Congratulations on being willing to take a look at Twelve Step Recovery! Recovery from what you might ask? Coming to live through a false self to cope with family of origin dysfunction and life's daily challenges and difficulties. Instead we seek to recover the "True Self" found in a Higher Power, wise teachers, wise friends (community), and wise literature. This was the revelation that began and sustains the great and highly successful Twelve Step movement.
There are dozens of Twelve Step programs that cover many afflictions such as co-dependency, workaholism, narcotics, even Clutterers Anonymous. The "Twelve Steps" began in Alcoholics Anonymous and is slightly modified to address each groups particular situation. These steps work to take us from difficult and dysfunctional ways of thinking, acting, and living, to fully functional and satisfying lives
As a result of growing up in dysfunctional families, we acquired many survival skills such as frozen feelings, isolation, perfectionism, fear of authority and confrontation and others that served us as children but become problematic as adults. For a quick look at these problems and how we recover from them please look here.
A very powerful program we have the privilege to be a part of is "Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families." Members were unable to mature completely due to family of origin issues so at times regress into a childhood state: thus the term "Adult Children." It is our personal experience that there is great healing to be had there.
In ACA there is much more emphasis on family dynamics of the inner child (wonder or wounded), inner parent and Higher Power (critical or loving) and the false or True Self than other programs that we find very enlightening and helpful. For a two page look at the basic dynamics at work in our lives as adult children click here, a four page version here, a ten pages of notes from the Big Red Book click here, and lastly for a longer account of our founding father's Twelve Step story click here.
The basic principles of Twelve Step Recovery covered in the previous paragraph cover much of the elements of our dysfunction and recovery, yet sometimes we are moved to weave them into other compelling stories coming from the different perspectives we find through-out our lives and recovery. For these,please click on ACA Hard Truths, or The Killer Share. For a really fired up version of how our frustration can make us want to fight dysfunction with all we've got see BE A REVOLUTION!
It really is a heroic thing to take the step of faith and go to meetings, do step studies, find a sponsor, etc. We are often reminded what an amazing adventure and challenge it is. To get a taste of this story click here for "The Step Hero's Journey." For link to some very helpful information on the Twelve Steps and Traditions, Laundry List, Problem, and Solution, and where to find meetings click here.
There are many ways to find healing in Twelve Step programs such as meetings, step study groups, sponsoring, retreats, and other paths. It usually isn't fast, easy, or painless, in fact it can be a lot of very hard yet satisfying work, but you are worth it! For a longer look at the many possibilities and opportunities please click here.
Of the many opportunities illuminated previously, most of them come down to one simple concept and word that many consider the key to a fulfilling life; service. Being of service takes the emphasis of a small and scared me and mine and transports us into the ever more satisfying, useful and worthy realm of love and connection. For a look at how service can work magic in your life take a look at The Magic Word.
Brene Brown has been a great inspiration to many of us as her books and videos really nail the how Twelve Step folks function and suffer. Take a look on YouTube her videos are viral. She has been studying connection many years and what she found was shame. Thank God the solution she also found is what we practice everyday - Wholehearted living through vulnerability. Her early book The Gift of Imperfection inspired this look at Brokeness.
Perhaps this is a good spot to consider Hitting Bottom, as this is often the only way we can break the cycle of dysfunction that has been running our lives since we were children. There's nothing like a heart attack, getting arrested, fired, or divorced to get our attention. There's a million ways to hit bottom, and a million ways to get back on our feet, as we have a God of a million second chances.
Too many of us are just digging ourselves into a hole deeper and deeper day by day head down and working hard at it. It's not until we hit bottom - rock bottom - that we find we are standing on the rock - the solid rock that is the infinite power, presence, and wisdom of the universe that we stop, look up, and finally start to dig our way out, and reach out to those who can really help us.
You may have already looked at the "Super Powers" section of this website and seen how we can plug into the infinite power, presence, and wisdom of our Higher Power to help us through life's difficulties. Twelve Step is no different, and in fact what inspired us to link these essential virtues and principles to our Higher Power. Look here for the Twelve Step version of Super Powers.
Another "Sanity File" you may have seen is Sayings, Slogans and Mantras. These are pithy short sayings that can pack a lot of wisdom into just a few words. Our inner kids and adults like to have fun, and these are one way we do just that. Here are the Twelve Step slogans, but take a look at the Sanity Files Slogans to see various big fonts and colors these even more interesting and alive.
The internet has a wealth of information and resources to help you find and live your True Self. One surprisingly comprehensive site is Wikipedia's entry on the Dysfunctional Family. There we see examples of common features, the ACA Laundry List, dysfunctional parenting, family dynamics, the six basic roles of children, and the effects all of this has on us. It is somewhat daunting to see it all layed out so clearly and completely, but well worth a look
There are many ways to look at family dysfunction and recovery. One very important aspect is taking personal responsibility so we don't get stuck in victim thinking. Unfortunately we can also become the abuser at times, or as a third alternative, a rescuer. None of these is a good place to be, and as usual awareness and understanding is key. If this interests you take a look at the Drama Triangle in a Wikipedia link, a Website link, and a YouTube.
It seems there is one obvious difference between the shares of newcomers and old timers in recovery meetings, and that is that newcomers tend to blame others for their situation, while old timers think in terms of "My side of the street or yours". In truth, we can't change anyone but ourselves. But when we change, our whole world changes from the inside out. For this reason it is worthwhile to consider "Blameless Recovery". The link takes you to the eye opening reading from a ACA phone meeting that is listed on the ACA website for those interested.
Step Eleven advises us to improve our conscious contact with God, knowledge of God's will for us, and the power to carry it out, three things well worth pursuing. Many find it is one of their favorite steps so return to it often. This worthy pursuit led to a retreat workshop you may want explore entitled (and linked to) "Eleventh Step Visioning".
Another great way we can build conscious contact with our Higher Power as well as our inner child, inner parent, body, feelings, and other inner energies is through journaling. Some use it as a place of conversation with these entities, some simply record their daily doings, and others draw pictures, write poems, or make huge, bold, and colorful entries. It is your private and personal space to do whatever you want, so enjoy it! We call this entry Journaling 101.
Keys To Recovery has a list of most of the Twelve Step groups currently available and articles of members experiences. Each group usually has a website with basic information, links to related literature, and meeting lists. Here are a few books of interest Codependents Anonymous Codependent No More also ACA Big Book, Step Study, and Laundry List Workbooks.
Here are some inspiring songs you may enjoy: Welcome Home Get Back Up The Broken Road Ready to Fly Learning How to Bend Alive Again Broken Wings