You can decide if you have an addiction. You can go to a twelve step meeting and hear other people’s stories and decide if there are any similarities between their stories and yours. You can overcome some of your denial about addiction. You see that addiction can affect anybody. Good people, with good jobs, good families, and a sense of humor, can have an addiction. You may know that intellectually, but you need to believe it. Everybody likes to think that they’re special. But addiction is one of those times when it’s comforting to know that you’re not alone.
You meet people who are going through the same thing. The idea behind twelve step groups is that you feel stronger when you belong to a group of people who are doing the same thing. Everybody’s first reaction to addiction is to deal with it on their own. Addiction is an isolating disease. Twelve step groups give you the chance to reach out and ask for help.
You believe that recovery is possible. You see that other people have recovered from addiction, and you develop confidence that you can change your life. The people who recovered didn’t do anything special. They just followed the few simple principles of twelve step groups. If you follow those principles, you can recover too.
You learn other people’s recovery techniques. Twelve step meetings are a resource. You can ask other people who’ve been in the same boat you’re in how they handled certain situations. You can ask them if what you’re going through is normal. Some days you’ll have an overwhelming urge to use, and it’s good to know that other people have gone through the same thing and how they dealt with it. One of the fears many people have is that their life will be smaller or less interesting without drugs or alcohol. Twelve step groups give you a chance to meet people’s whose live are just as interesting and in many cases bigger and more fun now that they’ve stopped using.
You won’t be judged. Most addicts have difficulty sharing their emotions, partly because they’re afraid nobody will understand them, and partly because they’re afraid that they’ll be criticized. So they bottle everything up inside, which makes them want to use even more. The people at a twelve step group won’t judge you because they’ve have heard it all before. They’ve done it all before. They know that you’re not crazy because of the things you do when you’re using. You’re addicted.
You’re reminded of the consequences of using. I can promise you that this will happen. After you’ve been clean and sober for 6 months or 12 months (it usually happens around those times), you’ll feel stronger than you’ve felt in years. That’s when the voice of your addiction will tell you that you can control your use this time. This time will be different. This time you’ll know what to do. Twelve step meetings give you the chance to hear the stories of the people who’ve just come into the program, or the stories of the people who’ve relapsed and just come back. They will all tell you the same thing. They all felt they could control their use.
If you could control your use, you would have done it by now. Addiction is a disease like heart disease or diabetes. You would never think that your heart disease is gone once you started to feel better, and that you could eat anything or not exercise without suffering more heart disease. Twelve step meetings remind you of that idea.
You have a safe place to go. Twelve step meetings are a safe harbor when you want to be out of harm’s way. If you’ve had a bad day you can go to a meeting and spend a couple of hours knowing that you won’t be able to use. By the end of the meeting you’ll almost certainly feel better and more motivated for recovery.
Twelve step groups are a source of hope, strength, safety, and guidance.
What Twelve Step Groups Do Not Do
They do not define you as weak or powerless. Instead they encourage you to take control of your life by recognizing your addiction and overcoming it.
They are not based on shame and labeling yourself in a negative way. Instead they encourage you to take responsibility for your life and to realize that you can stop your addiction. Twelve step groups encourage you to recognize that an addiction is a medical disease and that you are powerless to change your genetic make up and the way that you respond. But they also encourage you to realize that you have the power to change other parts of your life so that you don’t relapse in the future.
Twelve step groups encourage you to take a look at your life and see how you got into trouble in the past so that you don’t fall into the same traps in the future. Twelve step groups encourage you to ask for help, whereas your addiction encourages you to avoid help.