Dr. Cali Estes - The Addiction Coach ®

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12-Step Programs; The Good and the Bad: One Anonymous Recovering Addict’s Perspective

12-Step Programs; The Good and the Bad: One Anonymous Recovering Addict’s Perspective

I was in and out of the rooms of various 12-step programs for about 5 years before I finally got my life together. I have been through the 12-steps, and I take other people through the steps as well. There are many great assets associated with the 12-step programs. Self-awareness, fellowship, responsibility, and many other positive attributes that help to allow an addict, or alcoholic to grow in a positive way. The steps taught me honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness to do the next right thing. I have grown spiritually, and have grown into the person I have always wanted to be. Because I put the work in, and was willing to change, I have been able to start helping other people as well.
Over the course of my recovery, I have witnessed many things in the rooms of the 12-steps programs. I’ve seen it work very well for people. However, I’ve seen a few flaws as well. The steps themselves are nearly flawless. Every problem in an addict or alcoholic’s life can be address with one of the steps. When I say every problem, I mean internally. If we are angry and resentful, we can figure out why. If we are happy, we can practice humility. Naturally if we are balanced internally, it will manifest itself externally as well. The steps can teach an addict or alcoholic how to live a great life.
A big part of the program is the fellowship. You meet a lot people, and you will learn from each other. You make new friends, and they become family. You grow in recovery together. The fellowship is where I found the greatest flaw. The rooms of the 12-steps programs are governed by the 12-traditions, and the 12-concepts. These traditions, and concepts are meant to govern how the program works as a whole. Once a month members go to what’s called the area service committee meeting to talk about issues, and vote on matters that need to be taken care of. While there one Sunday, someone raised a motion to be voted on, and the room erupted into chaos. People started yelling at each other, calling people names, and acting like, for lack of a better term, children. I sat back, because I was getting angry myself and realized that this will always happen when you put fifty different people, with fifty different personalities into the same room to fix something that isn’t broken. The arguing continued until exactly 1pm when the meeting was over and it was decided to resume the following month.
The program is meant to help people in recovery from active addiction. That is the “primary purpose.” We as humans are naturally opinionated. We are naturally judgmental.  I have seen people leave meetings because they were being judged for struggling to keep a day clean. It gets worse when the groups are larger. “Clicking” begins to happen, people get angry with other people because they feel left out. Resentment is one of the biggest causes of relapse.
To sum up what I think is the greatest flaw of the 12-step programs, I would say one word. Drama. Addicts thrive in chaos. We love taking sides, and being the center of attention. The meetings become a fashion show, character defects run uncontrolled and people begin to strongly dislike others. 12-step programs have many great parts that promote self-growth and recovery. There are also flaws that will be tough to stray away from. As we continue to grow in our recovery, and be more helpful to each other, we have to try to practice “principles before personalities.”
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