Some of us come to treatment looking to simply stop using drugs or drinking. But many of us come into treatment looking for a new way of life. Regardless, while in treatment, we learn that we cannot stop using or find a new way of life “on the outside” without some sort of guidance and support.
The core of any 12-step fellowship is the 12 Steps themselves. As Narcotics Anonymous literature states, "these are the principles that made our recovery possible." While 12-step fellowships do provide us with listening ears, kindred spirits, and a new way to have fun, without the the 12 Steps we would not have a roadmap to improve our lives, a path we are told that will help us to lose the obsession to use if we remain steadfast and not stray from their guiding principles. Through working and practicing the 12 Steps with our sponsor, we learn that if we are honest with ourselves and others, open minded and willing, we can lose the self-centered obsession and compulsion to use or drink.
But the Steps do not stop at only removing the self-centered nature of our disease. The first few powerful steps are only the beginning; subsequent steps free us to become who we truly are and find our ultimate purpose in life: to love and help others. They teach us how to become a better person while “not regret[ting] the past nor wish[ing] to shut the door on it,” as penned in Alcoholics Anonymous literature. Through personal inventories, self-examinations and amending our wrongs, we eventually arrive at a place of acceptance with ourselves and others and we can take full ownership of our actions without wishing to repeat them.
However, the work does not stop once we have worked the Steps once through. We continue to work through them throughout our lives so that more can be revealed. Each time working through the Steps, we uncover new developments in ourselves that we may not have seen the first time through, or that may have surfaced since coming into recovery. With each new step that we take in this journey of self-discovery, the closer we come to truly achieving self-acceptance and inner peace.
Ultimately, we discover that we do not face the manifest of the disease of addiction with the same fear that brought us initially to recovery, but, rather, that we are able to see it for what it is and that we can also help others that are affected. It can be embodied through service to and love of others. We discover lessons learned from ill-gotten decisions and actions that once plagued us and learn to live a new way or life, how to help others, and become invaluable members of our respected fellowships through service.
As we are told in 12-step fellowships, “we can only keep what we have by giving it away.” If we do not share with others what was freely given to us, we will surely lose it. As we gain experience in our 12-step programs, we learn that we, too, have something to give back to others still suffering: our experience, strength and hope. Through our experiences in recovery, we gain perspectives that can help others who are struggling, if they have the courage and humility to ask for help. Through our perseverance and diligence, we give rise to hope and inspire others to remain steadfast and strong while continuing on their personal never-ending road to recovery.
Recovery is available freely to us all … the first few steps are only the beginning.