My 12 Step Group Experience
In early March 2017, I will have been sober for 10 months. Before I attended 12 step meetings, I tried in vain to quit and/or moderate drinking. With the Steps, I now live a sober life, but more importantly I think I am becoming a better person. If you or someone you love has a desire to stop drinking, I highly recommend going to a meeting and speaking directly with other alcoholics.
Since May 2016, I have been working with a sponsor, reading the literature and working the Steps. I regularly attend meetings and try to help out wherever I can. Thus far, I exemplify that the 12 steps can work for you, if you are willing to put in the work.
Blogging and 12 Steps
In late November, I began to feel strongly that I might be able to use my ability to produce websites to help newcomers and inspire those in recovery. If I could brighten someone’s day, or help someone find what works for them, then my mission would be accomplished.
Lately I’ve been concerned about how I approach sharing my views about 12 step groups online. I don’t like to rock the boat or upset the apple cart. It would be ungrateful for me to recklessly misrepresent the people who have helped me. My primary concern for readers is that they might be seeking answers here instead of engaging with people face to face. My analysis of the 12 steps on this website should be no substitute for working with a sponsor or going to meetings. Getting a sponsor is not a requirement of these groups. It is, however, strongly recommended (almost universally) that you work directly with another alcoholic on the 12 steps.
Having said this, I believe there is room for an online presence and supplemental reading about the 12 steps. As an online contributor, I want to make sure that I respect the traditions. By choosing to represent myself as a member of a 12 step group, I have certain responsibilities. My intent is to carry the message to the alcoholic who still suffers but I must do so with singleness of purpose.
I don’t want to give people mixed signals and this might prove to be difficult. It is my hope that I can share my experience with the 12 steps and provide supplemental information that can help anyone in recovery. This includes people who have no intention of participating in a 12 step plan.
Being Open in 12 Steps
In my 12 step group, we are taught to be honest, willing and open. I have always been pretty open-minded and I like to try to see the big picture. In my own recovery, I have a tendency to seek any and all things in the world that inspire me to stay sober and become a better person. The 12 Steps is my primary program of action. They provide a framework that I have come to really appreciate, but I keep myself watchful for all things relevant to recovery. My version of the 12 steps is flexible and open. I embrace different schools of thought and incorporate various ideas into my program.
The 12 Steps are a big part of my recovery but they are not the flagship for the world’s collective recovery. The reality is that there are endless paths for millions of people. There is no one right way to do this.
I don’t see my 12-step group as “us and them”. There are no boundaries and no walls. I sometimes get a sense from inside the rooms that it is the quintessential program of recovery from alcoholism. 12 step programs are arguably the largest recovery organizations in the world, but that doesn’t make them the end-all and be-all course of action. There seems to be a fear in 12 step groups that if you start messing around with things outside of the 12 steps (Buddhism, for example) it will interfere with the purity of the group’s purpose. I take issue with this sentiment.
A priest, a rabbi and a monk walk into a church basement…
A tradition of my 12 step group states that it “has no opinion on outside issues” and therefore its name “ought never be brought into public controversy”.
This group welcomes everyone who wants to stop drinking. I routinely sit in a room with people who don’t share the same political or religious views. The group has a simple request in return for its hospitality: don’t drag its name into politics and religion (and other outside issues).
When I bring up something like Buddhism recovery, it might seem like it contradicts being a representative of 12 steps. It might seem like I’m mixing my signals and perhaps breaking tradition. This is my biggest concern with this website. One minute I might be wearing a 12 step hat, and the next minute I’m wearing a Buddhism hat. The fact is that I want to present things that I think might help someone out there in the world. If any one thing that I share is attractive to someone, whether it’s 12-step-related or not, then I feel like I’ve accomplished something good. My primary goal is to help people get sober. Sobriety can be approached from many different angles.
Playing Well With Others
As a person working the 12 steps, I have to remember that I am not in control of my surroundings. I don’t call the shots. The Big Book calls this type of thinking “playing God“. I must see myself as just one human on this planet of billions. In the same way, I believe 12 step groups (#xa) should befriend its recovery neighbors. It should be flexible and open like its members. For the most part, this has been my experience. Most people are actually not dismissive about outside schools of thought. In fact, many people bring their outside beliefs into the rooms.
Take Christianity, for example. Many people embrace it in their lives and bring it with them to meetings. I try not to disrespect or judge them. Christianity is a big part of their belief system and way of life. Christians in 12 steps groups have their own implementations of the 12 steps which work for them. However, 12 step groups are generally not affiliated with Christianity, or any other religion. The organizations are built in such a way that anyone can participate. This planet is a supremely diverse world and I believe that the 12 step groups are built to celebrate diversity.
My Version of 12 Steps
On this website, I will be sharing my own experience. I really hope that I don’t come across as a self-proclaimed 12 step guru. No one person can explain what the 12 steps are, or what they do exactly, especially me. In meetings, I often have a hard time putting words together. Other people in my home group are much more eloquent and have a much deeper understanding than I do.
Even the words of the founders are open to interpretation. Everyone has a different understanding of the literature and the Steps. This is a wonderful thing! In this way, the 12 steps are an open and flexible concept. Each person constructs their own version. My version of the 12 steps are very different from that of my sponsor and this as a strength.
I will be sharing ideas, programs, and stories that are not necessarily rooted in 12 step programs. I will share things about yoga, Taoism, and art, for example. These things are not meant to contradict, but to supplement your program of recovery. My version of 12 step recovery is not mutually exclusive; it is compatible with things that aren’t explicitly part of the 12 step culture.
Those of us who participate in wellness groups are just a part of the world at large. We in recovery don’t live in a bubble. We interact with other people and do ‘normal’ things. In the end, we are all humans with our own experiences. I will share my experience with 12 steps since that is my experience.
Take What You Need and Leave the Rest
Someone once told me that meetings are like a buffet. You can pick and choose what you want, and it’s all for the taking. Ultimately it is our own plates that we are filling up. There is no disgrace in having taste and choosing what we think is best for us individually. It’s our own survival after all.
Here is a requisite metaphor: Doing the 12 steps is like a coloring book. Everybody sees the same outlines but we fill it in with our own colors. It’s flexible and open to interpretation. To take it further, we all manifest our own recovery in completely different ways. One might have a little bit of 12 steppin’ (and maybe not enough) and a little yoga. Another may be so entrenched in the literature that they fail to appreciate what lies outside. Someone else may absolutely reject 12 steps but are able to find fellowship online and maintain emotional sobriety.
I walk a fine line with this website. It is my responsibility, as part of a 12 step group, to have my hand extended to those in need. Yet I must deny some responsibility and affiliation with my 12 step group on this website. Here’s one of the guidelines that I have found:
Experience suggests that it is in keeping with the …(traditions)… not to disclose … membership on social networking sites as well as on any other website, blog, electronic bulletin board, etc., that is not composed solely of … members and not password protected, or is accessible to the public.
Concerning anonymity, I have chosen to play it safe and keep my true identity private. This is in keeping with the traditions of my group. Keeping the anonymity of my group is something that I will also try to do in an official capacity.
There is evidence from the literature that it’s okay to keep your name anonymous and simply mention that you are “a member of” the group (#xa).
I will continue to disclose my membership in 12 step groups as an act of honesty. This is an evolving topic. There will undoubtedly be people who are not in agreement on this subject. I will conclude my post today with these questions: Is it okay for 12 step group members to disclose their membership online?