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12 Step Programs as a Gateway to Self-healing and Self-care

I am a member of a 12 Step program. Because anonymity is a fundamental part of 12 step work, you will not know my real name. There is no need to know it anyway.

My journey into self-healing and self-care using the 12 Steps that originally formed the foundation of A.A. (Alcoholics Anonymous) started many years ago.

A crisis in my life brought me to the realization that I hated the person I had become---I was miserable, and my life was in shambles.

Although I worked full-time as a professional, I had difficulty with relationships, both within my family, and outside. I knew I had a temper, was full of resentment, and wasted a lot of time planning revenge for “injuries”, real or imagined, inflicted by others---or so I believed. I struggled to be punctual, and knew I was an emotional overeater.

It was my family doctor who recognized my symptoms of depression and feeling powerless over what was happening in my life. He suggested I try Al-Anon. I have always trusted this physician to give me sound advice, and so I thought I would at least give it a try.

Many people who enter into the rooms of 12 Step programs afterward admit being anxious and fearful about the prospect. What we find instead, are sympathetic and supportive individual who KNOW what we are feeling and dealing with because they have already walked the path we are on.

Three of the most powerful and negative emotions that ruled my life at that time were: anger, fear and shame. Those emotions isolated me---I felt I could not share what my feelings were for fear of being shamed further. However, coming into recovery proved to be like walking into a room of long-lost friends. The people in the meeting rooms welcomed me, treated me with respect and kindness, and listened.

There was much to learn. First and foremost, I learned that alcoholism is a disease. I learned the three “C”s--- I hadn’t Caused the disease, I couldn’t Control it, and I couldn’t Cure it. If my family member had been diagnosed with diabetes, cancer or multiple sclerosis, I would easily adapt the three C’s to any of those situations. Would I be able to do so with the disease of alcoholism?

Working a 12 Step program means learning, often for the first time, to focus on ourselves. It is not uncommon for people dealing with addictions of loved ones to focus on everyone and everything else EXCEPT themselves….consequently, our lives become very much out of control. Being an active member of Al-Anon means attending meetings on a regular basis, reading approved literature, and

taking time to connect with others, especially that special person who we identify as our sponsor.

The 12 Step programs are spiritual in nature. They are not allied with any sect or religious affiliation. Everyone is welcome, whether they believe in a Divine Being or not. In order to benefit fully, it is suggested that members commit to a daily spiritual practice. Initially this can be something as simple as turning off ALL distractions, making a cup of tea or coffee, and simply sitting in silence for 5 minutes, Some of us focus on our breathing to slow down; others sit beside a window (in inclement weather) or outside in good weather, and enjoy the beauty of the natural world.

Basically we learn one step at a time, to reconnect with our spiritual selves. Along the way, we become aware of times when we have not acted with the highest good as our guiding intention. With the help of our sponsor, or sometimes a professional counsellor, we begin to examine our lives, and see where a character asset has grown out of proportion, and has become a liability. We are offered opportunities to make different, and hopefully, healthier choices, in how we relate to ourselves and others.

Much research has been done on the disease of alcoholism over the past forty years. A wonderful psychologist, and recovering addict himself, John Bradshaw produced an enlightening TV series called “On the Family”. In it, he explained how addictions are ntergenerational, and how sometimes the addictions may “skip” a generation, but the behaviour patterns in the family will remain.

Exploring this concept led me to scrutinize my family of origin, and identify many behavioural patterns that were dysfunctional and negative. Over the years, I have steadily worked to bring issues to the light, and ask my Higher Power (whom I choose to call God) for help with forgiveness---my own and those of others.

The results have been rich and rewarding. I love and accept myself, “warts and all” much better, and know while I will never be perfect, I have gifts that I can share freely with others. I also acknowledge that no one else is perfect…we are all on a journey. Our paths may cross to help each other learn a lesson, or simply to share a moment.

There have been many books written about the healing that occurs within 12 Step programs. If you think you might benefit from exploring this source of healing, I strongly encourage you to look on-line or in the phone book for contact information. You have nothing to lose except your misery, Wishing you well on your journey to health and recovery.

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