I realized while recovering from opioids in my program at Adjustment Family Services that a large part of why I used was because I didn’t have support. Support was something new to me, and it was only in recovery that I even felt open to it. It was there that I learned what support was. I also learned the resources out there to help me feel supported after recovery.
Even when I was in the middle of my addiction I had heard about “The Big Book”. “The Big Book” was published by William Wilson. It’s been one of the most published books in all history. It has been translated into almost every language. You’d think that would mean something to me. If it worked for that many people, why not give it a try?
But I wanted nothing to do with the 12 Steps specifically or really AA at all. At first my hesitation was because I didn’t entirely understand what AA is, and then also the 12 Steps seemed really daunting to me. Then, I’d hear someone I used to talk about how they had gone through recovery in the past, read the “The Big Book”, did the steps and despite that, ended up relapsing. I’d use whatever excuse I could to keep
The Core Tenets of Recovery in the 12 Step Model
How could a group be deemed successful when so much failure had come out of it? The people I knew who relapsed were almost just as bad off as they were before they tried to get help. It made me feel extremely skeptical of AA. Yet, I was becoming desperate. Friends and family had suggested I go to AA for years. I was at the point where I would soon be hitting rock bottom.
At 37 I was living with my parents, jobless, broke, and I had lost everything. I strongly believe it took an act from a higher power for me to get help. Somehow, I was humbled enough to ask for help. Unbelievable shame had crept into me after learning that one of my exes had a child. That child was my son. She hadn’t told me because I was deep into my addiction. I found out through a friend. The knowledge that I was now a ‘deadbeat dad’ because of my humbled me enough that I looked for help.
Turning a Different Page of the Big Book
The NIH states that 12 Step programs and support groups can be an excellent supplement to treatments in recovery. I entered the outpatient program at Adjustment Family Services. It was a good option for me as I was already living with a supportive family.
I began to learn about “The Big Book” in a different way. I learned how it could help me, and how if I followed the steps within it I could have support for the rest of my life.
The 2nd Step of the 12 Steps
According to the American Psychological Association (APA) There are core tenets of recovery in the 12 step model that are important to understand. One of the most important ones for me was empowerment. I felt like I had no choice, no power. Sometimes we do have a lack of choices, but when you are empowered you understand how you can find a solution in almost any situation, no matter how impossible it may seem.
I always go back to Step 2 of the “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions” when I start to feel scared, “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” Life throws problems at us that overwhelm us. But if we step back and practice step 2, it can take our anxiety down a level. At first, step 2 was where I was most resistant.
The Importance of a Personal Interpretation of Higher Power
Until I found out about my child, I had spent years building resistance to the idea of a higher power. I often associated the concept of step 2 with the idea that I was being forced to believe in something I didn’t.
I wasn’t religious and I actively was against Catholicism because of my background. I believed that anyone practicing an organized religion was a phony. What I didn’t realize until I started the 12 Steps was that I could believe in a higher power without it being one defined by major religions.
How Can I Find a Higher Power?
I could have my own power, my own beliefs. I had gone through the steps a number of times but it was only when I began to have a sponsor that I realized I could form my own beliefs and own path.
To me, a higher power could mean a million different things. It could mean a force, an element, a being, it was something outside of me that made me aware of powerlessness in life, but understanding this allowed me to embrace powerlessness and empowered me to understand and focus on the things I do have control over.
ODAAT and One Step at Time…
The 12 Steps help you navigate recovery one step at a time. I think that is why it’s effective, you can focus on one thing at a time. That was great news for me. I felt overwhelmed and helpless.
One step at a time felt impossible until grasping the principle of step 2 once again. Giving myself up to a higher power forced me to feel hopeful. It forced me to acknowledge there is hope in all situations, not just despair. One cannot exist without the other and we experience them both.
Another thing that can help prevent us from relapsing or falling into harmful patterns is not only following the 12 steps, but having a sponsor. According to a study done by the NIH those who had a higher rate of using a sponsor were less likely to relapse than those who had a lower rate of using a sponsor. I found my experience with a sponsor invaluable. So much so, that I have become a sponsor myself.
Alternatives to AA Meetings for Recovery
What if you try the 12 Steps and relapse? What if you try them multiple times and relapse? Are you doing everything you can? Do you have a consistent sponsor, yet you still cannot find your way? One thing I loved about my time at Adjustments Family Services was learning I could go my own way in treatment.
There was a unique treatment plan for every single person. One person might succeed right away by following the 12 Steps and Traditions. Perhaps they also have a supportive family and a wide pool of resources. Perhaps someone else thinks that the 12 Steps are impossible due to their background or beliefs, like I once did.
Others feel that the traditions of AA seem outdated or that the text doesn’t speak to them, but the great news is that there are other options for recovery support groups outside of AA and the 12 Steps. There are women focused support groups, like Women for Sobriety or secular groups like the Secular Organizations for Sobriety.
If people struggle like I did initially with the idea of a higher power or feeling like the 12 Steps really don’t fit your worldview, other options and communities can help with much needed support.
Working Step 2 and the 12 Steps in Your Recovery
One thing you frequently in AA at the end is “It Works if you Work It”. At first it might seem cheesy or hokey. I felt like I was in a cult initially. Don’t worry, the 7th step will take care of that feeling for you. Humility is one of the most important things I learned. The reason I got better with the steps is because I’m like a lot of other humans.
I start out resistant and skeptical of anything that offers me a way to change or to help me navigate something as daunting as recovery. When I reached the 7th step I had an “Uh huh,” moment. It made sense to me. All my doubts were because I was letting my ego do the talking.
Step 2 of 12, aka: The Hope Step
When I put my ego aside and really read, listened to, and understood the meaning of the steps things began to slowly change for me. I had more room to react, I had more wisdom to fall back on when the going got tough. The steps led me to finding my son and meeting him for the first time. The steps led me to rekindling a relationship and later getting part custody of my child. Now, I have my own family and my partner and I are planning on having a child of our own in addition to helping raise my son.
I go to AA every week and I am a sponsor myself. The last part of understanding how to continue my lifelong journey of recovery was how I could give back. What I can say in parting is that there is a reason why the 12 Steps work, and if you try a program, you most likely will come across AA and try it out.
My advice is don’t give up until you’ve gone through all the steps at least twice. If you go through a few times and you cannot do it, try an alternative method. Just keep trying and trying and trying, recovery is hard, and support is needed to stay on the right track.
Establish Lasting Recovery at Adjustments Family Services
With the prejudice I had towards the twelve steps, and the confusion I felt over Step 2 in particular, it’s somewhat of a miracle I ended up in recovery at all, never mind a sponsor.
But a lot of my reluctance and skepticism was won over by the compassion and care that were clear from the moment I stepped through the door at Adjustments Family Services. If in doubt, give them a call to discuss your reservations about the 12 steps, and how to find options to help get you the support you need to stay sober. I know their assistance meant the world to me, and it can help you get more clear direction as well.