Unpacking 12-step Value: Harvesting a Foundation for Transformation Part I

Unpacking 12-step Value: Harvesting a Foundation for Transformation Part I

As any addict who has navigated the psychological and emotional exploration within the 12-step approach to recovery knows, the journey through trough each of the steps can be confusing, frustrating, and often times with minimal understanding of what is actually taking place with respect to the healing and growth that occurs within ourselves. Part of the beauty of the 12-step model is that we actually don’t need a deep understanding of why these prescriptions work, but rather a mere understanding that they do, accompanied by the willingness to engage in the process. When speaking with addicts who have harvested the necessary courage, honesty, and willingness to work these steps thoroughly and comprehensively, we find that is difficult, even for those who have done the work, to articulate how exactly these steps have benefitted us in our lives. The general consensus seems to be an experience of personal growth and evolution, an increase in self-esteem and self-confidence, and a renewed and revitalized sense of being in the world. There are some individuals who remain skeptic to the positive effects of the 12-step method, and this is perfectly ok! It is to our advantage that we do not swallow whole any ideas or methods that are presented to us because it helps us to avoid falling into potentially dangerous traps. This skepticism vis a vis the 12-step method should be no different, however, because of the level of positive impact this method has on addicts in recovery, it can be advantageous for some individuals to harvest a deeper understanding of what is taking place when we work the steps.

While steps 4-12 can be a little simpler to unpack, steps 1-3 can often create problems for many addicts who have grown up in strictly religious backgrounds, for those who prefer non-dogmatic programs, and for those who might have a stronger proclivity to avoid what is “popular”. First, let’s lay out steps 1-3 as defined in the Big Book: Step 1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol (and other drugs)- that our lives had become unmanageable 2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. 3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to God as we understood him. (Unpacking 12-step value is continued in Part II…)

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