One of the greatest parts of 12 Step recovery is the fact that it does not require people to do anything they don’t want to. Bill W., co-founder of AA said, “It must never be forgotten that the purpose of Alcoholics Anonymous is to sober up alcoholics. There is no religious or spiritual requirement for membership. No demands are made on anyone. An experience is offered which members may accept or reject. That is up to them.” I believe that this approach — the freedom of choice in their own experience — has attracted people to the program more than anything else.
I have yet to see a person show up to a 12 Step meeting for the first time, on the wings of victory, saying “Hey guys! I’m really killing it out there. Everyone in my life is so happy with me.” In fact, the opposite is usually going on. Things are not going well. People are hitting bottom. For many, meetings and fellowship seem like the last thing they want to do. It is important that current members of 12 Step remember Bill’s message and see the program as an “experience,” not an ultimatum.
When I asked my sponsor for help with my recovery, he asked me why was I asking him. I told him that I wanted what he had, and his reply was, “No, you can’t have what I have.” This put me off, so I asked him what he meant. He elaborated, “I don’t have yours to give you; I only have my own. If you want, I will show you how I got mine and that will lead you to your OWN recovery.” So, he showed me how he was taken through the 12 Steps, and in doing that, I had a spiritual experience of my own.
In the program, there is an expression — “grow or go,” which refers to the importance of growing in our recovery. Because if we don’t work the steps, if we don’t do what’s best for our sobriety and ourselves, then we don’t grow, we become stagnant, and we fall off track. Sometimes the pain addicted people feel coming into recovery can return once they are abstinent, and along with it comes the temptation to use again. That thought of, “If I’m going to feel this bad anyway, then I might as well get high” can lead to a relapse if we haven’t grown in our recovery.
I was once told, “The man that was will drink again.” And it’s true. Change needs to happen within us for sobriety to last. The program works, but it is up to you. You decide when you want the change to happen, you decide when the work begins.
It is not easy to get clean, but it is well worth it. People that I’ve met over the years all say the same thing: the obsession to use was eliminated when they worked, lived, and applied the 12 Steps. So, don’t be afraid to take a chance, and don’t be afraid to trust another addicted person. Having an open mind is important.
I’ll leave you with a little something from the Big Book: