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Intermediate Recovery: My Beef With the 12-Step Program

It has been a while since I’ve written a post about just me, mostly I’ve been writing a little bit about me and a lot about the great things I learn in my Monday 12-step meeting.  There are a couple of reasons for that:

1.  I’ve been putting a lot of time and energy into figuring out some of my food-related issues, which amounts to more blathering about diet and exercise.  I worry that I have used up my fair share of complaining about discussing this topic, and so I’m hesitant to write the “here’s what’s going on with me” post, since the main topic will be… well, I’m not going to say it again.

2.  In general, life is really and truly great!  And while that’s a blessing, it does not provide a lot of fodder for blog posts.

3.  Most important, I have a great respect for the readers coming to this blog thinking about getting sober, in the earliest stages of sobriety, or trying and failing to get sober.  It is those readers who keep me faithfully coming back every Monday to write that post, because I want to show the miracle that is recovery from addiction.   Where that respect trips me up is that some of the things going on in what is now my fourth year of recovery will not be helping the newly sober one bit, and so I think I should not write about it.  Most certainly I am over thinking, but there you have it.

So here’s how I’m going to solve the last little dilemma:  from now on, when I write about something that is a problem that is more specific to my recovery now, as opposed to something that is universal or one that is applicable to early recovery, I will label it as I have above.  If you are in the newly sober bear in mind that the issue at hand probably did not effect me in any way, shape or form in my earliest stages of sobriety.  So read on or pass the post by, it’s your choice!

Enough preface statements…

When I first got sober, I attended a 12-step meeting every day for the entire first year of my recovery.  Clearly, then, my solutions to getting sober are almost exclusively based upon the teaching and wisdom of that fellowship.  It served me very, very well so far, and I believe it will continue to serve me well, for the rest of my life if I so choose.  I choose not to think of the rest of my life per the teachings of this program; instead I choose to think that it serves me well today.

Can you hear the but coming?  Because there is one.  But…

I am coming around to discovering a serious flaw in the program as it was taught to me.  Those last words are italicized for a reason:  I learn the 12 steps from someone who’s been taught the 12 steps from someone who’s been taught the 12 steps… you get the picture.  So the way I learn it, the lesson that are highlighted for me, are dependent upon my teacher.  Someone else will claim their seat in the rooms of the fellowship, but have a very different slant on how things work.

One of the critical lessons I learned early on, and in fact served me very well the first year of my sobriety is this:

It doesn’t matter why you are an alcoholic, why you choose to chemically alter yourself, it just matters that you realize you do make this choice, and that you need to make a different one TODAY.

Here’s what that meant to me early on, and why I think I was able to stay sober in the earliest days:  stop agonizing over how this could happen to you, or why it happened to you, or if it’s really true, and get your focus where it needs to be:  figuring out how to stay sober.  I can remember actually feeling lighter, lifting this load of angst off my back, and I believe in lifting it I was able to do what it took to get and stay sober.

Here’s the problem:  I do not think this is effective for long-term recovery.  Let me reword that to be more clear:  I no longer think this is an effective strategy for my long-term recovery.  I think I do need to get down to the question of why, because if I don’t the problem will continue to resurface.

If we accept the premise that addicts use their substance of choice for escape, whether it be alcohol, drugs, food, or even social media, then the why’s are two-fold:

1.  Why do you want to escape?

2.  From what are you escaping?

Some recovered people are reading, nodding their heads and saying, “Yes, that’s true, and here’s what I was escaping and why.”  The answer comes very easily to them.

For me, not so much.  Which is why the pattern of addiction has followed me, in lesser and greater forms, for as long as I can remember.

So while I am still a card-carrying member of my 12-step program, and I will still highly recommend it as the best chance at recovery the newly sober person’s got, I am questioning this particular bit of the wisdom I’ve learned “in the rooms.”   I shall not be throwing the baby out with the bath water by abandoning what is working for me; instead, I am going to explore this need to understand and see where it takes me.

Today’s Miracle:

While rainy, the temperature in my part of the world is predicted to reach SEVENTY DEGREES.  I will take the rain, scratch that, I will celebrate the rain if it brings this balmy temperature!

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