Better Twelve Step Recovery Now

Friday, July 10, 2009 12:00
Posted in category Ask Rickhead
<div class=\"postavatar\">Better Twelve Step Recovery Now</div>

Post Written By Rick Doyle

Better Twelve Step Recovery Now

Ask Rickhead decided this week to address the question of “when is it going to get better in recovery”. This is like being high, wasted, drunk or compulsive for 20 years and after 4 months of twelve step recovery you can’t figure out why you are not running the country or at least making a well deserved 7 figure salary. Read on to find out how to make it better now or at least feel better fast.


I knew when I started to write this post, “Better Twelve Step Recovery Now”, that the key to get people to read it was the NOW part.  Three cheers for the folks out there who are looking for a little instant gratification!  Notice I didn’t use the word easy.  However I will provide tips to make it a little easier and faster which basically adds up to now.  As one who is a retired addiction therapist with 28 years of experience in recovery I hope to impart to those of you looking to either improve what you have or to get it where you haven’t gotten clean or sober yet a little better twelve step recovery than you have had to date. 

I can’t pack 28 years of experience into one post but I can give you a few good shortcuts to getting more out of what works and maybe troubleshoot why quality or long term recovery may have eluded you to date.  A few disclaimers first:

I’m not always right but I’m never uncertain.

Sobriety is an ongoing process of finding out something else I was wrong about.

I regularly used to point out to clients, “If you were doing such a great job how did you end up (take your pick) in a therapist’s chair, in jail, in-patient treatment, counseling, court, etc.”

Recovery gives you a ten second buffer against your next bright idea and at least gives you a fighting chance to do the opposite of what you would have done drunk or high.  If you think it’s a good idea while you’re wasted, the odds are that it’s not!

Recovery is a process, not an event.

It’s more important to be happy than to be right.

Do what works until it stops working then make a decision and do something different.  Making a decision is a far cry from acting on it.

Be willing to suspend your beliefs. Remember if it was working out that well for you, you wouldn’t be needing recovery.

There are twelve steps, not thirteen.

What’s in the book is not subject to interpretation.  It’s written down so you can find it!

There are lots of other things I can lay disclaimer to but let’s just say that my intention here is to give you some tips and suggestions that have helped a lot of people work through it faster in recovery when it comes to the twelve steps and having things get better now rather than ten years from now.  One last disclaimer, none of this is mine or original as someone, somewhere has passed it to me in bits and pieces but as the saying goes, “When you’ve used it more than three times…it’s yours”.  Another way of saying that is I have never heard anyone’s story in recovery that someone else hadn’t already told but with different names and faces.  There are no unique experiences.  Recovery relies solely on the shared experiences, strengths and hopes of the ones before you. It’s the common experiences both under the influence as well as in recovery that are the core connection and the gateway to change.  For those who like to refer to the book in the Foreword To The First Edition section there’s a line written in italics which specifies that the main purpose of the book is “to show other alcoholics precisely how we have recovered”.  What did they recover from you ask?  Not drinking.  How to stay sober?  No.  “Men and women who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body”.  Written in 1939, it goes on to mention that they thought that their way of life might have advantages for all. Little did they know of the hundreds of Anonymous Groups addressing hundreds of problems and their additional sub groups like Al-Anon, Nar-Anon and others would help the family or friends of addicts or alcoholics, as well as many others, to recover from that hopeless state of mind and body even indirectly.  The Twelve Steps are a framework for helping people change from the powerless victim of their disease or affliction to being a functional member of society again (for some it is not rehabilitation, it will be habilitation).  I promised some quick tips to give you a better twelve step recovery program now so here they are:

1)  If you are new to recovery get a sponsor who is the same gender.  Men sponsor men, women sponsor women.  (I’ve never been pregnant, been raped, given birth or had my estrogen levels too high or low, therefore the feelings and experiences you have had as a woman and I have had as a man will be different and the solutions will be different.  Human sexuality will also interfere and it takes that out of the equation also.  Being gay is not a viable excuse for picking a sponsor of the opposite gender.  Look for someone with the same gender/preferences and similar experiences who has what you want. Sponsors are not babysitters, banks, employment services, chauffeurs or anything beyond an adviser to how they got clean/sober/made change and a guide to how they work the twelve steps and changed their lives. That isn’t to say they don’t frequently end up being the best friend you could ever dream of but initially they need to share their brand of recovery with you through demonstration and instruction.

2)  What you put into recovery is directly proportional to what you get out.  If your problem/disease was 7 days a week of 2-6 hours or more at a time then you can surely mange one meeting a day with an hour of either reading the book or other approved material like a 12 & 12 or ten to fifteen minute phone call with your sponsor and/or a new recovery friend.  1-2 two hours a day compared to get back 24 hours of recovery is kind of a no brainer.   Also get involved, make coffee, volunteer to clean up, set up, read, chair, pick up a newcomer, go to events and help, be a part of not apart from. 90 meetings in 90 days will set up new habits that will replace old habits and before you know it you’ll be changing and happier because life will get easier chasing recovery than it was chasing your problems.

3)  If you are recovering from a physical addiction such as drugs or alcohol, not compulsive gambling or compulsive spending, this tip is for you.  Stop eating sugar, artificial sweeteners and all foods and drinks that are carb heavy such as pop or soda, candy and sweets.  Drink lots of water to flush your system. Some folks are not going to like what I’m about to say but get over it, I was an addiction therapist for 17 years.  Alcohol is 40-60% sugar.  It is the sugar that reacts with the liver and brain chemistry that creates a bi-product that causes the overwhelming majority of problems such as cravings, mood swings, behavior changes, blackouts and many other unpleasant symptoms that can be drastically reduced in recovery by eliminating as much sugar, artificial sweeteners and unnecessary carbs as you can. (This article will not address the details of that chemistry but I will write on that soon.) Suffice it to say that if you are drinking a twelve pack of Coke or Mountain Dew a day after stopping drinking or drug usage yet you’re not feeling better and you have overwhelming cravings and blow up like a hog, try it my way for 2 weeks and see if you don’t start feeling better.  6-8 weeks of this reduction in sugar plus 4-8 glasses of water a day will make a huge positive change.  If not, I’ll gladly refund your misery.

4)  The twelve steps might have been written in order to be worked through (at least the first time) in order.  Sure, there are times when an opportunity to make amends might come up before it has made it onto paper in a 4th or 5th step.  No doubt that once you have completed steps 1-12 the first time many steps will and do get worked as needed. However, nothing helps more than building one on top of the next since they work together for a reason. There are many catchy interpretations such as the first 3 steps can be summarized as “I can’t.  He can.  Let him.”  However if one reads the book and takes the steps page by page following the exact word for word instructions without deviation the steps were designed to be worked through and done (gasp!) in about your first week! I don’t agree with that as a few folks might be a little too fried for that pace.  I do think that a sponsor who sits down with you and discusses each step, how it relates to your life and exact examples not only helps you build a relationship with your sponsor will give you a working example of each step and how to apply it.  Folks who go past 6 months without a fourth step under their belt usually don’t make it and relapse or tend to be so miserable that using might be an improvement.  One set of notes on the fourth step.  In the Big Book of AA the fourth step is written out with very exact questions, format and examples.  Pages 64 to 71 are the detailed instructions.  Simply read a sentence then do it…not that tough. But do not deviate!  Short cuts and cutesy little forms made up in 4th step workshops are NOT the 4th step that works. Answer the questions in the book, apply the given format and leave nothing out.  Then read it through once and set up a time to do your fifth step with your sponsor. Step 6 and 7 get worked right out of the book usually the same time as your fifth step.  Keep it simple.  The founders got through this in a week, not 3 years.  They made it and so will you.   On step five get over yourself.  You are not as unique as you think because somebody has done everything you have just change the names and faces as I stated above.  If you are a believer in a Higher Power, God as you understand him, trust me when I say if he didn’t fry you with a bolt of lightning at the time you committed your heinous acts and are confessing in your fifth step, I’m sure it’s not a news bulletin to HP/God so admitting what He/She already knows is not a big deal.  Don’t be embarrassed since the person hearing your fifth step has probably done similar or worse or has at least heard worse (stick around recovery long enough and you’ll hear it all and beyond).  You and your ‘victims’ already lived through your terrible deeds so again no news flash here, especially if you’ve already been convicted.  You will feel better, sleep better and smile wider the sooner you do a COMPLETE correct inventory. 

5)  Last, but not least, you have to give it away to keep it.  Share your experiences, strengths and hopes.  You may only have a few days or few weeks of recovery but that is way more than the guy or gal who is on day one.  Offer help, listen to them, give them a book, introduce them to a potential sponsor or old timer, tell them how it’s getting better, offer them a ride to meetings or to try different twelve step group formats, like discussions, leads or 12 & 12 meetings.  Take them out for coffee afterwards or to have fun with a group of friends.  Everyone that came before you depends on the ones before and after.  Everyone has something to offer, even if it’s simply sitting with the new person to make them feel welcome or to answer simple questions.  If you are new, ask! Ask about everything and get more than one opinion. Listen for the similarities rather than the differences.  Find people you relate to or people who are in the place you would like to be and ask them how they got there. If you want your life to get better now you have to follow the people who have been where you’ve been and successfully worked their way out of it. Happiness may be an inside job but it does not have to be a lonely job.  Ask for help.  Tens of millions of people who have worked the twelve steps of recovery will help you get better now if you reach out for it.  Late to a meeting, first to leave a meeting, never asking for support or a phone number or where a good meeting might be tomorrow night is on you. 

These are the barest minimum tips that I saw in practice and over the years that really helped improve the odds of making positive change and staying clean, sober, addiction free behavior.  There is a lot more to address, especially for people in longer term recovery such as the problem of the 1, 5 and 10 year anniversary blues.  How to handle stress, relapse, relationships, honesty, anger, fear, etc. This is a long list, but I will be happy to address any specific topics in recovery that you ask me to if I have experience with it.  If I don’t maybe we can open it to the floor and see what others say.  I welcome your comments and encourage you to share your experiences as people in recovery, family and friends all stand to gain from what does work and sharing what doesn’t work.

To Ask Rickhead a question, please email: askrickhead [at] topicisland [dot] com

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14 Responses to “Better Twelve Step Recovery Now”

  1. Zagulski8226 says:

    July 27th, 2010 at 1:20 am

    i would like to say thanks for this post… fantastic job.

  2. tocsick89 says:

    July 17th, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    Thank you for this awesome article, this is just what I needed to read!!!

  3. Ryann says:

    July 12th, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    Thanks for this interesting information.

  4. Staser says:

    June 14th, 2010 at 1:45 am

    Helpful piece of writing. I can consider it be the case of course not normally. I usually don’t publish though I would like to chime in this time and let you know I appreciate the blog.

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