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Recovery as Process
I actually tried the Twelve-Step Program, I had many criticisms
of it. I initially thought these criticisms were quite unique
and creative, yet they turn out to be the ones I often hear
from others. Here are a few.
the Twelve Steps just a substitute addiction? People seem
to have to go to meetings all the time and use them like
people in early recovery go to a lot of meetings and they
may even substitute the Twelve Steps addictively. That is
not the program. That is the addict, the program works.
have seen people go to Twelve-Step meetings and not get
better. How do you explain that?
have seen people go to therapy, hospitals, and to all kinds
of places and not get better. “Getting better”
is up to the person. The program is not magic. It is a way.
We have to do it ourselves. We do not have to do it alone.
Also, while some people get somewhat better by attending
meetings, there is a great deal of difference between attending
meetings and working a program. I have never seen someone
actually working a program who did not get more sober.
Recovery is hard and sobriety is fragile. Recovery does
not happen all at once, nor is it linear. It is a process,
not a happening. Addiction is more “normal”
for our society. The disease is always there lurking to
invite us back in. Fortunately our healthy being-our sober
self, our spirituality-is always there too. We have but
to do our footwork. It is only when we accept and work with
the broader picture that we can effectively work with addictions.
meetings do not seem very clear to me. How can I recover
course they seem unclear at times-they are meetings of addicts,
for heaven’s sake! The issue is to take from the meeting
what there is for you and leave the rest. What one takes
home is often more of an indication to one’s willingness
and openness rather than what is or is not happening at
the meeting. Judgmentalism is a characteristic of the disease.
who attend Twelve-Step meetings leave their families and
their old friends and make the program and program people
the center of their lives. There must be something wrong
is often true. Early in recovery, one needs the support
of other recovering people and the wisdom and modeling of
those who have a good sobriety and long years of recovery.
After recovery is better established, recovering people
are not willing to be around those who choose to stay with
addiction, and would rather be around recovering people
willing to do Twelve-Step work. This choice is not out of
disease: It is made out of health and recovery.
These are some sample criticisms. I find that they are usually
made by persons who have not really tried the program or
worked the steps. The steps have to be worked everyday and
repeated endlessly. Yet the levels on which one is working
them change and the perspective changes constantly as recovery
Recovery is a miracle. When we think about the grip our
addiction had on us, how we were trained into them, and
how much they are all around us as the norm for society,
it is truly a miracle that anyone recovers-and yet millions
Twelve-Step programs are the most effective way to recover
from addictions. Melody Beattie, author of Codependent No
More, writes, “I unabashedly love Twelve-Step programs.”
They are “not merely self-help groups that help people
with compulsive disorders stop doing whatever it is they
feel compelled to do (drinking, helping the drinker, etc.).
The programs teach people how to live-peacefully, happily,
successfully. They bring peace. They promote healing. They
give life to their members-frequently a richer, healthier
life than those people knew before they developed whatever
problem they developed. The Twelve Steps are a way of life.”
from an essay based on material from Escape from Intimacy,
forthcoming from Harper & Row (Spring 1989).
Utne Reader, Nov.-Dec. 1988)