"Why are they loved by some and rejected by others?"
The twelve-step program is all about behavior change in order to maintain a clean and sober life style. This is challenging way of life for any human being, not just those with substance or addiction issues, Alcohol and even drugs have become an accepted way to relax and socialize and participation is often expected. So what is the mystery of the twelve step fellowships.
As with most philosophies, the 12 steps did not just happen one day like “mosses and the 10 commandments” the program evolved over time and grew out peoples experiences and some professional input also starting with Alcoholics anonymous.
Our aim as counsellors is always to help people, so I we look for the best tools available to do the job and there is no doubt that the 12-step program and fellowship can be both useful and off putting for new clients. They often find abstinence, attending meetings, spirituality, identifying themselves as an addict or alcoholic, and taking guidance from a recovering person, difficult to get used to. Common question asked are;
- Will the twelve steps work for me?
- If I tried once does that mean they don’t work for me?
- What will they do to me?
- How do I work them?
- Must I believe in God?
Millions of people have used the 12-step program as a practical way to unravel issues and find solutions; this is my simple interpretation of the steps and the mystery of the twelve step fellowships explained;
- Admit an addiction problem exists, also the damage it has caused
- Be open-minded to outside help
- Use any form of positive psychology to help
- Linking the past to the present (Therapy)
- Guidance and sharing with others
- Identify self defeating character traits in your personality
- Work on developing your assets
- Owning your mistakes
- Healing relationships by correcting mistakes
- Daily reflection or journaling
- Daily meditation practice
- Helping others
I don’t think anyone on this planet could argue with this set of principles and actions as a way to live life.
In the past I have heard people talking about AA or NA and as if its a government institution or conspiracy to brainwash or even a cult or religion, and of course given the passion of its members and the numbers of meetings held daily world-wide, its no wonder some people feel intimidated or over whelmed. To add to this some fellowship members are so inspired by there own success they are over eager to promote it to others, possibly pushing them away in the process.
No one in AA is professional or paid, they are all amateurs, just Alcoholics and addicts that found a solution to their problems by attending AA meetings. They then go on to do voluntary service keeping the meetings running. They may lack the refined skills necessary to engage newcomers sympathetically, also by the very nature of addiction the members are by no means perfect or living perfect lives so many new arrivals feel disillusioned when hearing a more seasoned member “washing their dirty laundry” in public.
The mystery of the twelve step fellowships
In addition to this, health care professionals often feel threatened, including Doctors and therapist. Imagine for a moment you have trained for years in your particular practice, which has nothing to do with 12 steps, or even addiction specifically, in walks a client/patient looking for help. The professionals have often sworn an oath to help and believe thoroughly that they can and take pride in trying, and on some level of cause this is true however with addiction it is no secret that the medical industry have failed miserably to do anything but prescribe more substances and achieve temporary relief for their patients. The idea of handing over the responsibility to a bunch of amateurs or even addicts whether clean or not is appalling for many of these professionals even though they are at a loss themselves. Also in the private sector an addict or alcoholic that does not get well is a long-term repeat customer. In reality the mystery of the twelve step fellowships is a myth.
Having said all this, the fellowships have a saying “the gift of despair” meaning people often have to hit their rock bottom having tried every other softer option, before being willing to tolerate some of the demands of being a fully fledged member of a 12 step fellowships.
A spiritual program not religious: One of the biggest blocks for many is the use of the word God in the AA literature, although it’s always qualified with “aswe understand him” more recently the word Higher Power (HP) is being used. Taken in its original context, written 80 years ago by recovering alcoholics in America they were only trying to convey the message that much of the solution is best described as spiritual.The reason being is to find and nurture hope, faith and optermism, or a sustainable belief in oneself and a willingness topersevere through uncertainty and setbacks in order to remain clean and sober. Many do this by accepting a form of what we now call spirituality or psychologists call positive psychology. Developing a sense of meaning and overall purpose is said to be equally important also.
Some more reasons why people don’t like the fellowship meetings or program
- Having to confront the problem and feeling anxious or uncomfortable
- Feeling ashamed at needing help from others
- Feeling ashamed at having relapsed or a failure
- Abstinence is paradoxical behavior being opposite to drinking or using
- Not trusting that the process will work
- Not wanting to listen to others opinions
- Not wanting to follow instructions
- Personalities at meeting we don’t like
- Going to meetings for the wrong reasons or for someone else
- Recovery did not meet our expectations
Useful principles taken from the 12 steps of the AA program and used as treatment assignments that have proven long positive results makes the mystery of the twelve step fellowships easy to understand.
Here is a list of 12 step fellowships from Wikipedia