Posts tagged: the 12 steps

How the 12-Steps Work and Why They Are so Effective

Unless this person can experience an entire psychic change there is very little hope of his recovery (Dr. William Silkworth, M.D. “The Doctor’s Opinion” – Alcoholics Anonymous page xxvii)

The Problem

Your mind can only handle so much negative emotion. At some point your mind snaps unless you do something about it. Some people pass the breaking point and have a nervous breakdown. Some abuse food sex, money, gambling, alcohol, drugs, etc. as a way to relieve their problems. Some become “workaholics”. To keep the reading smooth, I am using the words “alcoholic” or “addict”, but these principles apply to any problem that the 12-steps address such as Overeaters Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, SLAA, etc.
Though sometimes addictive activities may appear to relieve the suffering, they are always incomplete and temporary. The problems are still there. In fact, the abuse of their “crutch” usually adds to the problems instead of relieving them.
Inside the mind of every person are varying degrees of negative emotions. Fear, guilt, shame, remorse, anger, resentment, low self-esteem, and so on. In an alcoholic and drug addict’s mind these are usually aggravated more than in most people’s because alcohol reduces inhibitions and the drinking alcoholic will do things they would never do sober. Also, in order to fund their habit the addict/ alcoholic will do things they would not ordinarily do. Also lost jobs and productivity usually lead to financial despair if the addiction is left untreated.

Why can’t they “just” quit?


No room for any more shame, fear, anger, guilt, and remorse

No room for any more bad stuff, crises, etc.

One problem with trying to “quit” without the aid of a 12-step program is that whether you are aware of it or not, the negative emotions are still there in the back of your mind — if not in the forefront — every waking moment (And sometimes in your sleep, too – especially in late stages). Life’s problems are like a water faucet that drips new problems and aggravations into the sufferer’s mind. There is already very little room in your brain for more bad things because of years of accumulation (remember your “crutch” has never relieved the problem, it just took your attention away from it temporarily — if you were lucky.) These new problems add to the already accumulated feelings of fear, guilt, self-pity, remorse, etc. until finally the breaking point is reached… and the addict reaches for the only solution they know of. Their “fix” – whatever it may be.

The Solution

The 12 steps help a person deal with the day-to-day stresses of life without your mind ever getting to the snapping point. (“Living life on life’s terms”) The addict/ alcoholic through the 12 steps, with the help of some activity (“working the steps”) the help of other people, and their higher power (usually God), the guilt fear, shame, anger, and remorse gradually begin to be replaced by serenity and positive emotions and thoughts such as love and real happiness — things the alcoholic has not found important for much too long.
As an added bonus, any new stresses that the faucet of life drips in do not immediately add to the remaining problems, they now “filter” through the renewed mind – and often are dissipated before ever being added to the current problems. The same event that use to be very stressful and emotional no longer seems like such a big deal.

Bad Emotions being replaced by Serenity

Bad Emotions being replaced by Serenity

The guilt, fear, shame and remorse never go away completely. But as the good things keep coming in, there is no longer room for the bad things. They go away. Unlike when actively abusing the crutch, which only seems to temporarily distract the sufferer’s mind from the problem.

The 12 Steps Overview

In Steps 1-3 The sufferer realizes that they have a problem and that there is a solution, and choose to pursue the solution.
Steps 4-9 begin to remove the “bad” emotions by listing, discussing and analyzing their “defects of character” with the help of another person. By step 9, the alcoholic begins to make amends (restitution) to anyone whom they have harmed. These steps are very effective. Many people get the feeling that the drink problem has disappeared by step five. (Alcoholics Anonymous page 75)
By step 9, if they work thoroughly, the alcoholic has usually already started to get a whole new outlook on life. The guilt, shame, remorse, resentments, etc. are starting to vanish and be replaced with positive thinking — emotions and actions that most of us have never had to any significant degree. After step 9, some really amazing things begin to happen. Anyone who has not had an amazing experience of mind renewal (“Spiritual experience”) after step 5 will usually have it at step 9.
Steps 10-12 are the growing steps. They keep us on the right path day to day – these are essential to maintain sobriety. These last three must be worked continuously because left untreated, our minds will eventually slip back to the state they were in… and we may drink. And for many of us, to drink is to die. (Alcoholics Anonymous page 66)

WordPress Themes