What is a 12 step program?
12 steps to a better life! I used to think that a 12 step program was only for alcoholics or addicts to try to overcome their addiction. But the more deeply I think about a 12 step program, the more I think it has benefit for everyone. What is a 12 step program, and why is a 12 step program a good thing? Because a 12 step program is more than just about alcohol or drugs. Believe it or not, a 12 step program is a great way to learn about life. More importantly, a 12 step program is a great way to learn about yourself.
Why is a 12 step program good for us?
The reason that a 12 step program is such as useful way to learn about life is that are very few other ways that we get those learnings. Some people stumble through life without ever getting the life experience that they truly yearn for. Some people are just too busy to take the time the reflect and understand their own inner feelings and emotions. Some people actively avoid feelings and emotions because they can rise fears, doubts and discomforts.
We can’t hide from our emotions
But we can’t hide from our emotions forever. Our inner feelings and emotions have a nasty habit of emerging when we least expect it. Or we find strange and hidden emotions that make us uncomfortable. And no matter how hard we try to deny those suppressed memories and painful feelings, they can always remain within us. Suppressed emotions tend to fester away in our subconscious mind.
Hidden feelings tend to influence our emotions even when we are not aware of it. Suppressed emotions tend to establish the programs in our mind. These programs can establish the patterns and the habits that we use every day. Many people don’t even realize the influence that our hidden emotions and the patterns that play out in our subconscious mind. But the feelings and emotions and thought patterns are always there.
So what if I suppress my emotions?
Many people who struggle with alcohol or other addictions tend to blame the drug for their problems. However, in almost all circumstances, it is our own suppressed emotions and hidden feelings that cause the problem in the first place. When life becomes a bit of a struggle, it can seem easier to find a solution with alcohol or drugs. Sure these temporary fixes can quieten the subconscious mind for a short time. But the nagging inner voice just comes back the next day. When the noise of the inner voice becomes too much, we can easily slip into the habit of drinking alcohol again to suppress the discomfort. Can you see how easy it becomes to slip into a habit with alcohol and drugs?
Still wondering what is a 12 step program?
The reason the 12 step program is helpful is because it teaches us how to live a decent and harmonious life. Sounds simple, but there is a lot more to it. It is all about learning a new way to find inner peace and happiness. Now if this has turned you off for being too airy fairy, then I beg you to stay with me. It works. It can save your life.
How can a 12 step program change your life?
A 12 step program is not just about quitting alcohol. In fact, the problem is not the alcohol or the drugs, the problem is within. Trying to quit alcohol cold turkey, or trying to quit drinking using willpower is tough. The problem is that when something goes wrong in life, or when one of our thought patterns reminds us about alcohol, then will power is not enough. Let’s face it, there always challenges in life, and things that go wrong, or take an unexpected turn. We can never predict the future, and neither should we try.
But we can deal with the way we react to the events in our life. And we need to find a better way than simply reverting to our old programing and old habits. Because the way that we used to handle stress or emotions may not be serving us properly any more. Just like when you see a 3 year old using a tantrum to get attention, we hope that they learn that it no longer works when they get older. Well, it is the same for adults, sometimes, the old ways just don’t work anymore. Especially tantrums!
Anyone can try a 12 step program!
Do you have the perfect life? Do you have everything under control? Are all of your emotions perfectly aligned with your ambitions for the future? Don’t feel alone if you answered no to any of these questions. Very few people, if any, can say yes to all of these. Maybe some people have taken the path to enlightenment, but I am not sure if that is suitable for everyone.
What are the 12 steps?
The 12 step program was first invented by Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics anonymous. This incredible organisation has been successful in changing the lives of thousands of people, through a combination of life learning and social support. The 12 step program was designed to teach people how to be comfortable with life, dealing with other people, and most importantly, with your own inner subconscious. Whether you understand this concept or not, it is a journey worth taking. There is enormous power in just being comfortable within yourself.
A 12 step program is the path to recovery
Let’s take a moment to briefly summarize the 12 steps, so that you can understand the pathway to a better life.
Step 1: This is possibly the most confronting stage, where you can face the problems head on. If you cannot control the events around you, and if you find that alcohol or drugs are taking control, then this is the most important fact to recognise. Perhaps it is time to admit that you can’t control everything. Certainly you need to acknowledge that there is a problem, and now it is time to do something about it.
Steps 2-3: The next stages are all about understanding that life is more about the world around you, and not just within. There are events, people, situations, and circumstances that you have no control over, and you need to adapt to those events. You will come to realize that other people have their own inner thoughts, feelings and problems. We all need to find a way to work with our environment rather than pushing against the tide. If you are ready, it may be time to make the decision to change your life, and commit to that decision.
Steps 4-5: Now it is time to look at the behaviors, patterns and habits that have dominated our life until now. Because for every behavior and habit that we have, there is a subconscious reason for that behavior. There may be hidden feelings from our childhood. There may be deeply suppressed emotions from every time someone has hurt us. And there may be awful feelings of guilt and unhappiness that we may have caused to others. Sure we have all made mistakes. But there is no need to keep carrying the baggage of past failures. In fact, we need to learn from those past mistakes, and move on. We need to learn to apologize to those we have wronged. We need to discuss those feelings with the people we are close to.
Steps 6-7: Having freed ourselves from the burden of past mistakes, guilt and blame, it is time for forgiveness. For many people, it can seem impossible to forgive and forget. But true freedom involves the ability to forgive, and be forgiven. It is possible to relieve the burden of the past, and it can be a very liberating experience.
Steps 8-9: The next step is to make amends for those times we have hurt others. Time to apologize where possible, and be willing to make amends for past indiscretions. It is extremely important to make direct amends to people where possible. Even if the events took place a long time ago, there is incredible benefit in the act of making amends.
Steps 10-12: These last steps are all about reinforcement of the previous steps along the journey. It is important to maintain a lifestyle and a regime whereby the previous lessons are not forgotten. It is important to create a new lifestyle free from the chains that previously bound us. Having relieved ourselves of the burden of guilt and blame, it is important to maintain the feelings of liberty. The final part of the journey is all about having the mindfulness over our decisions, and in the way we interact with other people. It is much easier to find and maintain happiness, than to start back at the beginning.
Final word about the12 step programs
The original version of alcoholics anonymous relied upon a higher power such as God for guidance. Let me tell you that plenty of atheists have used a 12 step program successfully. There is a need to let go of control of the universe, but it doesn’t have to be God that you rely on.
No matter what your beliefs, the 12 step program is a very effective method to overcome your problems with alcohol addiction.
12 steps simplified
If you are interested in following a 12 step program, but unsure if it is right for you, then we have good news. We found a way to stop drinking alcohol with a simplified approach to the problem. We have a simple to read guide with simplified steps to follow, at home at your own pace.
Also published on Medium.