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The 12 Steps And Recovery

"My name is Chris, and I'm an alcoholic." How many "speaker meetings" of Alcoholics Anonymous I opened with that introductory line to proceed and share my "experience, strength and hope" with fellow alcoholics and their significant others who worked the "other side of fence," or Al-Anon.

My first "leads" at called closed and open AA meetings were years ago, and it took me many years since to realize and implement perhaps the simplest of concepts not only in recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction but it living life itself: my personal growth is within me and not hinged exclusively to a single philosophy.

And AA and other 12-step recovery groups it inspired, I have concluded, are less the "spiritual experiences" and recovery programs they proffer themselves to be than a philosophy by which addicts and non-addicts can practice to improve or enhance their day-to-lives. A controversial statement to be sure, and one likely to draw the wrath of of program die-hards, but a simple fact that I have come to understand not only through personal experience but through certain AA concept.

In short, I do not discard AA and related groups themselves for they serve a vital purpose. But their concepts should be augmented by the individual's own experience and common sense for their benefits to be maximized. At least, that's how it has "worked" for me so far.

We are told in the program that certain steps are required before we can progress from being dry to being sober, the latter being the "spiritual experience" of living in the solution of sobriety rather than living in the problem of struggling not to drink day to day. And rightly so. There is a reason and need to do the near-dreaded Fourth Step of looking inwardly and honestly at ourselves and facing the "reasons" for our addictive behavior, be they self-pity, selfishness, holding onto the mourning of some loss, anger and whatever else.

We also have to make those "amends" to people who we've hurt because of our drinking, drug use or abusive and addictive conduct such as problem gambling, sexual promiscuity and so on. There is also value, too, in "updating" the Fourth Step - the "moral inventory" as it's also called - via the 10th Step, or "continuing to take our "moral inventory" to guard against a return of those "defects" we find in the Fourth Step and the intrusion of "new" defects.

Especially important is the "service work" compelled in the 12th and final Step - "carrying this message to (alcoholics) who still suffer and practice these (program) principles in all our affairs."

For me, however, the full benefit of recovery I seek does not and cannot be realized by 12-step recovery alone. I understood that after a DUI that landed me overnight in the county jail's drunk tank and the "shame" of community service and three years of paying triple-rate car insurance. It took that experience, plus other more private losses and self-realizations, for me to find my own practical ideology to blend with AA's philosophy. And they boil down to three concepts: choice, consequences, and responsibility.

In the end, drinking or doing whatever causes grief for me is a choice and with that choice, as with all choices, comes consequences. And, again in the end, only I will be responsible to those consequences. And if those consequences have become too great that I am not willing to be responsible for them, my choice is clear: don't drink.

That, my "program" of recovery, has worked effectively for me for a number of years. But I do not thrust it on anyone else in recovery, nor do I expect what works for me to work for someone else in recovery. I do not "struggle" day to day not to drink, nor do I have the "urges" to drink "just one" or con myself into the myth that "just one night" won't hurt because of the number of years of sobriety I have.

I am discouraged to some extent that contemporary residential and treatment programs seem to be less practical in impressing the reality of being responsible to the consequences of our choice to continue drinking or using or whatever else and more into what seems to be emotive therapy. Most long-time sober addicts will likely say that their emotions didn't become clear to them for years after they stopped their addictive behavior.

But that's another subject altogether.

cmmacneil cmmacneil 41-45, M 3 Responses Jul 9, 2012

Your Response


Good on ya Chris, one day at a time for me too and my gratitude grows everyday.

VERY GOOD FOR YOU, DEAR MAN! And I respect and value that YOUR program works for you! In my case, the consequences of my drinking DID become too high to be responsible to - and not WANTING to be responsible to the consequences made my choice clear. And I am encouraged to hear that at least one home group apparently DOES impress consequences of choice. Here, so much emphasis is put on the emotive therapy - and I don't think that's what most people, notably newcomers, can grasp. I had to be sober for years before I could even understand what the hell I was feeling. As for me? Sober? Yes! Content - we work on that a day at a time. Thank you so much for sharing such a wonderful experience.

You give some very strong reasons to use AA and the 12 steps, and you are right one of the biggest factors in recovery is the choice not to have the consequences by staying away from drinking or drugs. The problem I have is that sometimes the consequences or not enough to convince me to not drink. I ignored the consequences of my drinking for years as just a run of very bad luck. Lost homes, wives, children, money all gone and it was someone else's fault. AA was the only group that showed me that it was my behavior that caused those consequences when doing the fourth step. From that point on I realized that it is all up to me to make a daily choice not to drink and face the carnage that follows my drinking. I have been able to do that now for almost 25 years but could not have maintained without AA. Hope you have as sober and as content a life as I.