By Nick Jankel

Author, Keynote Speaker, Leadership Theorist, Transformational Coach, Wisdom Teacher, Co-Creator of Bio-Transformation Theory & Practice®

12 Steps For Changing Your Life 

12 Step programmes are about much more than Alcoholics Anonymous – they are a core group of ideas that can help us live our lives without addictions, compulsions and other problems, so we can be free and thrive the way we were always meant to. Each 12 Step organization is called a ‘fellowship’, and each one has tools and ideas to help you recover from your specific problem – whether it’s alcoholism, drug addiction, over-dependency on others, over-eating or sex addiction. 12 Step fellowships also offer hope for those of us who are affected by others’ addictions and problems. Step groups have a membership of millions – if their principles work for so many, there’s got to be something worth looking at.

Alcohol & Drug Addiction Recovery – and Much More

12 Step programmes, including Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, OverEaters Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous and Debtors Anonymous – and a lot more – have helped a ton of people move from being trapped in addictions and unhelpful behaviors, to being able to enjoy life and relationships again. If you get into 12 Step programmes, you’ve got to be up for going to a lot of meetings – meetings where people talk with amazing honesty and openness about their addictions and problems, and about how they’ve overcome these by applying the 12 steps. All anonymously – so you don’t have to reveal a single thing about your life outside of ‘the rooms’ as they’re called, and everyone commits to keeping the identity of group members private from those outside the group. Step groups do not have a leader. The crux of the program is to admit that you are not able to control your addiction, compulsion or problem and need help. Help comes in the form of working one-on-one with a sponsor (a more experienced member of the program) and working through each of the 12 steps. You also talk regularly – on the phone or in person – to other members of the program, outside of meetings, which helps with feelings of being alone with your problem, and the sense of shame that can come with addictions and compulsions. You’ll breathe a sigh of relief as you find that others have been through the same thing and understand – and are recovering.

 

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12 Step Meetings, Addiction Self-Diagnosis and 12 Step Resources 

For a complete list of fellowships and what they help with, see here. You don’t have to register to attend a meeting- just turn up, checking the website of the relevant 12 Step organization to find your local meeting. Meetings are free but voluntary donations are asked for to pay for venue and literature costs. You can borrow or buy books from meetings – and if you want to read more before trying out a meeting, there are lots of 12 Step books available to buy online. For substance abuse problems, try Narcotics Anonymous – there are also drug-specific fellowships like Marijuana Anonymous and Cocaine Anonymous. If your relationship with food is a problem, there’s Over-Eaters Anonymous. If you have problems relating in a healthy way with others, and your relationships have been painful and unsatisfying, have a look at Co-Dependents Anonymous. For emotional problems ranging from low-self esteem to depression to anger – and everything in between – there’s Emotions Anonymous. If you feel like you can’t live without a boyfriend/girlfriend or your latest sexual fix, try Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous or Sex Addicts Anonymous. If huge credit card bills are your problem, there’s Debtors Anonymous – and if you just never seem to have enough money for your needs, Underearners Anonymous is there to help you break free into abundance. And if it’s not your addiction or compulsion that’s the problem, but someone close to you, try Al-Anon (for friends and relatives of alcoholics) or Nar-Anon (for friends and family of other substance addicts). Most fellowships have a sort of self-diagnostic test – found on their website – where you can check out whether that programme is the right fit for you. There are also online addiction recovery forums that include 12 steps, and online 12 step meetings if you can’t get out of your house at the right times or need extra support.

So what Are the 12 Steps On About? 

So what are the 12 steps? They involve recognizing your powerlessness over your problem and acknowledging that a higher power – in whatever form, including your deeper intuition – can help you recover. If you’re put off by the idea of God, don’t worry – the 12 step group itself can be your higher power, and no specific belief about God is demanded of you in order to recover through the 12 steps. Agnostics and atheists are found in the rooms too. You learn to develop a closer relationship with the higher power of your choice through prayer and/or meditation. With the help of your sponsor you’ll have a close look at your past mistakes and make amends to those who you affected negatively with these errors. But it’s not all about dwelling on the past – 12 Step programmes teach you a new code of behavior that you apply, one day at a time, to your life outside. You will come across slogans like ‘Easy does it’ and ‘First things first’ to help you keep calm and balanced in your life. You then commit to helping others who have the same addictions or compulsions as you. The 12 steps weren’t just made up by one or two people – they emerged out of a fascinating process that you can read more about here. But in a nutshell, Bill W, who started AA back in the 1930’s, said that the main inspiration for the 12 steps came from three sources: an evangelical movement called the Oxford Groups in the 1920’s and 1930’s, who emphasized honesty, purity, unselfishness and love; a Dr Silkworth, who believed that alcoholism is an illness; and a book by psychologist William James called ‘Varieties of Religious Experience’, which hammered home the transformational power of spiritual experiences.

Bill W and the Origins of the 12 Steps

The principles of AA were developed between Bill W and others he worked with – starting with 6 steps – and the book Alcoholics Anonymous (lovingly known as the ‘Big Book’) was published in 1939. AA got the approval of the church and psychiatric profession, and over the years has expanded into a multi-stranded movement with a 12-step programme for a huge variety of problems. There has been criticism of 12 step movements in more recent years, with accusations of it being nothing more than a front for religious conversion, but the popularity of the movement continues even as alternatives to 12 step programmes emerge to help people recover.

How will this help you to transform your problems and pain?

12 Step programmes give you the support to shift you out of dependence on other substances, things and people so you can find peace and start experiencing a full life again.

 

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