When 12 Step Programs Just Don't Work Anymore
Let's be honest. The recovery community is pretty tough and close minded. Most people go to NA or AA or some other 12 step group and it's a pretty closed circle to those new in recovery.
We live in an entierly new era for recovery. Once, addicts were alone and lonely and weren't able to connect, so they started the 12 step rocovery program. They have found each other, and that what helped them stay clean and recover from their disease.
Nowadays we have the internet, and an infinite access to everyone, everywhere. Addicts no longer sit in psych wards, drugged and zombified and institutionalized. We now have more choices than ever to recover.
Most people who survive it to tell, might tell you things like "The only way to recover is the 12 steps. You either go to groups and do service and learn and pass on the 12 steps of X-Annonymous or you'll die. or go to jail. or find yourself in an istitution. No other way to recover, and if you DO find some other way and part with the room - then you're probably not an addict." and there's no arguing with them. Believe me, I've tried. Not for the sake of argument, but simply show and explain that there's no one way to recover, there are tones, we just like to call ourselves "an addict" so much, to identify with the term, the charachter of the classic Addict, the one who picks up a beer and can't stop from finding herself in a huge "relapse", running skid row up and down with a needle in her arm - all that same night.
I can only speak for myself, that after 10 years of hearing those same mantras in 12 step groups, "keep coming back", and "It works if you work it" and all those phrases we know by heart the year we enter the first room of NA or AA or Whatever-A, and read the literature, and find ourselves in it, and trying so much to fit in - that we learn not to trust ourselves anymore. Sound familiar ?
I ate at it the first bite I took, and did everything a "classic addict" would do, just to prove to myself that I AM an addict, like my fellow NA people, like it says in the literature. I did it to fit in for the first time with people who are like me, who went trough the same things I have, and it had become my identity for a long time. I drank and beer and went on a binder, I shoot dope and confessed in the rooms "I'm falling again, I need your help, save me from myself." I took no resposibility for my own actions and practiced being an addict more than being a human being. I forgot who I was before and here are some people who went through stuff I did, too, and they're telling me this is the only way out, NA, groups, service, steps, sponsors. I struggled 10 years before I "got it", before I felt the magnificence of surrender, that sweet surrender most of us feel when there's no more room for us in our own mind - we are possesed by THE DISEASE, souly and completely empty from any emotion other than pain. The unbearable pain of rock bottom. No one tells you there's no such thing as rock bottom, and underneath this one - there awaits another, deeper, darker, cold and so painful you have to crawl into a ball and ask for help.
There's a famous quote by Jiddu Krishnamurti saying : "The primany cause of disorder in ourselves is the seeking of reality promised by another."
I think about it in the context of the 12 steps and what they believe in, and I think WE are the ones who's choosing to be sick, because once you've realized you have a problem (with drugs or alcohol for instance), you're gonna have to look for a solution, and that solution lies within yourself and yourself only. Not external events, and people, and ideas, as much as they are, too, impactful to our decision making. Hearing all day long that I have a disease that's incurable and fatal, I have a great excuse for each and every one of my actions, reactions, and behavior. Instead of taking responsibility for my actions, I can say "I'm an addict, that's what we do". An excellent excuse for being an asshole, or just being really bad at setting bounderies. 12 step programs never helped me sort out my emotional problems, my traumas, my FEELINGS.
"I learned that preaching at people about behaviors, even self-destructive ones, did little good when I didn't or couldn't help them with the emotional dynamics driving those behavios". - Gabor Mate.
While I do believe addiction to be an illness rather than a choice, I think that once you've realized you're ill, I'ts your responsibility to recover, any way possible. might be the 12 steps that work for you. might be Smart recovery. Might also be ayahuasca trips with a shaman in Peru or just smoking weed. Whichever way you choose is valid. You are valid. So next time when someone on suboxone asks in a group of recovering addicts if she is sober - encourage her to stay on the path of recovery as long as it helps her stay off heroin instead of telling her she isn't clean and needs to be free of all mind-altering substances in order to be a part of your recovery community.
Be a human being first, than an addict or whatever you choose to call yourself.
“Compassion is a muscle that gets stronger with use, and the regular exercise of choosing kindness over cruelty would change us.” - Mahatma Gandhi.
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