why 12-steps?

For me the 12-step approach works because it empowers me to deal with issues myself, analyse, make practical changes or dismiss criticism from self or others where that is required – all combining intuition and reason. And it works because it is based on the insight that we have all in us a deeper level of consciousness that is ready to wake up and help us heal – some call it the inner mystic. We have it, whether we know it or not. Have you ever stood on a mountain top, silenced by awe at the beauty before you?

The program, beginning with AA, often helps people who have not been helped by other/clinical approaches. That supports my hypothesis of the inner self help.

I have not only lived experience that it works, I have also tested my intuitive understanding of the approach professionally. The most complex case in this regard was a social work client with a physical disability (CP) and longstanding alcohol abuse. In the spirit of an AA-mentor (no pun intended), I worked with him from two assumptions:

1.) He has to be ready to do the work himself for himself and that because

2.) he finds himself at rock bottom.

I can’t do the work for him, I can’t preach or demand changes from him. All that won’t work.

So I worked for weeks with him, supporting him in plans and – using a crisis in his support system to paint the outcome in the most gruesome colours (admission to mental health unit). And then, still sitting next to him, not opposite him, both literally and metaphorically, I pointed out what change (he already knew he needed to make). Serendipity was on my side as well: The date chosen to take him to an AA-meeting happened to be his mother’s birthday. They were close and he did not want to disappoint her…

He stayed sober for over 5 years. Some time after he stopped drinking, he learned of his mother’s cancer diagnosis. Both he and his mother died of cancer. I was only involved as his social worker for those critical 4 to 6 weeks leading to abstinence.

What angers and saddens me to this day, is the contemptuous way he had been treated by NHS staff – at their worst disputing that he was an alcoholic, calling it attention-seeking. Behaviourism may have its place, but value judgments are not it.

~ by Barbara S on May 26, 2021.

One Response to “why 12-steps?”

  1. what saddens me is when I see the 12-step approach turned into a religious concept; for me the AA-founders’ genius was in the concept of a Higher Power (HP) of the individual’s understanding. As time has gone on and interreligious dialogue came on the scene, the context for this concept has changed and, in my view, it is more important now with its open-mindedness. Secondly a HP is, undergoes and can only be lived with as a process. Religion, alas, is all to often mind-limiting, tin food. Pot noodles.

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