Written By: Katie Schipper

The Steps to Recovery Aren’t the Same for Everyone

Opinions on Taking Twelve-Steps to Recovery


Outside opinions on the inner-workings of twelve-step fellowships range from mild curiosity, to total disinterest, to insistence that they’re cults. At it’s very core, AA and other twelve-step recovery programs operate on the basis that if you want to recovery and remain anonymous, than you have a safe haven to do so. It’s on that foundation that you’re able to build a recovery program for yourself. You do this through sponsorship and the guidance of those that have come before you.

However, AA is in no way a one-size-fits-all program. Anyone who sees AA 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. It’s probably even harder to understand the concept of anonymity. Hell, understanding those things is hard enough for people in recovery!

Twelve-step recovery is open to anyone with a desire to quit drinking or getting high (or a slew of other addictions). The truth is the actual journey of recovery looks different for each member.

Learn about the first step of twelve-step programs

The Twelve-Steps are a Process

The recovery process is exactly that, a process. It isn’t a thirty-day stay at an addiction treatment center for women. It isn’t a magic bullet that solves all of life’s problems.

Recovery, as a concept, goes way beyond the scope of the twelve-steps. It includes recovering from physical injuries, depression, emotional trauma, anxiety, and 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. Some are easier to get through than others, but all pain demands attention. It doesn’t matter if that recovery is physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, or something else.

Why would an addict or alcoholic be any sort of exception to that rule? 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 based on lies, fear, manipulation, denial, desperation, self-serving, and self-centeredness would heal without some intense and ongoing work?

In twelve-step recovery programs, the initial work of going through the steps with a sponsor is based on a set of suggestions. These suggestions clarify the nature of what we face (addiction and alcoholism). They advise we look at a lifetime of our thought and behavior patterns, which reveal how we’ve been running our lives (by fear and selfishness). Finally, they advise we try and make right some of the things we did. When this initial step-work process is complete, we show gratitude by taking new women through the same process. We keep our recovery alive by passing it onto others.

For those who believe AA and NA are cults, there are other options! Do your research, you’ll find plenty.

Learn about twelve-step meeting etiquette

No Requirement for “Membership”

None of the above are requirements for membership. Even within specific twelve-step programs, there are variants and adjustments each member can make. After getting through all twelve-steps of recovery, 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 by sponsors and old timers, and anyone with a mouth really, but the reality is that you decide what rings true and speaks to your soul.

There’s No Right or Wrong Way

There isn’t a right or wrong way to start getting honest. There isn’t a right or wrong way to start learning who you really are. As time goes on, the spiritual principles you truly value will begin to develop and you decide how to nurture them. You choose how to pray. You choose how to meditate. You choose how to help another person – if you choose if you do those things at all! Recognizing that we’re all unique people, who happen to share a common bond, is meant to empower rather than subjugate. It’s up to you to own that power however you see fit.

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