How the 12-step programme can help you?

The 12 Steps were created by the founders of the fellowship group Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1930s. Providing a suggested programme of recovery from the effects of alcoholism, a 12-step approach has continually proven to be the most effective solution in the treatment of addiction. While the original steps have been adapted over time and are now used in the treatment of a variety of different substance abuse disorders, the premise of each step remains the same.

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There are many benefits to following the 12-step programme, however the key feature is that it helps to gain awareness of yourself. The programme makes you evaluate yourself. Often many of us, suffering with addiction or not, struggle to take responsibility for our actions. We are quick to blame others for many things in our lives. For example, if you were feeling extremely happy you might link this to someone you had been spending time with, such as a partner.

Many people create these links between emotions and people. Although someone can affect your emotions, ultimately it is important to remember that we are in control of ourselves and we decide how we feel. It isn’t someone else controlling us, it is up to us.

As Sonja, Recovery Centre Manager at ECR said “until I started working the 12-step programme I didn’t realise that all my feelings and the decisions I made were inside me, they were all mine, no one else’s. The programme gives you the opportunity to look at yourself, nobody else.”

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The 12-step programme has the potential to help anyone, whether they are suffering from addiction or not. You can breakdown the program and take it out of its formal context and it can be beneficial for people to reflect and be mindful.

Sonja said “if you take the programme out of the formal context and reword it for the everyday person – it would be good to use within schools, workplaces, as part of supervisions and appraisals. This is because for me personally, sometimes problems have gone round and round in my head and I have never got to the solution because I’m always looking outwards rather than looking at myself.”

It is important to realise that by looking at one’s self and assessing behaviours, attitudes and intentions it enables you to solve problems in your life quicker. As adults we must take control and responsibility for our lives. This is what the 12-step programme aims to achieve. By following the daily-structure you are able to reflect and solve issues in your life.

Although it allows you to focus and plan your days it is key to understand that there will be scenarios in life which we have no control over. For example, if someone got in a car accident. These situations are unplanned and often cannot be explained. However, for daily life the 12-steps is a tool which individuals can use to plan their days, set goals and targets. As well as allowing you to reflect on the day when it’s coming to an end.

The structure of the day-to-day routine following the 12 steps is as followed:

In the morning, you start off with ‘quiet time’. This time is for reading. It could be anything, something religious if you believe in God, it could be something spiritual, it could be some recovery text or just some text that you like which you can reflect on. After you have spent a short period of time reading through a section of text or a chapter, you then sit quietly and reflect on what you have just read.

After your reflection, you then set an intention for the day. This could be a prayer (if you’re religious), it could just be an intention to the universe, it can be whatever you want it to be. This is just a goal you would like to achieve and by deciding what that is in the morning gives you something to strive for throughout the day. This time allows individuals to process their plan for the day, if they have any meetings or tasks which have to be completed. It allows the person to be able to organise ahead of time what they need to do and want to achieve. It also gives you accountability when you come to the end of the day.

At the end of the day, in the evening, you would again sit quietly and review your day.

Sonja said “we are often naturally selfish and resentful people; the programme gives you the opportunity to look back on your behaviour throughout the day. For example, how I spoke to someone might have come across as a bit sharp and then you would try to amend that behaviour.”

She continued, “If you’ve really hurt someone then you go back and admit you were wrong and apologise. It isn’t for you to try and justify your behaviour, for example, blaming it on you being tired. It is important to just acknowledge and apologise, taking responsibility for your actions.”

The 12-steps are a development tool. It isn’t there to make you feel badly about yourself or drag yourself down. It is a routine which can be incorporated into anyone’s life which allows them to personally develop and reflect on themselves.

The main goal being, ‘How can I be a better person?’, ‘How can I treat people better?’ ‘How can I show more love and compassion?’ – These behaviours might not always come naturally to some people so this programme can really help that.

If you are in recovery and there are any issues or problems which have appeared in your day and you are struggling to understand, it would be beneficial to speak to someone else in recovery. This is so you can go through the issues and get a second-hand perspective on the situation to come to a solution. This could even be helpful to those not in recovery, if you are feeling anxious about something that might have happened at work by ringing up a work colleague or a friend and talking about what happened may relieve you of the worry and help you get to the answer quicker than bottling it up inside yourself.

As Sonja explains, “sometimes I can be sensitive and paranoid and I might take things the wrong way and out of context. Someone could compliment my hair but I might take that to mean they were saying my hair looked bad on previous days. So, speaking to other people who can help you climb down from the ceilings and get things into context are beneficial.”

She continues, “it allows for us to sort out our thought processes and straighten out our minds.”

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The benefit of completing the inventory is that it is a gentle, development tool.

Many people in recovery can be really sensitive, distressed and fragile. When first highlighting something that they may need to work on or certain areas they might need to change, individuals often take that as a personal attack. Building a network with others in recovery allows people to gain scope and better understanding of these issues. Rather than the advice coming from anyone It comes from someone like-minded.

Meditation comes in many forms. Thousands of people across the world practise meditation on a daily basis. The 12-step program is one form of meditation. The morning and evening quiet time give individuals the chance to reflect.

Some people may argue that this has huge emotional benefits. It is also argued that it can have a positive impact on your physical well-being.

For Sonja, it has had a huge impact.

She said “I could always do more, I could always do better but the quiet time allows me to relax which I often find difficult. It gives me time to reflect on my mind, my body and my emotions. You won’t see the benefits over night but over weeks and months you will start to see the benefits in your emotional state. The anxiety that I feel now has reduced significantly compared to how it was years ago.”

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For Sonja as someone in recovery and that has been following the 12-step programme for many years, the most valuable part of the 12-steps has been having a network of mature elders in recovery. These people are able to help and guide along your journey. As well as identify things that could be improved within yourself.

It has been key for Sonja to have the tools to be able to reflect and be mindful of her behaviour and actions. The 12-steps has given her a structure which has emotionally helped her through her day-to-day life and to stay on her recovery journey.

Although Sonja is in recovery herself, the tools the 12-steps provide if restructured or pulled a part has the potential to benefit anyone throughout their life and personal development.

"Men and women drink essentially because they like the effect produced by alcohol. The sensation is so elusive that, while they admit it is injurious, they cannot after a time differentiate the true from the false. To them, their alcoholic life seems the only normal one. They are restless, irritable and discontented, unless they can again experience the sense of ease and comfort which comes at once by taking a few drinks-drinks which they see others taking with impunity. After they have succumbed to the desire again, as so many do, and the phenomenon of craving develops, they pass through the well-known stages of a spree, emerging remorseful, with a firm resolution not to drink again. This is repeated over and over, and unless this person can experience an entire psychic change there is very little hope of his recovery.

On the other hand-and strange as this many seem to those who do not understand-once a psychic change has occurred, the very same person who seemed doomed, who has so many problems he despaired of ever solving them, suddenly finds himself easily able to control his desire for alcohol, the only effort necessary being they required to follow a few simple rules."

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If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, do not hesitate to ring our specialist team who are here to answer any questions or queries you may have. They are here to direct you to the best treatment for you or you loved one.