Updated: May 3
I think this really depends on the person entering into the realms of spiritual recovery. There are 2 main points I want to talk about in this article - the people and the labelling.
Firstly, the people. If you ever enter a 12 step space you will meet some really wacky people. The eccentrics of society. The art teachers who are one lesson and a spliff ahead of the curriculum, the social workers who require a tipple after each foster child gets rejected and of course the business people with broken marriages and a broad selection of unhealthy coping mechanisms to get them through the 9-5. If you don't class yourself in this pool of society then don't worry, there is still space for you in the circle. That is the beauty of 12 Step programmes - the only requirement you need to be a part of a fellowship is a willingness to recover (and even then a sense of agnostic ambiguity won't have you turned away). It is a circle of community hall chairs with a musty, dusty smell lingering and the leftovers from the Scouts party the night before. It is also a space of intense emotion. People's lives are falling apart, they are at their wit's end. Some will turn after contemplating suicide for the afternoon and others will turn up having picked up just 10 minutes before the meeting. Although this is somewhat a con for those more delicate amongst us, I also consider it to be a privilege to meet people who bare so much. It is heavy, but my God it is cathartic. Sharing our stories amongst a tribe of people who match your heightened sensitivity and undignified experiences brings a sense of identity that society taught us to previously be ashamed of. Now we can accept ourselves.
Speaking of identity I want to move on to my next point. Labelling oneself as an 'addict' can come more easily to some than others. I personally, don't use the term addict. At the start of each meeting, we all introduce ourselves with our first or preferred name and our drug of choice, if you will. I just say 'Hi, I'm Emma. I'm grateful to be here.' - as is the norm for a lot of people. I think that for many of us who struggle with identity and self-esteem, which amongst the 12 Step community is a rife experience, labelling ourselves with derogatory terms can be a dangerous game. Our self worth is so unbelievably low when we first enter the rooms that adding a label for others to see can seem reckless to the reairing of our view of ourselves. Also for the young 19 year old me at her first meeting, still unsure about her sexuality, faith, self-expression and appearance, accepting I was an addict didn't seem appropriate. I prefer to accept that I have some addictive tendencies, can be prone to addiction in the form of an eating disorder, and that at various times in my life I have had unhealthy and compulsive coping mechanisms.
I think the 12 Step programme and the fellowship involved can be fantastic for so many, but it can be easy to get sucked into the hype of other people's passion for the 12 Steps that newcomers can be easily put off from returning. This is why they say try 6 meetings to see if it's for you. These are just my thoughts and some many will disagree with. My views may all be completely wrong but that's why I write it down - to allow a little diversity in the human experience of mental illness. If you're intrigued by the 12 Steps then simply find a meeting nearest you and go along. You don't ever have to go back, but chances are you will.
12 Step Meetings