There’s a quote from the AA Big Book about God “doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.” Now before you get all excited, this is not a religious screed, and I don’t talk religion here — although I may mention spirituality from time to time, which is not the same thing.
But there is something about the 12-Step programs that makes the whole bigger than the sum of the parts. Regardless of how we attribute the changes that can occur to those who “completely give themselves to this simple program,” it can, indeed, do for us things that we could not do for ourselves.
I’d like to point out, however, that we are talking about things that we could not do for ourselves, not about things that we would not do for ourselves.
I am in touch with a lot of folks, through the Sunrise blog and several other venues both on- and offline, with regard to alcohol and other addiction issues. Many of them are in recovery, and some are assuredly not. Amongst the last group, there are always a few who are beating the old drum: AA is a Cult; NA doesn’t work, it’s all a scam; There’s too much God stuff. (We could increase the list ad infinitum.) After some gentle digging, however, it always comes out that the steps didn’t work for them because they didn’t work for the steps. The program was not able to do for them what they would not do for themselves.
Although I believe in the 12-Step approach to recovery, you will never hear me say, or write, that it is the only one that works. I will say this, however: unless we hang around for the long haul, unless we go to lots of meetings, get a sponsor, actually complete the steps to the best of our ability, hang out with recovering people, and do our best to avoid the old people, places and things, then we have no right to go around saying that Al-Anon, or CA, or OA didn’t work for us. What happened was, WE didn’t work for us.
We can clean up. We can detox, go to the best treatment centers in the world, and wear a pair of ruby slippers to speed us on our way, but if we do not spend as much time and effort on our recovery as we did on our addiction, we are almost certain to fail.
Our addictions changed our brains, then they changed our way of life, the way we thought, our ethics and morals, and the people we associated with. If we can say, “I didn’t do those things,” we need to add one word to the statement: “yet”. Addictions changed our lives completely. What makes us think we’ll get over them, just…like…that? We have to do the work to change back. It’s that simple. Recovery programs show us the path, but we are the ones who have to walk it.