Written By: Katie Schipper
The Steps to Recovery Are Not the Same for All
Opinions on Taking 12 Steps to Recovery
Outside opinions on the inner workings of the 12 step to recovery range from mild curiosity to total disinterest to insistence that it is a cult. At it’s very core, AA and other 12 step recovery programs operate on the basis that if your wish is to remain anonymous then you have a safe haven in which to do so. It is on that foundation that you are able to build a recovery program for yourself – you do this through sponsorship and the guidance of those that have come before you, but in no way is AA a one-size-fits-all program. Anyone who sees it that way and represents it as such is operating from personal opinion. It’s hard for someone not in a recovery program to recognize the value of a support group and perhaps even more difficult to understand the concept of anonymity – hell, understanding those things is hard even for people in recovery. 12-step recovery is open to anyone with a desire to quit drinking and getting high and a slew of other addictions that are addressed by various programs. And the truth: the actual journey is going to look different for every single member.
The 12 steps of recovery is a process
The recovery process is exactly that: a process. It isn’t a 30 day stay at an addiction treatment for women wherein a lifetime of issues are resolved and you magically stay sober without doing anything other than drying out for a month. Recovery as a concept goes way beyond the scope of the 12 steps of recovery. It includes recovering from physical injuries, depression, emotional trauma, anxiety, eating disorders, the list is endless. Recovering from a break-up, from an ended friendship, from the death of someone you love. Recovering from these things doesn’t happen overnight. True, some are easier to get through than others but all real pain demands attention. Why would a drug addict or an alcoholic be any sort of exception from that concept? We don’t ask that someone get over it when they suffer an emotional loss (or at least we shouldn’t) – why would anyone expect that a lifestyle that is based on lies, fear, manipulation, denial, desperation, self-serving self-centeredness, and so on, would heal without some intense and ongoing work? In a 12 step recovery program (and there are other options for those that believe AA is a cult on a recruitment mission. Do your research; know your options) the initial work of going through step-work with a sponsor is based on an ordered set of suggestions that, simply put, clarify the strength and nature of what we face (addiction/alcoholism), advise that we face a lifetime of patterns and choices that for most of us reveal we have been running our lives based on fear, selfishness, or a combination of both, again suggest that we try and right some of the wrongs we did, and then, as the means by which we show gratitude and keep this recovery alive we offer to take a newly sober woman through the same process.
No Requirement for “Membership”
None of these are requirements for membership. And even within the confines of the program there are always variants and adjustments and factors that make the experience unique for every individual. It is after getting through all 12 steps to recovery that it becomes abundantly clear that recovery is exactly what you make it. You get to decide what it means to live differently, if living differently is what you want. Suggestions are made in the rooms of AA and by sponsors and old timers and anyone with a mouth really, but the reality is is that you decide what rings true for you and speaks to your soul.
There is no right or wrong way
There isn’t a right or a wrong way to start getting honest about who you really are, the good and the bad. And at the end of the day as time goes on the spiritual principles that you truly value will begin to develop and you decide if you nurture them. You choose how you pray, how you meditate, how you help another person – you choose if you do those things at all. Recognizing that we are all unique people who happen to share a common bond is meant to empower rather than subjugate and it’s up to you to own that power however you see fit.