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.