Walking the Road of Recovery: Twelve-Step Support Groups
Your private world has fallen apart. The boss has fired you, your significant other is no longer significant, and you realize that all of these unmanageable circumstances are somehow related to your use and abuse of addictive substances. You become sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, and you want help.
If you are a teen, you may have been caught drinking by the police or been found with drugs at school. Perhaps you were driving under the influence and a judge ordered you to get help. You are angry and ashamed but a part of you is relieved that someone noticed how crazy your life had become.
Welcome to the world of recovery.
The path of recovery is a circle. The starting point really doesn't matter because as you continue to walk the path, you will encounter every aspect. You will look at your own addiction, its roots in your family of origin, and how it is affecting your family and work life. You will learn healthy self-care. The important thing is to take the first step, but how do you begin and what can you expect?
Let's look closer at the "bases" everyone touches in their recovery journey and at the support groups that can ease the process.
You will need to find a way that works for you to stop using your drug of choice. It doesn't matter if that drug is alcohol, marijuana, opiates, food, gambling, relationships or sex, you will need both professional and lay support.
Many people begin by consulting their family physician and/or an addictions counselor. This is a good first step because it is important to address physical and emotional conditions related to substance abuse.
You may also choose to join a recovery group and get help from others who are fighting addiction. They will provide free support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Nearly every addiction has a 12-Step program. Examples include:
(Alcoholics Anonymous) for alcoholism
NA (Narcotics Anonymous) for drug addiction
OA/FAA (Overeaters Anonymous/Food Addicts Anonymous) for eating disorders
GA (Gamblers Anonymous) for gambling addiction
Al-Anon/CODA (Co-Dependents Anonymous) for addictive relationship issues
Debtors Anon (Debtors Anonymous) for debt problems
SLAA (Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous) for sex and love addictions
Many non-12-Step programs, such as SMART, Rational Recovery, and Women for Sobriety, also provide support for a clean and sober lifestyle.
to Family of Origin
It is important to deal with the roles you were taught to play in your family of origin and their effect on you. It doesn't matter whether you were a scapegoat, hero, mascot, or lost child. The odds are good that you are carrying these relationship patterns into your daily life and they may not be working in your best interest.
You will also look at patterns of addiction in your family of origin. Although it may feel as if you are the first person in your family with a substance-abuse problem, careful examination of previous generations may show otherwise. ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) is a 12-Step program that focuses primarily on this issue. CODA (Co-Dependents Anonymous) and Al-Anon also are helpful.
to Your Current Family
As you continue in recovery, you will look at your life today. What are the relationships and expectations you have of others (and vice versa)? How different are these expectations from the patterns in your family of origin? Often we repeat aspects of our childhood that we swore we would not. Now is your chance to identify and change these paradigms. ACOA, CODA, Al-Anon, and SLAA are helpful supplements to professional therapy, as are more focused programs such as DA and GA.
Most of the 12-Step programs that deal with abstinence also have a program counterpart for "friends and family" of the addicted person. Thus, Al-Anon is for friends and family of alcoholics, Nar-Anon for friends and family of drug users, O-Anon for friends and family of overeaters, Gam-Anon for friends and family of gamblers, and so forth.
As you explore the world of recovery, feelings that may have become frozen through use of addictive substances will begin to thaw. Slowly, you will learn about feelings and how to identify them. You will begin to own your emotions and choose which feelings you wish to turn into actions. CODA and Al-Anon are wonderful 12-Step programs in this area.
12-Step Programs Work
Twelve-step programs believe that addiction is progressive, potentially fatal and that it has a threefold basis physical, emotional and spiritual. Recovery involves healing all three areas. Although the disease cannot be cured, the alcoholic or addict can lead a happy, productive life by abstaining from the addictive substance one day at a time.
If you join a 12-Step program, you will learn to give and receive help. Initially, a "sponsor" will act as mentor and teach the basics of the program and be there for you when you're tempted to break your abstinence. Later, you will perform the same function for someone else.
Group support is also important. Meetings are available in most areas during the day and evening, seven days a week. In addition, recovery meetings can be found on the Internet every hour of every day. Simply type the name of your group AA, NA, Alanon, Naranon into a search engine and you can easily locate an online meeting.
But Not Religious
Twelve-step participants often describe the program as "spiritual but not religious." Participants are encouraged to find their own Higher Power. Some choose the ocean because of its vastness, or the group because they can "see it." Others look to a more traditional god.
The idea of a power greater than self is critical to 12-Step recovery. The first three Steps involve acceptance of personal inability to control drinking and drugging, acknowledging that such behavior is insane but that HP can restore sanity if a person is willing to surrender his will.
The shortened form is "I can't, HP can, so I choose to let Him."
These actions provide a context for the remaining Steps in which considerable time is spent making a "fearless moral inventory" and sharing his or her frailties with "God and another person." Amends are made to those the disease has harmed, including the addict's own self.
A daily inventory is made in addition to the major life review. Amends are offered on the spot instead of becoming toxic resentments. Finally, the principles of the program honesty, openness and willingness are practiced in all areas of a person's life.
Twelve-Step programs have a saying that you can't keep your recovery unless you give it away. This means that by sharing one's experience, strength and hope at meetings, and extending the hand of fellowship by helping another recovering addict, you will remember the powerfulness of the disease of addiction.
Welcome to recovery.
Copyright 2003 Judy Shepps Battle