12 Steps to a Relapse

12 steps to a relapse

12 Steps to a Relapse   

The 12 step model for addiction recovery have long been accepted by the addiction treatment community as a way to stay clean and sober in the long term. Another commonly held idea in addiction treatment is that relapse starts long before you ever pick up a drink or a drug. These two ideas come together in the 12 steps to a relapse.

The Alcoholics Anonymous: Big Book says, “What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.” (pg.85) This means that even if we have worked all 12 steps, we can still relapse if we do not maintain our spiritual condition. If we become comfortable in our recovery and “rest on our laurels” we run the risk of relapse.

Sometimes old patterns of behavior begin to come back. This is where we may start to see a relapse begin. We may start working the 12 steps in reverse. This is what is known as the 12 steps to a relapse.

It begins when we get too busy to carry the message. Maybe we have replaced recovery with work, gym or a relationship. We get overconfident. We have less contact with other recovering alcoholics and meeting attendance starts to decline. This is the first step in the 12 steps to a relapse.

Next we may stop praying or meditating. We no longer seek conscious contact with a higher power. It may be subtle at first. But over time, we no longer pray or meditate at all.

The next step in the 12 steps to a relapse is the unworking of steps 10-4.  We stop taking inventory and we stop making amends. Our character defects come back, and we are unwilling to have a higher power remove them. We lose sight of the moral inventory we once made and begin to repeat the same behavior we exhibited during addiction.

The 12 steps to a relapse continue when we take our will back. Not just a little, as we may have done in the past, but the whole thing. We start to try to run the show.  The power we once believed  could restore us to sanity is now out the window. We begin believe we can do it ourselves. We believe we now have the power, and we can manage our own lives. These are unworking steps three, two, and one in the 12 steps to a relapse. At this point, we are likely to pick up a drug or drink. We likely feel irritable, restless, and discontent. The “hole in the soul” has come back, and we seek other things to fill it.

The 12 steps to a relapse can be avoided if we are constantly moving forward and growing in our program. This is why it is especially important to have a home group and get to know the people in it. Others can sometimes recognize when we have become lacking in our program or when we have begun to work the 12 steps to a relapse. They may be able to catch it before it is too late.

Do I have to work a 12 step program?

Do I have to work a 12 step program?

Do I have to work a 12 step program?

The truth is that Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are not the only ways to recover. There are plenty of people who stop using drugs and alcohol without using the 12-steps. I tried many other things before I came into the rooms of AA. I used willpower. I tried drugs like suboxone and anti-depressants. I went to therapy.  I moved. I traveled. I attended church. I participated in Buddhist meditation and South American ayahuasca ceremonies. I joined a gym and did yoga on the beach every night. Some of these things worked for a while, but none in the long term. But just because they didn’t work for me, it doesn’t mean they won’t work for someone else.

I would, however, highly recommend that anyone who is suffering from an addiction work a 12 step program. For one, I may have been able to be abstinent with a few of the methods I mentioned above, but I was never truly happy. This is why they did not work for me in the long term. I learned that to truly recover-mind, body, and spirit, I needed to find a different way of living. Otherwise, I was sober and miserable. Even more miserable than when I was drinking and using drugs. This is because drugs and alcohol weren’t the problem. They were never the problem. They were my solution. I had to find another solution that did at least as much as drugs and alcohol did for me. You don’t have to work a 12 step program, but without a 12 step program, you may not be happy without drugs and alcohol.

The other reason I would suggest that someone work a 12 step program is that it would of saved me a lot of time. You say why work a 12 step program, and I say why not? It would have been far easier than spending years of my life chasing another solution. The main reason I did not want to work a 12 step program was fear. What if I work a 12 step program and it works for me? Will I have to spend the rest of my life tethered to the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, blindly repeating things like “One day at a time” and “It works if you work it”? Would I have to admit that I was one of “those people” that I saw in the rooms, eyes glazed over, talking about God and the Big Book? I had contempt for the program before I even knew what it was. Instead of just trying it like I had tried everything else, I wasted a decade of my life trying to find a different way. I had to lose everything; becoming so desperate in the process that I was willing to try anything. If you’re on the fence about whether to work a 12 step program, my advice would be to just try it. You aren’t selling your soul to AA. You don’t have to sign your name in blood. You are not obligated in any way to stay in AA if you decide it isn’t for you. Try it. Give it a fair shot. Be open and honest in your pursuit. If it doesn’t work for you, all your misery will be refunded to you, free of charge.

Taking your sponsee through the 12-steps

Taking your sponsee through the 12-steps

Taking your sponsee through the 12-steps

Taking your sponsee through the 12-steps

Taking a sponsee through the 12-steps has been one of the most fulfilling experiences in sobriety for me. I feel privileged to walk another woman through the process that saved my life. Every sponsor has a slightly different way of taking another woman through the steps. Some go through the Big Book of AA, page by page, others prefer a “quick step” method. I’m not sure how Narcotics Anonymous does it; I have no experience with NA, but I believe they have a workbook for step work.

Before starting my steps, my sponsor asked me two questions:

1. Are you willing to go to any lengths for your sobriety?

2. When we are finished, are you willing to take other women through the steps?

These are the same questions I ask my sponsees when taking them through 12-steps. The first indicates a willingness to commit to sobriety and take the action needed to stay sober. The second question is important because we cannot keep what we have unless we give it away. If an alcoholic isn’t willing to share the solution once they go through the steps, they have little chance in staying sober.

Before I take a sponsee through the 12-steps, I ask them to read the Doctor’s Opinion. The Doctor’s Opinion lays out exactly what alcoholism is; the three part illness-the physical allergy, the mental obsession, the spiritual malady. This is important because it defines the disease of alcoholism.

Again, every sponsor takes a sponsee through the 12-steps, but everyone does it a little differently. It was explained to me that the first three steps were “commitment steps.” They were decisions. They were my pledge to finish the rest of the work. I didn’t have a tough time with the idea of a higher power, but a lot of alcoholics do. The chapter “We Agnostics” can be very helpful in these situations.

There is always a lot of trepidation when I am taking a sponsee through the 12 steps when we get to the fourth step- the moral inventory. In my experience, the dread before doing a fourth step is much worse than the actual step. I did a lot of things in my addiction, a lot of terrible, risky, and time-consuming things for my drugs when I was using. How bad could it be to simply sit down and write a list of my resentments, fears, and harmful sexual behavior? And that’s what I ask my sponsees when I take them through 12-steps. We go over the moral inventory for the fifth.

Six and seven are pretty short, and then we put pen to paper again for the 8th. Writing down the people I had harmed and how. For nine, my sponsor told me which amends to make, and which to wait on. There were plenty that I will never make directly. My amends to those people are simply living amends, living my life according to spiritual principles and trying to not ever harm anyone else the way I harmed them.

Ten, eleven, and twelve are the maintenance steps. These are the steps I work every day to maintain my sobriety.

There is much more involved when taking a sponsee through the 12-steps, this is a very brief overview. But to truly know how to take a sponsee through the 12-steps, you must go through them yourself.