Twelve Steps to Recover from Addiction

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

path of stones on the waterSTEP ONE is about recognizing our brokenness.
We admitted we were powerless – that our lives had become unmanageable.

What were you taught about the substance or behavior in question by your family?
List current problems.
List all the enticements of the substance or behavior in question.
List current secrets.
How was it manageable, and then become unmanageable?
What were the warning signs that it was becoming unmanageable?
How did you justify the continued use of the substances or behavior?
List all the consequences of the use of the substance or behavior in question.
Why did it take so long to see that it was unmanageable?
What were your worst moments?
Are you one hundred percent convinced you are powerless to control it on your own?

Patrick Carnes references in his books on addiction four core beliefs that can drive addiction:

1. I am basically bad and unworthy.

  • Feelings of inadequacy and failure.
  • I deserve it.
  • Hide the secret.
  • Addiction guides behavior.
  • Front of normalcy, even egocentricity or exaggerated self-importance.

2. No one would love me as I am.

  • What if the truth were known?
  • Fear of being dependent on others.
  • I am the bad one in the relationship.
  • Cannot be honest.
  • Isolated.
  • Do not need anybody and appear unaffected.
  • Family does not understand and feels pushed away, useless, confused and hurt.
  • I become unreachable.

3. My needs are never going to be met if I have to depend on others.

  • Depression, resentment, self-pity
  • Not trusting means I have to become calculating and manipulative.
  • Rules are for the loveable, not the un-loveable.
  • Try to be cared for without expressing that need.

4. (My addiction) is my most important need.

  • (My addiction) replaces relationships.
  • Afraid to live without(my addiction).
  • Preoccupation
  • Compulsion
  • Loss of control
  • Progressive
  • Cover ups
  • Resets the cycle

STEP TWO is about the birth of faith in us.
Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

How often do you ask for help, or turn to someone you can trust? How about while you were growing up?
How do you view God? Punishing? Accepting? Non-involved? Nonexistent?
Who or what has influenced your view of God?

STEP THREE involves a decision to let a Higher Power, bigger than the self alone, be in charge of our lives.
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

What would prevent you from turning your life over and trusting a Higher Power?
How is a Higher Power working in your life now?
How would you answer the question, “I’m only loveable if . . .. ”

“My wounds are my teachers. I am open to their lessons. I embrace my past.”

“Trusting life comes from making some meaning of who we are, of what we are all about. When we confront shame, we become aware of emptiness, a spiritual hunger. Our attempts to fill this hunger with controlling, compulsive behaviors only lead to pain and remorse. Carl Jung was aware of this compulsive “filling of the void.” He wrote to Bill Wilson, the cofounder of AA, saying that he though alcoholism was the search for wholeness, for a ‘union with God'” (Merle A. Fossum and Marilyn J. Mason, Facing Shame: Families in Recovery).

STEP FOUR involves self-examination.
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves, positive and negative.

Patrick Carnes uses an inventory called the Personal Craziness Index:

  • Physical Health. How do you know that you are not taking care of your body?
  • Transportation. What behaviors indicate your life is getting out of control?
  • Environment. What are ways in which you neglect your home or living space?
  • Work. When work is overwhelming, what are your behaviors?
  • Interests. What are you doing when you are not overextended?
  • Social Life. What are the signs that you’ve become isolated or disconnected?
  • Family and Significant Others. What are the signs that you’re withdrawing or disconnected?
  • Finances. What signs indicate that you are financially overextended?
  • Spiritual Life. What aspects do you neglect when you are overextended?
  • Compulsive Behavior. What compulsive behaviors are present when you feel “on edge”?
  • 12 Steps and Sponsorship. Which recovery activities do you neglect first?
  • Healthy Relationships. What are the signs that a relationship is becoming unhealthy or dishonest?

Next, these signs can be used to develop relapse prevention including:

  • Probable Preconditions
  • Sobriety Challenges
  • Self-Talk
  • Worst Possible Consequences
  • Probable Consequences

STEP FIVE is the discipline of confession.
Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

STEP SIX is an inner transformation sometimes called repentance.
Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

STEP SEVEN involves the transformation or purification of our character
Humbly relied on a Higher Power to remove our shortcomings.

A sobriety statement includes one’s personal definition of sobriety using:

  • Abstinence List
  • Boundaries List
  • Healthy Relationship Plan

Patrick Carnes also suggests the use of the following tools:

“Fire Drill”

  • Signs or Symptom of Trouble
  • Practice or Drill Steps
  • Immediate Action Steps

“Emergency First Aid Kit”

  • Symbols of recovery, including medallions, tokens, sponsor gifts, and anything that reminds you of significant moments in your recovery
  • Pictures and mementos of loved ones
  • Spiritual items
  • Letters
  • Favorite affirmations, meditations or quotes
  • Phone numbers of sponsor and peers
  • Anything else meaningful to you, including music

“Letter to Yourself”

  • What are the probable circumstances under which it is being read?
  • What are the consequences if you ignore the letter?
  • What would you really need at a time of lapse?
  • What is the hope if you don’t act out?
  • What is at stake if you do act out?
  • What is the plea you need to hear at this moment?

STEP EIGHT involves examining our relationships and preparing ourselves to make amends.
Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

STEP NINE is the discipline of making amends.
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

STEP TEN is about maintaining progress in recovery.
Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

More tools that can be used in this step include:

  • Relapse Contract (with yourself)
  • Clear Vision of Recovery including facing emotions and needs, maintaining a sense of accomplishment,  connection with a Higher Power and others, and gratitude/enjoyment.

STEP ELEVEN involves the spiritual disciplines of prayer and meditation.
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with a Higher Power, praying only for knowledge and the power to carry that out.

STEP TWELVE is about ministry.
Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

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