I’m grateful for 12-step programs. Did you know there are 12-step programs for a variety of people experiencing different challenges? The steps are all virtually the same, and the order of them does matter. Part of working 12-step programs is doing the work, along with showing up for meetings and volunteering. All elements of these programs help participants get out of their own way. The first time I walked into a meeting, I was 14-years old. I have done the 12-steps through multiple programs a handful of times. Each time helps me go a little deeper, especially when I would do them from a different angle. I remember saying, the 12-steps should be offered to everyone, because it really does give amazing tools to how to live our best lives and STOP focusing on the things we can’t control. Part of the the reason the Serenity Prayer is used in most meetings.
I haven’t been to any 12-step program in years, but working the steps and the community of support helped me through some of my darkest times. They taught me how to create my own community of support based on my needs to keep going deeper. ALANON was the program I was a part of most recently it’s a program for friends and family of alcoholics. Getting me through the darkest days is an UNDERSTATEMENT. I was a shell when I walked through those doors. I felt empty, lost, and completely out of control. There is NO mistake God led me through those doors and carried me through the first year.
Some people who walk into 12-programs will stay there for life. The community and the work become a part of their self-care practices. For programs dealing with addiction, many have found it is the only thing that works after multiple attempts at doing things differently. As much as I’ve studied addiction, I’m not an addict. There is still a lot I don’t understand no matter how much I read, so my belief is if it works, you keep doing it. When I find self-care tools that work to help to keep me out of my stories drowned in the energies of fear, lack, and separation, I do the work. When I work a self-care program, I serve others in the best way possible too. How someone else chooses to do this is not my business, but if it works, I’m HAPPY for them.
The first meetings I ever attended were Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). I was young, experimenting with drinking, hanging out with older boys, and on a dangerous path. My mom was told to get me into treatment early before I got out of control, so that’s what she did, I was 14. I spent months there and part of the program was going to meetings and doing 12-step work. Early on, I was getting tools and experiences that many adults don’t have, even at my age now which is 44. I would have to go through many life lessons, but having all those seeds has definitely helped me survive and thrive through very dark and traumatic experiences. I honestly believe that learning to process my feelings in a healthy manner, from all the groups we had to do, helped me not to go down the path of addiction. Plus, I learned A LOT from the experiences of others, I definitely didn’t want to travel that path.
Now, one warning I have to any parent reading this and considering this for your child, especially a female. Women’s only meetings are important. One thing I didn’t understand at that time is just because people are in AA, doesn’t mean they don’t have mental health issues. There can still be predators looking for vulnerable individuals. This can happen anywhere, just because a person is in AA doesn’t mean they are safe. There are sick and healthy people everywhere we go. Unhealed trauma, which can be what takes a person down the addiction path can be ugly, men and women can process the loss of power VERY differently. Just stay aware, and make sure your child knows not to put people in AA on pedestals. Nobody belongs on pedestals. We are all human and we both have the dark and light within us, and which one we feed is the one that will create our reality and how we treat others.
When I was sixteen, I started attending Co-Dependents Anonymous (CODA) meetings. I got some good seeds there, but I didn’t stay long enough to dive deeper. There were areas of co-dependency that I would learn the hard way much later, like me being a rescuer…I had no idea that was co-dependency. My “savior complex” would be one of my biggest obstacles to overcome, and an author by the name of Melody Beattie would be the one who showed me how to plant the seeds I needed and weed out old behavior patterns that kept me a prisoner of my own co-dependency.
I’m always amazed to hear about more 12-step programs. I love that so many people have access to these groups, ESPECIALLY now with so many people feeling isolated and stuck in their own stories. These groups are not just for addicts, as I mentioned, they are communities of people who are looking be, do, and live better. I know if I end up in a room, it’s because it’s where I’m supposed to be to get what I need.
If you are wondering why I don’t attend now, it’s because my need for community and self-care has changed, but all the tools I got from the programs I attended come with me every step of the way. I find myself using the tools I learned often.
Today, I commit to working my self-care program! Now, the biggest thing that 12-step programs taught me is, “It works, if you work it.” We have to work our programs in order to maintain any changes we introduce to our lives. If we want to align with the energy of love, abundance, and peace, we have to do the work daily! I’m just like anyone else, when I stop doing the work, I slip. I can easily fall back into old thought and behavior patterns if I don’t commit to doing the work to keep me out of the stories in my head that keep me prisoner. I personally needed 12-step programs for a long time because I struggled to keep myself accountable to do the work on my own. Those programs are what gave me my self-care work ethic. They helped to keep me on my own priority list. I don’t think I would be where I am right now without all the tools I got from those communities and the steps. I have things people said to me burnt in my brain in the best of ways as messages I have to myself on repeat, and that is over 12 years since I heard them.
When we find what works, it’s important to keep doing the work. We can’t expect things to change if we don’t change the way we do things. We can’t control anything outside us. What we do have control over is how we treat ourselves, how we serve others, and how we tell our own stories. It’s up to us to get the help and tools we need to get out of our own way.