Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The 12 Steps: A World Force

12 Step Recovery is destined to become a world force. What makes it so loveable is the fact that all 12 Step programs fly in the face of what's considered "normal" for human institutions. None of them own any property, none have CEOs and they all have traditions that are actually followed and are never altered and they thrive without advertising campaigns. 12 Step Recovery programs are cunning, baffling and powerful. They don't follow any of the rules of "normal" 21st Century business plans. AA is approaching it's 75th Anniversary and you'll never find the name of it's leaders because there are none. Same is true for the dozens and dozens of other 12 Step programs that have sprung up to help people heal from other issues.

The greatest thing about all 12 Step programs is the laughter you hear at almost every meeting. And then there's the wisdom, often given with the gentlest humor. I remember being in a very large meeting in the Washington, DC area. The subject was "a loving Higher Power." I wasn't brand new to recovery but I was new enough to think that sounding humble was an excellent thing to do. My turn came and I said, "I know that God loves every one of you unconditionally. But I also know that I was given great gifts and I let God down. I'm sure God doesn't like me and what I've done with all those gifts." And then I sat back, smug in my humility. The leader, an old-timer from Ireland asked me to see him after the meeting. I thought that was odd but I did seek him out when the meeting broke up.

"Aren't you the sweetest little piece of arrogance," he said to me in his Irish brogue. I guess I looked baffled. He went on, "of all the billions of souls in creation, you're the only one He doesn't like." I probably started to cry because he really hurt my little ego. He went on, mercilessly. "We call that reverse arrogance. My God loves all, unconditionally, and that includes you."

And that's been one of the greatest gifts of 12 Step Recovery. Getting out of man's view of all of us and into God's view of all of us. I began to learn from that Irishman that in God's eyes, we're all exactly the same. All of us are critically important to the working out of the Universe. I began understanding what real humility is. There are many blessings that have come from hitting a bottom and needing a new start in life. A sense of humility was just the first for me. How about for you?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Let's Shine...

In my last entry I talked about the shame that keeps people from admitting they're improved beings because they're working a 12 Step program. Some of this is understandable. People in 12 Step programs are the butt of late night comedians (and most other comedians) because 12 Step recovery is still perceived as being for Skid Row bums. And even Skid Row bums look down on Skid Row bums.

Find me a family that hasn't been touched by alcoholism or some other kind of relationship destructive addiction. Find me one and I'll eat these words. I've worked with people in therapy who swore there was no alcoholism or addiction in their family trees. As they went back in memory they pulled up stories about Grandpa's or Grandma's drinking. Of, if they began asking questions about the family history, they found out that Mommy's tranquillizers or Daddy's daily martinis actually did cause emotional problems for their family. They just never thought that those daily drinks or the constant use of Valium was alcoholism or addiction. Dad always went to work and Mom got those pills from the doctor so how could there be anything wrong.

There are many great writers in recovery from all kinds of addictions who can passionately bring to life stories of recovery that will fascinate the bulk of humanity. And for those who aren't inclined to massive writing projects, blog responses that tell the wonders of their recovery will add to the positive energy field we need around 12 Step Recovery programs. I sincerely believe that the Internet can bring those of us who totally love and are grateful to our recovery programs together to gently and artistically present a new, beautiful, profoundly powerful face to 12 Step recovery.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

12 Step Wonders/Shame

The greatest sadness I experience as a therapist happens when I urge clients to begin attending 12 Step meetings appropriate to their particular problem and the client recoils in horror. They would rather die, they say, than go to "those meetings." The truth is, without becoming humble enough to acknowledge they have a deadly problem, some of these people will die humiliating, excruciatingly painful deaths. What do those of us who know the miracles of 12 Step Recovery do to reduce the toxic shame attached to 12 Step Programs? Maybe more of us need to say what we're doing when people ask.

I've listened to many people tell about being asked what was causing the positive changes they were demonstrating, who then refused to say they were in 12 Step Recovery. Why? Because they were fearful that the questioner would think them silly or inferior if they told the truth. All 12 Step Programs operate under the law of attraction not promotion. But nowhere in all the literature can I find a single word about lying or withholding the truth when asked what's causing the positive changes. If we're truly working a 12 Step Program, we can't help but be better people and the people around us are bound to notice that. They are attracted to our growth. How many thousands of people, maybe millions of people, have NOT gotten recovery because we were ashamed of being in 12 Step Recovery?

Next Post: Since when does what other people think invalidate the 12th Step?

Friday, February 19, 2010

A 12 Step Novel To Make You Feel Proud

Are you sick of seeing unreal snippits of people in 12 Step meetings in movies, books and TV dramas? You know, where the rooms are filled with people who look like they left a grocery cart of belongings outside the door. Or the person going to the meetings relapses and never makes it.

Years ago, a colleague suggested I write a 12 Step novel that would explain what I've discovered in recovery from alcoholism and addiction to legally prescribed tranquilizers. I'm a recovering broadcast journalist, too, and now I'm a licensed mental health counselor, so writing a novel wasn't a far-fetched idea. Materials for a novel are everywhere in my life. I have rich, wonderful personal experiences as well as joyous observations of others as they learn and grow in recovery. Anonymity is perfectly possible because every character in my novel is a composite of dozens of people I've met through my lifetime, as well as through my twenty-eight years in four different 12 Step programs.

The American Psychological Association says that the 12 Steps work well for recovery from dozens and dozens of human dysfunctions. It seems like the time is right for a novel that really shows what healthy 12 Step recovery is about. If you're interested, the novel is available everywhere. Those who've already read it are asking for the sequel. I'm working on it and know that I don't have ten years to get it done.

It's time for a much more positive look at 12 Step recovery.