Blog Entry

12 Step Recovery Programs

Posted on: July 25, 2008 7:57 pm
The 12 Step Recovery Programs have been around for a long time and have helped countless numbers of people deal with a wide variety of addictions, obsessive/compulsuve behaviors, and life problems.  I will present a Bible-based 12 Step program, but understand that secular programs are useful and successful, and I have participated in both.  I am presenting one option for those who want to undertake the challenge of recovery.

Since: Jun 30, 2008
Posted on: August 3, 2008 7:22 pm

12 Step Recovery Programs

To answer your question: Yes, I consider myself the injured person.  I've not personally experienced  chemical addiction but have close family and friends (all former in fact)  that have surrounding me since I was a child. 

I read the Celebrate Recovery Bible frequently. I used to find comfort in it, now not so much.

I have never had anyone who has worked on or claims to have completed the 12 steps in my life come to me seeking amends for the wrongs inflicted upon me. I won't get into them.  

On the last  very recent occasion I actually felt the ability to trust  love and forgive leave my soul. Then promptly fill up with anger bitterness and shame that I would allow myself to once again to put myself in a situation to be harmed by another addicted person.   I  have since removed myself from all of them and have lost my desire to meet people or allow new people in to my  daily life because of the damages done over the years.

I have realized in reading today that I am MORE than angry, indignant even at God for issuing someone who calls to him in  a moment of dispair and repentness for forgivenss and no matter the harm his forgivness and mercy are immediate  even though they have not  bothered to follow through with coming to the human they harmed unmercifully with the same.

The last words this person ever said to me were said with venomous evil almost  in the form of a curse that actually seems to be coming to pass.

Then I heard this person was working the program, has made a list, begun amending and with all appearances has forgotten, or doesn't consider what was said and done to  me to be harmful or doesn't realize how deeply damaged I was by it all. I speak  of this as an example because it is the freshest of wounds, the icing on the cake and the last one I will ever allow. I am consumed with  a very deep resentment  anger. Maybe this is selfish  and for once I don't care.






Since: Nov 4, 2007
Posted on: August 3, 2008 7:21 pm

12 Step Recovery Programs

Boy, am I glad to see you KIR! I knew you would have a much wider scope to be able to answer from. I only have my own experience of recovery to draw upon and it is notvery extensive!

Since: Dec 7, 2006
Posted on: August 3, 2008 7:12 pm

12 Step Recovery Programs

So what if this person in recovery doesn't realize that they wronged or hurt someone deeply and doesn't put them on the list?  Is recovery still true?

If a person is truly working a 12 step program with meetings and a sponsor (and a good church and a Bible IMHO), that person usually ends up so sensitive to what they may have done that they seek out all possibilities and even try to make amends to people they think they have harmed who didn't really have a problem with them.  But that is true mostly for those who strictly commit to a life long effort of recovery with the help of a program.  And professional counseling if needed and inpatient treatment if needed.

But there is the possibility that a hurt is overlooked or more likely that a hurt is not recognized by the person in recovery while they are early in the recovery process.  This delays or denies the amends required by Step 8.

The person may successfully stop the substance abuse (recovery in that sense is achieved), but as I pointed out earlier, if the person doesn't pursue working the steps every day for the rest of his/her life, the person may never change personal behaviors and take responsibility, thus becoming the 'sober alcoholic.'

Recovery in a 12 step program means a life change, not just the ending of a substance abuse.  And we are never done recovering; we must always look at and update our personal inventory of flaws and sins and keep making amends where we wrong someone.

It may be possible that you deeply wrong someone and you are no longer in contact with them.  It may take a while for someone in recovery to recognize an old harm done and find the person to make amends.  It also may never happen, depending on the circumstances.  Sometimes we all hurt people deeply with no recognition on our part if that person is able to hide the pain.  For people who are involved with persons in recovery (family, friends, spouse/partner, co-worker, etc.), sometimes it takes the strength of the injured party to bring the hurt to the attention of the recovering person.  If this happens early in recovery, the user may not yet be equipped with the skills to accept the criticism and take his or her part of the responsibility.  That is why the meetings and the sponsors are so important.  If I come to someone working the program and make them aware of something that hurt me, the person in recovery should run that by the sponsor at least and perhaps discuss it (with a respectful level of anonymity) within a group meeting.  Thus seeking guidance on how to make amends for something the person was not aware of becomes easier and action is eventually taken--as soon as the person in recovery becomes aware of it.  After 20+ years in recovery, I still discover on occasion that someone was hurt by something I said or did; I can only take responsibility for acting on what I know.  But a Bible based approach causes me to search more deeply into what I may have done, with deeper guidelines on sin and confession and reconciliation.

I know I did harm to strangers that I will never see again.  There may be hurtful words or actions, accidental damage to property, deliberate harm through theft or deceit, even actions that later caused injury to others that I know nothing about.

In doing harm to people we didn't know personally yet we negatively impacted them and we know it, we confess to God and to another person the exact nature of our wrongs and we accept the forgiveness of God.  "If you confess your sins, He is faithful and just to forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness."  (It is God's work to change my life; it is up to me to seek Him and cooperate with what He is changing.)  For strangers who were stuck paying in one way or another for what a user did, it may not be possible to find them to make amends.  Make amends to God and let Him change you so you do not do that again to anyone else.

If I hurt someone I know but that person has hidden the hurt, and I do not become aware, neither party recovers from the hurt or harmful behavior without knowledge of it.  It may take time for a given incident to come to the mind of one in recovery; if the injured party seeks amends, find a way to bring it up to the person rather than wait for awareness to occur.  Again, in a Bible based program, I trust God to bring to my awareness any harm I have done.  A true 'higher power' will do that.

The sponsor will guide the person in recovery to delve more deeply into his personal inventory and his list of people he has wronged.  Regular and frequent group meetings are also great for discovery.  Each group is run by a member of that meeting group. 
They take turns in "chairing" a meeting, usually for a month for each member of the group.  The person chairing a meeting is responsible for choosing a discussion topic for each meeting.  You'd be amazed what other member's choices can trigger in your own memory!  Even the comments made by members of the group during a discussion can make you think in a whole new direction.  Regular participation in group meetings is essential to growth in recovery--every day meetings for the first 6 months should be taken seriously.

You can see the limitations on recovery by people who choose to stop a substance abuse or obsessive/compulsive behavior on their own.  They may succeed at that, but they will miss the growth opportunities of hearing open and honest discussions by people who are dealing with the same life issues, not just the substance or behavior.

Daily Bible reading will also call to mind those things we either buried or are not aware of when we read a passage that strikes a memory in us.

The injured party can approach the person in recovery and either bring up the subject or, if the person is not working a 12 step program, invite the person to go with you to a codependent meeting as an introduction to the program.  If it is a close friend of family member who is in denial of the problem, consider organizing an intervention (this is not easy to do correctly and you should seek help from someone with much experience in 12 step programs or professional help to organize interventions.)

Recovery is never over.  We keep on working it daily and make amends for what we become aware of.

Since: Dec 7, 2006
Posted on: August 3, 2008 6:25 pm

12 Step Recovery Programs

Dr Wilbur, welcome and thanks for the excellent questions.  These are the hard questions that must be posed to any recovery program if any valid life change is to occur.

I will have to take each of your posts individually so please put up with the 'choppy' responses.

How long does it take?  If someone is REALLY working the 12 steps, all 12 come into play every day in the life of a recovering person.  Each person comes to a realization about how they make decisions and how they have impacted others at a different rate of time, and the steps should constantly be repeated every day as your awareness of your flaws and sins and the impact they have on yourself and others.  Let me make some essential points here:

First, there are plenty of people who stop drinking or doing drugs but never change their personal decision making or their approach to responsibility.  We call these people 'sober alcoholics' or 'dry alcoholics.'  The substance may be gone, but no awareness of their personal responsibility has been achieved and no responsibility is taken for their impact on others.  Usually, the substance is replaced by another obsessive/compulsive behavior (even one that is legal and looks harmless or even looks good--a workaholic, someone who shops obsessively, a sexual complusion with multiple partners, extreme risk taking behaviors like irresponsible driving for a thrill, and so on).  These are usually people who got enough help to stop the substance abuse but NEVER WORKED THE PROGRAM.  The world is full of sober alcoholics who go on hurting themselves and others.

Second, anyone who seriously wants to recover not only from substances they are abusing but from the character flaws and sins that drove them to it in the first place needs to actually enter the program in the right way and stick to working it.  There are countless thousands who have done this.  To properly work a 12 step program, the user MUST begin with a "90-in90" or at least one 12 step meeting a day, every day for the first 90 days of the effort to recover.  (And frankly, the 90-in-90 is always followed by a second, immediate 90-in-90, so the person seeking to recover is committing to at least 6 months of heavy duty self-inspection and is submitting himself (or herself) to the scrutiny of others in the group who will point out when the person is evading a behavior that is supporting the habit OR is just as destructive as the habit.  Select a group you feel most confident (not comfortable with, comfort doesn't produce change) and make that your 'home group' so there is one group of people you will get to know and who will get to know you in more depth and they can and will call you out when you are evading responsibility.

Additionally, a person committed to a 12 step recovery program will seek out a qualified sponsor to advise him (or her, I'm not going to keep repeating genders so please understand I am speaking of both men and women from here on out).  The sponsor is someone who has at least two solid years of success in overcoming the addiction/obsession/compulsion in his own life and has experience with 12 step programs in detail and has attended the 12 step local, regional, and even national meetings for training--NOT just someone who read a nice book about 12 step programs.  I would pick someone who has sponsored others successfully. 

The sponsor must be the same sex as the person trying to recover, because the relapse rate of people who seek to establish 'relationships' with the opposite sex instead of actually doing the recovery work is phenominally high.  Obviously, if a gay person seeks recovery, the opposite applies--seek a sponsor that you cannot 'use' to try to establish a relationship with because it never works and many seek 12 step programs to 'hunt' new partners who, they think, will feel sorry for them and therefore be subject to manipulation.  It happens all the time, it never works, it's a fact of recovery, and it must be avoided.  A secondary rule to this is that someone seeking recover should commit to at least a year without starting a new romantic relationship; if you already have a partner, you should encourage your partner to go to support meetings like Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, or other groups for codependents (people who are effected by the behavior of the user and need support for their own hurts and need to be prepared to help themselves and the recovering person go through the 12 steps with understanding and honesty--this may include a number of family members--parents, children, spouses, partners, etc.).

All this must be a unbending commitment from 6 months of daily meetings and a year of not seeking out new people to use and involving as many family/close partners to get their own support and to support you as you recover and you must support them as they deal with the effects of the harm you have done and how they may have enabled you.  Far too often, those closely involved with the recovering person have thought they are helping by bailing the person out of trouble time and again, covering for them, paying their bills or bailing them out of jail, only to learn that what seems like help has just enabled a user to keep using and keep doing harm to himself and others.  Loved ones need to learn how to love without enabling and need help and support getting through their own pain.  Some users recover without their loved ones working a codependent 12 step program; some codependents successfully work a 12 step program while the user remains in denial of the problem, but the codependent becomes strong enough to stop enabling, to use tough love, or, if necessary, to depart company with the user who will not change.  What happens most often?  No one goes to any program, the behaviors and pain continue until the user becomes seriously ill or is jailed or some other painful nonrecovery ending.  Most users die instead of getting clean and sober.  So no matter what side of the fence a person is on--user or codependent effected by a user--GET HELP OR NOTHING WILL CHANGE!!!  It is a rare exception for a user to get clean without help, but it happens.  That's one heck of a dangerous gamble, though.

Do people really do it?  YES, THERE ARE REALLY PEOPLE WHO COMMIT THEIR LIVES TO RECOVERY BY WORKING THE STEPS PROPERLY WITH A SUPPORT SYSTEM OF A HOME GROUP AND A SPONSER.  I won't kid you that it is hard, life-long work (you are never done working the steps; as more awareness grows, you always find yourself back on Step 1 over some issue, character flaw, or sin in your life, long after you have stopped the initial addiction/compulsion you sought help for!)

So, it takes a lifetime of supported, self-examination to constantly admit your flaws and sins and to confess and make amends to them.

"For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

I prefer Bible based 12 step programs because scripture makes so many more of our sinful behavior evident.  Secular programs are fine, they work, but some people who select a nonspecific "higher power" may recover from the addiction and grow and make amends, but still overlook some actions apart from the addiction that hurts themselves or others.  A Bible based program makes you look at your entire life for the rest of your life with specific sins that some people rationalize away ("Thou shalt not kill" includes 'killing' the spirit of another by constant insult and degredation, as Jesus taught.  A Bible based program will call you to make amends if you are an insulting, offensive, critical person who self-justifies by thinking it is for the good of another to point out their failings--we are to take OUR inventory of flaws and sins, not the inventory of the people around us and we are to "Speak the truth in love" when we do need to help turn a brother or sister away from a sin that harms themselves and/or others.)

I will address the issue of  how long will it take for the person in recovery to realize everyone they have hurt and can the injured party initiate the 'amends' next.

Since: Nov 4, 2007
Posted on: August 3, 2008 4:50 pm

12 Step Recovery Programs

Well, (Man I wish KIR were here to answer this!) This is in no way official and this is strictly MY opinion. The person in recovery will be helped only if the list made in step 8 is very extensive. I myself included people and sutuations where I only MAY have harmed another. I wanted so much to get myself turned around that if there was even a Slight chance of me being in the wrong I included it.

I hope this helps.

Since: Nov 4, 2007
Posted on: August 3, 2008 4:43 pm

12 Step Recovery Programs

The injured person may very well reject the offer to make amends for the injury. The experience of one's sponsor is invaluable at this point! The words of Step 9 state "...Except when to do so would injure them or others"

May I ask why you have questions regarding this Doc? Which side do you approach the question from? The person in recovery or the person who was harmed? You can Pm me the answer if you need to!

Since: Jun 30, 2008
Posted on: August 3, 2008 4:42 pm

12 Step Recovery Programs

What if the person doesn't realize the harm  they bestowed upon someone and doesn't disclose it to te sponsor?  How then are amends made to the injured person?  Does the injured person have the right to confront the person and be darned the recovering person's feelings?

I have to go for a short while, but I will check back for answers. Thank you.

Since: Nov 4, 2007
Posted on: August 3, 2008 4:38 pm

12 Step Recovery Programs

This is why Step 5 is performed telling the exact nature of the persons wrongs to their sponsor. The sponsor then will be able to guide the process of steps 8 and 9 with much more accuracy and focus.

Since: Jun 30, 2008
Posted on: August 3, 2008 4:36 pm

12 Step Recovery Programs

So in other words the person harmed has to wait for the recovering person's timeline and hope they come to the conclusion that there is in fact other people they injured  to make amends? That seems almost as bad as the original injuries.  An injured person basically should just get over it no matter how bad the damage was?

Since: Nov 4, 2007
Posted on: August 3, 2008 4:29 pm

12 Step Recovery Programs

And as to the time frame Doc. My sponsor had me spending 2 weeks on each so I had been sober less than 6 months when I first (It's an ongoing life long process) worked step 8 closely followed by Step 9. Some of the people on this list were deceased and if you want to know how I made amends to them just say the word.

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