Most of us have heard others talk about 12 step programs. This blog begins a series on each step. For many their mind immediately conjures up a dark, dingy room of people setting in a circle introducing themselves one at a time as hopeless addicts. As a Celebrate Recovery leader, I have discovered that the twelve step process provides a great tool chest for life building to all who will use its tools. Our celebratory meetings are not in dark dingy rooms. We party!!
Step One calls for us to admit we have a problem which we cannot solve by ourselves. Many of us don’t see the challenge in that. We fall and break our leg, we know we need to go to a doctor and get it set! Make a suggestion to your highly co-dependent friend or your buddy popping 20 OxyContin’s three years after his back surgery that they just need to say “no” and stop–see how much it helps. We all know that AA term: denial. Step one calls us out of denial.
A problem obvious to one on the outside looking in will not be seen as obvious from the one inside looking out. After all, what we now see as their problem they initiated as a solution. “My wife drives me to drink.” “My bad mood made him mad–my fault.” Most of us have heard a laundry list of behavioral excuses that sounded so silly we wanted to laugh out loud. They don’t sound silly to the excuse maker because they are in denial. Couple that with the reality that when a habit passes over into an addiction, it becomes an illness. Brain chemistry changes. Cravings propel people to do what they must to satisfy the craving. Rational processes go out the window.
Some look at the addict with righteous indignation. “They have the problem because of their choices.” Not helpful! Although the addict will deal with that dynamic in their 12 step recovery, it never changes their choices while they are in the depths of addiction. The twelve step process recognizes that the human mind cannot successfully “will” itself out of addiction. The illness, with its altered brain functioning, stops that. However, the addicted person can reach a point where the addiction brings more pain than relief and they are willing to admit they want to break it. If at that point they can also admit they need help to do it, the all-out committed can find many ways and tools to break the physical addiction.
Breaking through denial must happen before the recovery process can move forward. That’s hard stuff for anyone that has found relief and answers in what has now betrayed them to become an addiction or problem in itself. But putting an end to denial represents a literal life and death decision for the addict. Scores of addicts feeling doomed to
death found the pathway back to a wonderful life by taking Step One.