I have had numerous therapy clients say that the 12 Steps Recovery program, created originally by Alcoholics Anonymous, is so helpful it should be mandatory for everyone. While I wouldn’t go that far, I agree that the Twelve Steps offer addiction recovery tools that can be helpful for everyone – addict or not.
These addiction recovery tools are essentially techniques that help a recovering addict stay clean and sober. While you may not need them for sobriety purposes, addiction recovery tools can help you live a more conscious and fulfilling life. Intrigued? Give these two tools a try this week and see if they make a difference.
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Daily Check-In and Make Amends
One of the concepts in 12 Steps recovery is the idea of inventory. It’s stopping and taking time to assess yourself. You might assess your state, your behavior, your relationships – really any facet of your life. In the Twelve Steps, inventory is the heart of Step Four (“made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves”). It’s also the focus of Step Ten (“continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it”).
So why would you want to use this tool? Addicts use daily inventory to become aware of their state, working to ensure they are not putting their sobriety in danger. You can use an inventory for a variety of reasons. For example, to assess balance in your life, pinpoint issues to work on and characteristics to develop, or where to make a repair in a relationship.
Here’s a quick and simple check-in you can use for your inventory every day this week.
How am I feeling…
- emotionally (Not sure? Try these categories: mad, bad, sad, glad, afraid.)
In the last 24 hours, when have I been…
As I review this unhelpful behavior, do I owe anyone an apology? How and when might I do that?
- kind and loving
- generous or helpful
- courageous or brave
How can I build on this gracious behavior in the next 24 hours?
Share Experiences with Others
At the center of 12 Steps recovery is the concept of sharing with others. While Twelve Step groups are sometimes called “self-help” groups, they are more accurately considered “mutual support” groups. One addict talking with and supporting another addict ends up helping each one. So sharing with others is a potent addiction recovery tool.
Sharing certainly occurs at Twelve Step meetings. But the one on one sharing with a sponsor (someone further along in recovery) and with other group members are where recovery really takes hold. This one on one sharing can be in person or by phone or other electronic media. While sharing certainly provides accountability, it more importantly offers ongoing practice in emotional intimacy with another person – being known at a deep level.
This connection with other human beings not only leads to sobriety for addicts, it also contributes to health and longevity. In short, close relationships and active daily social integration keep you healthy and happy. If you make sharing with others a priority, as addicts in Twelve Step recovery do, you indeed will reap rewards.
Here are three ideas to implement this addiction recovery tool for your own benefit.
Recovering addicts have “phone lists” of members of their home Twelve Step group and other important recovery partners. So make your own “phone” list! Jot down friends, past and present, with their phone numbers if necessary. Now add acquaintances you’d like to know better to that list.
Then – the important part – each day make one call to a person on that list. The call doesn’t have to be long. You don’t even have to share – you can invite the other person to share about what’s happening in his or her life. Simply say, “You were on my mind, so I thought I’d call.” See where it takes you!
The home group is the Twelve Step meeting that the recovering addict attends each week and where he or she does service for the group. While the person may attend additional meetings during the week, the home group is where they consistently attend and are known.
So what is your home group? Where each week do you consistently offer service and show up to be known? While your family or your workplace could be considered your home group, strive for an additional social group in which you can be yourself outside of those two roles.
For some it might be a place of worship attended weekly. For others it might be a civic organization or book club. The options are really endless, limited only by your creativity and interests. The important thing is to not just attend, but to engage and invest yourself so that you can become known on a deeper level.
Sponsor in AA
The sponsor in a Twelve Step program is a person who helps an addict work the Steps. They do this by sharing how they have worked and are working the Steps in their own life. Typically the sponsor has more experience in recovery, is active in the Twelve Step program, and has a recovery that is attractive to the addict “sponsee.”
The sponsor guides the sponsee, supports the sponsee in his or her own decision-making, and gets to know the sponsee at a deep enough level to be trusted for honest sharing. The sponsee knows that the sponsor has their back. It’s in this relationship that important emotional intimacy skills are developed for both.
So do you have someone who acts as your sponsor? Someone not in your family with whom you can share personally and honestly? An individual who lives their life in a way that inspires you? A person who knows you well and has your back?
If not, think about friends and acquaintances. With whom might you develop a deeper friendship that could offer you regular guidance and support? Make time to get with that person regularly. Nurture the friendship and experience the rewards deeper emotional intimacy.
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These 12 steps recovery tools can be helpful for everyone. But if you feel that you need more help to get your life to the place you want, you might benefit from counseling. If you’re in the Chicago area, contact us today. We have therapists in our Glen Ellyn and Jefferson Park offices ready to help you find your best life.
Rhonda Kelloway, LCSW, SEP