The Do's & Don'ts of 12 Step Recovery

What not to do in 12 step recovery

You're probably familiar with the 12 step program, Alcoholics Anonymous, but you may not realize how they could help you. The first 12 step program, AA, gave recovery to thousands of alcoholics which spawned other 12 step programs for food addiction, gambling, compulsive sexual behavior, codependent relationships, smoking, workaholism and other compulsive behaviors.  

These groups offer free support 24/7 because members support each other in a crisis. They know that supporting reach other one day at a time works. In 12 step recovery there are no rules. You can work the program as much or as little as you like. That's both the good and the bad news. 

These guidelines are to help you avoid the pitfalls of relapse. There are no rules in recovery and when there is a short cut, addicts usually use it!

Let's start with what NOT to do. 

There Are No Rules

In 12 step recovery there are no rules. You can work the program as much or as little as you like. That's both the good and the bad news. You can be late or leave early to meetings. That's great news for someone who needs to work late or has a doctor's appointment.

If you are struggling with the program, it gives you an excuse to stay on the sidelines. When this becomes a habit it hurts your program. 

Not wanting to go to meetings is part of recovery. It is suggested to go to meetings not because you have to but until you want to

Sometimes, the pain you avoid when using starts to bubble up in recovery. You might feel uneasy and not know why. That's when you need to dive into the steps or get more help.

What to do and what not to do in 12 step recovery

What to do and what not to do in 12 step recovery

No Shame in Needing Help

If that pain starts affecting how you function, you may need professional help. Many recovering people realize that without the substance they struggle with anxiety or depression. There is no shame in realizing that AA may not be enough. 

Years ago there was a very courageous AA speaker named Bob E. who talked about wanting to die after after 17 years of sobriety. That pain forced him to seek therapy and work through his childhood pain.

Bob advocated for facing childhood issues as they related to current sobriety. He has amazing podcasts here under AA individual speakers. He said at some point in recovery, childhood pains will surface so getting the right support can prevent relapse.

Al-Anon and ACA are 12 step programs that are incredibly helpful in healing childhood issues, letting go of control and improving relationships. 

Pick Your Tribe Wisely

In early recovery, you gravitate towards like minded people. As time passes, reassess your tribe. People grow at different speeds. Sometimes, friends - even sponsors grow apart. 

Learning to live without substances means learning to embrace your intuition. Recovery isn't about staying the same, it's about embracing change.

If you've had a negative experience in the program, talk it out with someone. Members are far from perfect but please don't let that make you leave the program. Read my blog 12 Step Myths for more information.

It's a WE Program

The purpose of recovery is to find a successful life without substances. You cannot do that in isolation. You can come to meetings alone. Take your time to find a sponsor but please keep coming back. You can get through anything sober if you don't try doing it alone. It's a we program for a reason.

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