Updated: May 3
The first thing I want to exclaim from the rooftops is that you do not require religion or spiritual practices to benefit from 12 Step recovery, really just a willingness to have an open mind is all that’s required.
The biggest gift I ever received from the 12 Step fellowship I attended was the relatability. I was utterly shocked when I listened intently in my first meeting to people admitting things that I thought I only ever did alone and would never say out loud. It took the sting out of the shame for me. Being able to gather in a room of friendly faces, faced with the kindness of strangers that I hadn't seen before. If Moses thought that parting the sea was impressive that he’d obviously never gone to a 12 Step meeting! I became infatuated, at first, with the fellowship it provided each of us and being able to just rock up and that be good enough meant it was so accessible to so many people. There are certain tools in 12 Step recovery that people can use to support their recovery from a variety of addictions. Meetings are only one of the tools. Therefore, regardless of whether you are open to trying a meeting or not, we can all still benefit from many of the other tools. A lot of them contribute to cathartic acts of venting which I really advocate for. Therefore, writing and phoning people is a way of clearing some of the fog out of our minds and making sense of it in an external format. Kindness and service to others is an incredibly powerful tool and when built into our routines so that it becomes habitual and second nature, we create a cycle of self-esteem and positive change to ourselves and the recipients.
The 3 Circles is another tool used in some 12 Step fellowships to define and understand our behaviours as either being compulsive, healthy or somewhere in between. For those of us with a concern for multiple unhealthy coping mechanisms then this can be really beneficial. For many, organizing our coping mechanisms into these three categories allows us to stand back and see how we can take better care of ourselves by picking up the healthy coping mechanisms and recognising that by replacing the compulsive or unhealthy ones with more appropriate and less negatively consequential methods, we can build a better structure of self-care around that will not negatively impact ourselves or those around us. I want to be clear that coping mechanisms are not something to be resented and that they can for the most part be really healthy and helpful when used in the correct way. Have a think about what you do to improve your mood or deal with life’s ups and downs and recognise the aftermath of each of those actions. Perhaps for some a glass of wine on a Friday night helps them to relax more; for others, it might be the catalyst for a 'domestic' later on. One of my coping mechanisms is cleaning and tidying and it was only a few months ago that I realised I was becoming a bit too dependent on it for it to stay in the 'Healthy' category. Now it is in the 'Somewhere In Between' box and I have to be careful and conscious about when it is appropriate for me to start tidying up my living space. But by categorising it I'm able to better recognising my coping mechanisms as either healthy, unhealthy or somewhere in the middle.
I appreciate that this sounds wishy-washy and what's the point of digging so deep into our behaviours if they help us in the moment? It is a bit deep and that's kind of a warning for anyone considering 12 Step fellowships - be open to the cringy talk but allow yourself to feel uncomfortable. When I'm finishing up a phone call with someone from a meeting and they end it with 'Have an abstinent/clean day with your 'Higher Power'', it makes me want to throw up. They mean well. Just be warned and give it a go if you want. There are no strings attached.
12 Step Meetings
The above-cited 5 websites.
28 Days - 2000 Movie