Meetings are the most important element of a twelve step support program. Salvation Army put out years ago the 90 meetings in 90 days concept for which they have now rescinded. The idea was the more meetings you attend the easier it is for you to integrate into the fellowship and build a strong support group. The downfall to the 90/90 rule was that it fed an addicts all or nothing mentality. When the addict failed at attending that many meetings they allowed that to be a reservation to their entire recovery and they gave up, thinking if they couldn't even do the first suggestion then they would never stay clean.
Building a support group then for me is the first suggestion I give the newcomer. Move outside your comfort zone and begin building friendships with people in the rooms. Get a sponsor as soon as possible because this person will help introduce you to people within the fellowship. A sponsor clears a path for you . Reaching out to people is a scary thing, I don't advise waiting until your destitute to do it. Reach out when you are feeling good and confident. Build relationships when your mind is clear. Then when you feel shitty and want to use you already have a support group that has gotten to know you and can see that your starting a cycle of defeat and can help you out of it before it consumes you.
When I look around at my friends that are healthy I see that they all have strong family relationships or spiritual fellowships or a close network of friends that know them inside and out. This is imperative to a healthy mind, having people see things we cannot. Having friends that love us enough to tell us when we are walking into a trap and when we are being bitches. I used to side step this by sharing only small parts of myself with each set of friends I had. My coworkers seen one side of me, my family a different side and my girlfriends yet another side of me. No one person actually got the full view of me, until I came into NA. Now I see the importance of self honesty and full honesty with those people that I love and trust.
Having several fellowships is that same concept of only showing parts of yourself. To move entirely from one fellowship to the next after one outgrows a fellowship is okay. As long as that person leaves in a comfortable fashion for all involved and takes the time to tie up loose ends and leaves on a happy note. I am all for growth and moving along on ones path as I will do one day as well. However to attend three separate churches but not fully integrate into any of them is still living in the half truths of yourself, your still hiding pieces of yourself. Secrets keep us sick. That is probably the largest lesson I have learned coming through the 12 steps and connecting deeply with a fellowship. Becoming Vulnerable.
After establishing a support group. The steps begin. Meetings promise the obsession to use will be lifted if you attend regularly. In my words it means that if you attend meetings and integrate into the fellowship you will stay clean. You wont recover however until you begin the work of the steps. The steps are like taking the doctors orders and following them. Most of us ignore the doctor. Most of us are comfortable in our sickness.
I am not.
Step One: We admitted we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable.
This step is the hardest and most rewarding. It is the step that teaches us to let go. When something doesn't work out for a healthy person they let go and try something new, change directions. To an obsessive/compulsive mind we keep on pushing and kicking the door until we break it down and barge in. Most time life greets us on the other side of that door negatively. Our lives have become unmanageable. To admit we are bulls in china shops is the hardest thing for us know-it-alls to do.
Step Two: We came to believe a power greater then ourselves could restore us to sanity.
I have two takes on this step. The first one was taught to me in a Re-hab. We Came. Just keep coming back, is something we tell newcomers. Keep coming back. We Came. Then We Come To. Slowly we begin to wake up. 90/90 meetings helped this awakening process. When we use we numb out not only our feelings, but our minds fall asleep to the truths of who we are and what we are capable of achieving in this lifetime. Coming to, is to awaken to life's beauty. For some people this takes years of coming to meetings, for others mere days. After awakening then we begin to believe. In what you believe is irrelevant. My Ex husband during a guided meditation I was testing out on him seen his higher power as Silent Bob, a movie actor. I didn't care I was just excited that he seen someone to guide him through it.
Working the steps will help awaken our beliefs. Its not normally until the tenth step that we begin to truly believe in something. I feel sad for the people that stop halfway through thinking that its not working for them.
Step Three: We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of god as we understand him.
This step also has two meanings for me. The first one being the simple act of making a decision. In my active addiction I was either avoiding or running, those were the only decisions I was making. To make a decision now in my life takes on a whole new process that I never practiced before. Weighing out the pro's and cons, looking ahead at the consequences of the decisions are new for this impulsive addict. Step three teaches us how to play the tape entirely to the end.
It also teaches me to pray before I make any decisions. To seek my inner knowing and to open to my own intuition in situations. To not always listen to what others are saying or follow what others are doing. It took me many trials and errors to finally hear my intuition and still I make mistakes, but that is the process of step 1,2,3. I will always be cycling through those steps with every dark turn I take in life, and I am not ignorant enough to think I wont take a few more wrong turns in my life. The first three steps are my life long tools to get me back on track
Step Four: We made a searching a Fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
As a society we are so focused on other people that we are unable and unwilling to look deep into our own eyes. We are unable to love ourselves for the incredible beauty that we are. We will hide behind Internet addictions, food addiction, drug and sex addictions, alcohol and sugar addictions, work addictions.... you name it there is a distraction from ourselves. Step four begins to slowly peel away those outward focus's and begins to redirect your gaze at yourself. For some people this is so painful that they relapse or get nothing out of the fourth step. I had to work this step three times before I got entirely through it and got something out of it. Now its my most favorite step to work. I can see now that I am not the devil incarnate as I once really believed. Okay maybe not the devil himself, but surely his sexy ass wife!!
Step Five: We admitted to God, to Ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
I think this is the most miss read step of all of them and being the unstable energy of a five I can see why. The key word there is 'Nature'. We are not setting ourselves up to air every piece of dirty laundry to our sponsors, we are looking at the common threads of our misdoings and revealing the nature of those wrongs. When we voice anything out loud it either gives power or removes power. In step five we remove the power of our own self deflating thoughts by putting them on the table for another to look at. Once we understand the nature of why we did those things we can forgive ourselves. Forgive ourselves is the whole key to step five... To have a sponsor that digs for the nature is to have a really good sponsor.
Step Six: We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
This step starts to peel away all the shitty behaviours we have cultivated in ourselves from years of unguidance. I am grateful I had someone walk through this step with me that countered my shitty defects of character with the positive character traits I already embodied. To look deeply at how these behaviours hurt or helped ourselves and others is the first step in changing who we were then into who we are now. This step for me was truly the hardest of them all. When your defects becoming glaringly obvious its hard not to want to crawl out of your own skin.
Step Seven: We humbly asked God to Remove our shortcomings.
Moving into this step quickly after six was the only thing that saved my ass because I learned how to cultivate patience with myself and to seek out hope from something greater then me. This is where my faith in a power greater then myself began to grow. It wasn't three of five, it was now. At the end of the day when I was left alone with me and didnt like who I was... that pain of staying the same became greater then the pain of change.... I was surely willing to change. I began to pray. Really Pray.
Step Eight: We made a list of all the people we had harmed and became willing to make amends to all of them.
Ah relief. This is where my must do personality trait could finally begin to work on fixing all the shitty things that the steps dug up for me. This is where I could begin to take an active part in cleaning up my side of the street. By this step I was so eager to rush out into the world and explain to everyone why I did what I did back then. Making this list began that process of doing it right. I felt tremendous relief and a release of the pain that had been building from step four till now.
Step Nine: We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others
Slow down little pony, was the message my sponsor had to repeat to me numerously. I began to learn that making amends to certain people would actually make the situation they were in worse for them as they were in a place of beating themselves up already. To say sorry for something you did to them, was in their mind to rub salt in their wounds. This is where my prayers began to manifest. As I began to project the amends I wanted to make old friends would call me out of the blue, family would approach me with an amends of their own out of nowhere. And I am talking amends from people like my father for childhood hurts.... out of no where. It was actually eerie to me.. even to me who believes in the power of that.
Step Ten: We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
By far my favorite step for recovery. I think as soon as you start step one your sponsor should teach you step ten. Every night before falling asleep think of ten things your grateful for. Then run through your day to see what else transpired. This will keep the cycle of obsession from ever getting to relapse point and your mind in a place of humility.
Step Eleven: We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood her, praying only for her will for us and the power to carry that out.
This step is one I have been working for well over ten years and will still be learning and growing from for the rest of my life. The layers here are truly deep and can be peeled back for a lifetime. It was at this step that I was so amazed at my higher powers workings in my life that I was eager for a deeper connection. Even all my meditation from years before had never connected me on the level these steps have. To me our higher power is our inner power. If we are unwilling to do a fourth step and look into ourselves and then a six step to peel away the darkness that covers our inner power, we will never connect to that higher power. This is where all other spiritual programs in my life have lacked true authenticity. The steps guided me through falling in love with myself..... the exact image of the Goddess. The God in all her glory and dark nature.
Step Twelve: Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts and to practice these principals in all our affairs.
Today I see a much broader picture of this step then the one limited to the rooms. If an addict has already found her way to the rooms she is walking in the right direction. I am more interested in the addicts in the world that are still lost and trying to find their way. My work place has connected me with three separate addicts two whom I have had the privilege of being the light for. That is what carrying the message means to me and practicing this in all of our affairs. Once your light is turned on, you will want to share that with the world. There are many many paths to igniting your inner light, the twelve steps is but one way as is religion but another way and there are a thousand more ways out there. We all have the choice to embrace our lights.... we ALL have inner light.
Working the Steps, attending meetings regularly and setting up a strong honest support group are the three things that I did without fail this time around. I know without a doubt that I am still clean and clean the longest I have ever been only because of the marriage of these three aspects of the program. The twelve steps have given me what I have been seeking for well over ten years. I am beyond gratitude.