understanding 12-step recovery

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1 12 understanding 12-step recovery

2 contents Addiction is absolutely human, recovery is absolutely possible A simple way of understanding how people deal with life Finding a more effective way to deal with life 12-step: free, no waiting, the most successful way to recover Going to a first meeting Basic principles of 12-step recovery Investing in the steps The simple steps If someone can t get to a meeting Best odds for long term recovery 12-step support for those affected by another s addiction 12-step contact information Copyright Racing Welfare 2015 The Jockey Club s Charity

3 addiction is absolutely human recovery is absolutely possible This booklet aims to give a basic understanding of 12-Step Recovery, and how it can offer the best odds at living free from addictive behaviours such as drinking, drug use, gambling and obsessive under or over eating. If someone wants to learn how to stop any addictive behaviour, their best odds of achieving this are by learning from people who have become skilled in living totally free from addictions. There are several kinds of self-help groups, the most established, proven and successful are 12-Step Fellowships. They are set up, run and attended by people in recovery. Examples of 12-step fellowships include Alcoholics Anonymous [AA], Narcotics Anonymous [NA], and Gamblers Anonymous [GA]. Like trying anything for the first time exploring 12-step meetings can feel unusual to start off with. But the success and value of the 12-step approach lies in identifying with others in the same situation, passing on knowledge, and exchanging support. Recovery is contagious! 1

4 a simple way of understanding how people deal with life life leads to feelings we respond to with behaviours and then our feelings change This is absolutely human. Everyone uses different behaviours to deal with the way life can feel: finding courage by drinking alcohol escaping through using drugs chasing a buzz by placing a bet seeking control in eating releasing stress through exercising getting a lift by shopping So why are some addicted to these behaviours? Everyone can be impulsive, but to differing extents; some to a lower degree, and some a far higher degree. The influence of obsession and compulsion at the top of this scale can be so strong, that about 1 in 10 of us becomes addicted to these behaviours

5 finding a more effective way to deal with life life feelings talking acceptance still leads to we can respond to by and then we can move towards and solutions It s a simple principle that can be difficult to do. Talking and opening up can be judged as a sign of weakness, and some people take advantage of others when they are down or vulnerable. But 12-step meetings take a different view. Talking about what s truly going on in life can involve real strength and courage, and it can be the most effective alternative to addictive behaviours. Getting honest is respected in 12-step meetings and one of the most important principles stressed to people in every meeting is don t gossip. This central value means meetings can be one of the safest places to unload. 3

6 12-step: free, no waiting, the most successful way to recover 12-step meetings are an option of support known as Self-help or Mutual Aid. They are based in our communities and are not connected to any kind of professional services; meetings are set up and run by people in recovery. Compared to most addiction support options 12-step meetings have some key advantages: There are no waiting lists Anyone can go whenever they want to. No attendance records are kept Meetings are anonymous. They are free Members make small donations to cover running costs. There are professional services that offer treatment for addictions. These services are there to help in any way they can and all are worth exploring as complimentary options of support. In the UK many services help people try to control their using, whilst recognising that totally abstaining from addictive behaviours can offer the best odds of full recovery for people who know they re unable to control or cut down. The majority of abstinent based professional services are built on the principles of 12-step recovery. They know that recovery grows beyond what they can offer, and through the self-help recovery in our communities. 4

7 going to a first meeting 12-step groups are often known as Meetings or The Rooms. Most last 1 or 1 ½ hours, and going to them can at first seem unusual: First meetings can feel daunting Everyone knows that so newcomers are looked out for. Hand shakes are common [and hugs in some meetings]. Numbers attending Small meetings can be attended by around 5 to 10 people, medium sized 15 or so, and larger meetings 25 and over. Seeing people we know This thought can be off putting, but everyone in a meeting has an interest in recovery. Hostile behaviour would never be tolerated and not gossiping is key to keeping meetings safe. There s a set structure All meetings follow an established pattern with readings at the start and end. Just observing can be useful at first. Sharing This is when people talk, just one at a time with no interruption. Everyone is welcome to share or just listen. People are in recovery Most people at meetings have learnt how to live free from active addiction. They are totally clean, sober and bet free. Recovery is celebrated Some meetings mark clean time with different coloured keyrings; years, months, days, and simply the desire to stop. Connection and spiritual principles 12-step programs explore the advantages of spiritual principles. They are not religious. Most at their first meeting know if they need to be there Regularly attending then maximises the odds of recovery. Sometimes accepting this truth can make it difficult for people to return, but the door is always open. The best advice is to keep going back! 5

8 basic principles of 12-step recovery A key approach of 12-step recovery is to totally abstain from addictive behaviour. Food addiction is a little different as everyone needs to eat, so the focus is to abstain from compulsive under or over eating. If someone has a drink problem and they stop drinking, they will no longer have a drink problem. What they ll be left with is the need to find a more effective way to manage their feelings and their life. There are many principles that can help in getting and staying free from addiction: Go to as many meetings as possible The more someone practices something the better they re likely to become at it. Recovery is the same. Ask for help This can feel difficult, but most people will confirm that the odds of finding recovery without support have been slim to none. Be around people in recovery They know what works and what doesn t. They are best placed to support people seeking recovery. Avoid the people, places, and things connected with active addiction This can be a hard step, but a crucial one in staying safe. Explore the steps The 12-steps are a set of guiding principles that can help with the understanding of addiction, the related feelings and events, and how to move forward free from dependency. A day at a time The thought of abstaining for life can feel overwhelming, so the focus is on not picking up in the day ahead. As most people are awake for around 16 hours each day, it s a much easier prospect. 6

9 investing in the steps The 12 steps are a proven way for anyone to get a better understanding of who they are and how they behave. They help clarify why addictive behaviour is only likely to result in further damage and chaos, and how it is possible for anyone to develop an effective approach to life free from addiction. The steps are an investment. Becoming skilled in anything can take commitment and time. Working the 12 steps is like an apprenticeship where addiction free and exceptional living are the returns on offer. A few things are needed before starting the steps: Sponsorship A sponsor is like a mentor, someone with experience of the 12 steps who can offer guidance and support in going through them. It s down to each person to ask someone to sponsor them. Becoming abstinent In order to go through the steps people first need to totally stop their addictive behaviour. This goal is best achieved by getting to meetings and accessing support from people in recovery. Detoxing from some substances such as alcohol and benzodiazepines can have associated health risks. Always seek medical advice. Approaching the steps Key to getting the most out of this opportunity is to be Honest, Open minded, and Willing; that s HOW it works. 7

10 the simple steps The following 12 pages of this booklet offer a brief summary of the steps in turn, breaking each one down into 4 parts: simplified The step translated as simply as possible. full step The step as it appears in 12-step programs. in principle An explanation of the theory behind each step. in sequence How each step works in relation to the next one. The steps require action. Just reading information about the steps is unlikely to result in the changes that lead to true recovery, they need to be worked through with a sponsor, verbally and in writing. There are very effective ways of going through the steps for people who don t read or write. Understanding the steps can be very personal. One way to illustrate recovery is to think of it like a suit. If the key to living free from active addiction was to wear a suit, then the 12 steps provide everything needed to make one. But the style, cut, material and colour, is down to the individual to tailor and tweak so their suit feels and looks just right on them. It can then become the very fabric of their recovery. There are no rules on time. Some complete the steps over a number of months, others may take several years. The suggestion is that people commit to move forward through them to the best of their ability. 8

11 1 i ve got a problem simplified full step in principle Step 1 acknowledges that uncontrollable addictive behaviour can lead to damaging results. We admitted that we were powerless over addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable. The 1 st step is a beginning, the start of taking action. It s an admission of what has really been going on. Some people s health, relationships, work, finances, legal situation and other areas of life, have been so obviously affected by their addiction it s clear to them that they are no longer in control. Others may deny that they have a problem at all, putting their situation down to other reasons. Step 1 involves an honest look at how addiction has truly impacted on life. Being able to own that truth opens up effective ways of moving forward. in sequence The 1 st step in finding an effective solution to any problem is to get honest. That honesty allows a clearer assessment of how this effective program can help in Step 2. 9

12 2 there is another way simplified full step in principle Step 2 recognises that 12-step programs offer a proven solution to addictive behaviours. We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. With denial removed in Step 1, the 2 nd step aims to replace it with hope; that recovery is possible and that pain and insanity can end [insanity can mean repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results]. 12-step programs harness the collective experience and knowledge of millions of people living free from addiction. This is a resource vastly more powerful than the attempts of one person alone. At this point in history, 12-step programs simply offer the best odds of securing abstinent recovery. in sequence The 2 nd step develops the belief that living an addiction free life is absolutely possible for anybody. The decision to take this opportunity is the focus of Step 3. 10

13 3 i ll try this other way simplified full step in principle Step 3 is a commitment to take the solution. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. Step 3 takes the truth and hope from steps 1 and 2 and puts them into action; making a decision to prioritise recovery and learn more effective ways of living. The terms Higher Power and God appear throughout the steps. 12-step programs are not religious so having a personal understanding of these words is important. GOD could be interpreted as Growth Over Destruction. The 3 rd step develops an ability to see the bigger picture. A perspective protected from self-defeating or self-inflated thinking, where balanced choices can be reached. in sequence Step 3 is a decision to allow the principles of worth and care to influence an approach to life. These principles help the owning of behaviours in Step 4 to be a healing process. 11

14 4 this is my part in my life simplified full step in principle Step 4 explores how life has been approached by the individual. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Most life problems have taken root long before addiction has, but ultimately the biggest factor influencing how someone s life will progress, is themselves. The 4 th step identifies underlying issues that addictive behaviours have attempted to change; resentments, feelings, guilt, shame, fear, relationships, secrets, etc. With understanding and care, identifying these truths means there is no further need to drown or numb them. And very importantly, this 4 th step is also about acknowledging personal strengths and assets. in sequence In Step 4 internalised feelings, beliefs and resulting actions are acknowledged and understood. Starting to release them can then begin in the 5 th step. 12

15 5 telling someone else what my part in my life has been simplified full step in principle Step 5 reviews the findings from Step 4 with help from someone who has experience of the 12 steps. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. Step 5 begins to set free feelings, behaviours, secrets and beliefs built up over a lifetime. These are often at the core of addictive behaviours. The 5 th step is an open admission. It could just stay as a personal acknowledgement in the previous step, but by sharing this truth with someone else [a sponsor], a number of key benefits can result: Trust Opening up to someone can be a pivotal step. Perspective Another outlook helps find a balanced view. Acceptance Honesty in this step will not lead to rejection. Relief There s a chance to let go of unhelpful baggage. in sequence In Step 5 a lifetime of feelings can be released by sharing them with someone who has experience of this 12-step process. Their informed perspective can help identify patterns of behaviour that can be explored further in Step 6. 13

16 6 with the help of that person, seeing which behaviours don t work simplified full step in principle Step 6 identifies from that review, behaviours that don't work well. We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. Over a lifetime everyone develops different ways to deal with the events and feelings they face. Step 6 identifies the behaviours that don t work and have actually created further problems; drinking, using, gambling, binging, starving, lying, blaming, resentment, self-pity, isolation, manipulation, intimidation, etc. But not acting out through these behaviours can be challenging if they have been in place for a long time. There are real advantages in letting go of defective behaviours. The 6 th step focuses on a desire to approach things differently and to believe that change is possible. in sequence Step 6 is about the willingness to respond to how life feels in a more effective way, that willingness is carried forward to a commitment to do so in Step 7. 14

17 7 committing to no longer use the behaviours which don t work simplified full step in principle Step 7 aims to stop the further use of those behaviours. We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. The steps up to this point have resulted in an honest appraisal of how life has been, how addiction and other destructive behaviours have played a key part in the way things have turned out. The 7 th step takes this new awareness and puts it into action. When someone can see how past behaviours have been damaging, they can also see that doing things differently can now have a growthful affect on their own life, and the lives of those around them. Life can be challenging, so the commitment to do things differently in the 7 th step is approached realistically; it s about progress not perfection. in sequence Step 7 encourages people to move forward without repeating the old behaviours that harmed themselves and others. The people affected by these damaging behaviours are acknowledged in Step 8. 15

18 8 listing the people who have been hurt by those behaviours simplified full step in principle Step 8 acknowledges the people who have been harmed by those behaviours. We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. The first 7 steps focus on fixing the damage to someone s own life caused by their addiction and actions. The 8 th step starts to bring others into this process of repair. The thought of saying sorry to someone can be daunting and uncomfortable. So the aim of Step 8 is to focus on how others have been harmed, not the act of making amends to them [how and if to comes in the next step]. Becoming accountable for causing harm can lead to a clearer sense of remorse, releasing shame and guilt. in sequence Rushing to put things right with others can have damaging results. The 8 th step takes time to own and respect the nature of the harm felt by others, before considering how best to make amends in Step 9. 16

19 9 saying sorry to them, if it s safe to simplified full step in principle Step 9 encourages making amends to those people where appropriate. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. Steps 1 through 8 develop honesty, trust, accountability, humility, and willingness to do the next right thing. All valuable principles in preparing for the 9 th step. This action step recognises 3 basic aims: Owning behaviour Taking responsibility, freeing shame. Repairing damage To relationships, integrity, trust, etc. Returning clarity Clarifying how the harm was caused. A sponsors guidance is crucial in Step 9 as some amends may be impossible to make directly, or unsafe for those involved. There are many ways to make amends indirectly. in sequence Step 9 is not just about saying sorry. Making amends involves a decision not to repeat the same damaging behaviours, a commitment practiced in Step

20 10 regularly checking that i m heading in a sound direction simplified full step in principle Step 10 regularly checks how life is approached, promptly addressing problems as they occur. We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. The insight developed through working the steps can lead to remarkable shifts in the quality of life. The best odds of keeping these rewards are through regular maintenance. The 10 th step is about maintaining the principles of steps 4 and 5, 6 and 7, 8 and 9, in a regular and simple way: Checking and owning feelings, thoughts and behaviours. Being aware of our impact, and up for doing it differently. Acknowledging harm to others, putting it right promptly. in sequence The previous steps have focused on understanding and repairing the past, Step 10 maintains a connection to the present. The benefits of developing this personal sense of connection are explored further in Step

21 11 considering how a sense of connection can help in life simplified full step in principle Step 11 considers how connection or spirituality can empower an approach to life. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. 12-step programs are not religious. So far in history they re the most effective way to arrest addictions, working for people all over the word regardless of their beliefs. The 11 th step is an opportunity to develop personal ways to connect with a sense of worth, care, and love [free of shame, humiliation and punishment]. Some access this connection through others in recovery, personal or existing faiths, loved ones who have died, through a connection with nature; what ever feels right. in sequence Step 11 ensures connection to solution, even when unable to directly reach others. The importance of reaching out to people new to recovery is emphasised in Step

22 12 sharing experience of recovery, if someone wants to know simplified full step in principle Step 12 continues to practice these principles, passing on knowledge to others seeking recovery. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs. When someone finds recovery and invests in the steps the difference in their outlook, appearance, and ability to live life, can be truly astonishing. Their potential has awoken: Anyone can live free from addiction. Fact! For those new to the 12 steps, the most credible proof of this fact is to witness the recovery of others. Knowing how it works is valuable, practicing and sharing these skills is key to newcomers learning to find their own recovery. Giving it away becomes the best way for those already in recovery to keep what they have; freedom from active addiction. in sequence 20 Completing the 12 steps is a real achievement. The insight and acceptance from each step provides a set of tools, that can be life changing to people when put into action a day at a time.

23 if someone can t get to a meeting Most towns and cities will have 12-step meetings of some kind. The longest established meetings are those of Alcoholics Anonymous so there tends to be more of these than any other. Narcotics Anonymous is well established across the UK, with Gamblers Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous having fewer meetings. And there are other 12-step groups that focus on specific substances such as cocaine and marijuana. The best way to find out about available meetings is through each of the fellowships own websites [contact details on page 24]. But for people who can t get to meetings, or for those who are in areas where meetings are not yet established, there are solutions: Online Meetings Accessed through the websites of each 12-step fellowship, online meetings follow the same principles as those in the community. They re an alternative that work well for many people. Helplines Each 12-step fellowship has their own helpline [some are available 24 hours a day]. They are manned by people in recovery passing on the kind of support that has been key to their own recovery. Starting a meeting Rural communities in particular may have few or no meetings. Each 12-step fellowship provides assistance and start up packs for people who want to establish a new meeting in their area. 21

24 best odds for long term recovery Embracing the following suggestions is likely to increase the odds of anyone successfully addressing their addiction: Attend regular meetings The more meetings, the more knowledge. Ask for help Reaching a sound outcome alone is unlikely. Keep an open mind Initial suggestions can feel unusual. Take action Be prepared to go to any lengths. Learn from other's recovery This has unequalled value. Find a sponsor Learn from someone with knowledge of the steps. Make recovery a life priority Instead of addiction. Talk Behind most addictions are unaddressed issues. Know that everyone deserves to live addiction free Everyone! 22

25 12-step support for those affected by another s addiction Addiction doesn t just affect addicted people, it can impact heavily on the family, friends and loved ones around them. But as the success of 12-step recovery has grown, support for those affected by another s addiction has too. Self-help family groups like Alanon, Families Anonymous and Gamanon, use the same proven 12-step program at the core of AA, NA and GA. And family meetings work through very similar principles: They re anonymous Only first names are used. Free Members make small donations to cover running costs. Self-supporting They are set up and run by members. Identification Members share understanding, strength and hope. Passing on knowledge Learning from others can be hugely important. Exchanging Support No one needs to be alone with their experience. Anyone affected by another s addiction can learn to better manage the impact on their lives, and develop far more effective ways of moving forward. Attending meetings can help members adopt an honest and consistent approach towards the addicted other. Experience has shown that help for family and friends can lead to important help for the addicted person. 23

26 12-step contact information Support for those affected by their own addictive behaviour: Alcoholics Anonymous [AA] Problem drinking Gamblers Anonymous [GA] Problem gambling Narcotics Anonymous [NA] Problem drug use Overeaters Anonymous [OA] All forms of problem eating Support for those affected by another s addictive behaviour: Alanon Problem drinking Gamanon Problem gambling Families Anonymous Problem drug use Non-affiliated: Groups listed are not affiliated with each other. 24

27 Copyright Racing Welfare 2015 The Jockey Club s Charity

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