.” This is important in gaining your life back and removing any guilt you may have.
9 The ninth step is “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” Directly speaking with people when you can also helps overcome your bad feelings about what you have done wrong.
10 The tenth step is “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.” Having the courage to look at yourself closely and realise your faults is an important part of being humble and working the steps.
11 The eleventh step is “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.” Praying to your Higher Power helps alleviate stress of believing you are in control of the universe and can fix anything and everything.
12 The last step is “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” Once you feel you have completed these steps for whatever problem is bothering you in life, carry the power of what you learned, into the world and be amazed at how other people gain the courage to change their lives too.
(The author is a psychologist and a professor of psychology at BSSS. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
First Published: Mar 21, 2006 01:02 IST